As a huge fan of Clarkson- Hammond – May Top Gear and a definite hater of Chris Evans, I was always skeptical about new Top Gear but nevertheless last night I decided to give it a go and sat down to watch it ready to have my mind changed about my least favourite presenter of all time. Sadly, after the first hour of new Top Gear my opinion on Mr Evans hasn’t changed.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were bits I liked, but these were generally the bits that a) didn’t feature Evans and b) were most reminiscent of old Top Gear. So here’s a quick summary of the things I felt they did well:
- Sabine (the new German presenter) lost in a battle against a British presenter. Deny it as much as we like, the English- German Rivalry lives strongly within all of us. Even the fact that it was Evans who beat her didn’t matter much to me in this instance.
- The Mayor of Blackpool was hilarious.
- Matt Le Blanc’s complete lack of understanding of Britishness was occasionally humorous (and almost made up for his naming of corners as ‘twisties’).
Sadly though there were far too many things about this show that were lacking and that just highlighted how much the show misses Clarkson and co.
Firstly there were the obviously planted jokes about Clarkson’s leaving (the random feature of those guys from your local curry house to represent down force fooled no one, Evans). Oddly what annoyed me most about this wasn’t the mocking of Clarkson, I love a bit of mockery as much as anyone, but what annoyed me was that it came after report after report stating that new Top Gear was going to be more stripped back, there was going to be less of the nasty, brash humour and more of the self-depreciating humour and that the show would be respectful to what had come before it, whilst moving on and becoming a new show all together. Last night’s premier showed that all of these points were total nonsense. Evidently the show was still allowed to mock Clarkson, just not themselves, they were allowed to make jokes about their ‘custody’ of The Stig and put down old Top Gear numerous times, that doesn’t sound all that respectful to me. Old Top Gear may not have been respectful to anything for the majority of the time, but they never pretended to be. The old presenters were nob heads and they knew it and that was part of their appeal.
This was all made worse by Evans’s cringe worthy attempts to BE Jeremey Clarkson. The opening in particular was actually painful to watch. The vocal inflictions, the pauses just when Clarkson would pause, the fact that the opening ‘tonight’ speech was styled in exactly the same way as old Top Gear only served to highlight how much had changed, and frustratingly not for the better. It would have served Evans better had he tried to make the show his own, altered the structure, made it new, instead of opening himself up to direct comparison to what had come before him. He was always going to be compared to Clarkson, and in my opinion this would never serve him well, but he could have at least done himself some favours by making the style of the show his own so that the comparisons weren’t so blatantly obvious.
My problems with Evans don’t stop there. What was all the jumping and running around in circles? And why was he shouting all the time? Does he think he’s still presenting TFI Friday? It was generally reminiscent of a Saturday morning Kids TV show in places, with the same embarrassing amount of needless energy that just isn’t needed on a motoring show. It was like letting a small boy run loose on the set of his favourite action movie or something and it again had me cringing behind my hands.
The show was unfortunately let down in a few other places last night. The rally replacement for the Star in a reasonably priced car was also a complete let down. Poor Gordon Ramsey looked totally bored the entire time, while Evans pitifully attempted to get us excited about a mini driving through some water – another moment that had me cringing. Star in a reasonably priced car was never my favourite segment but lord was it better than the tripe we watched last night.
The challenges, for me, were always the best part of Top Gear, the camaraderie, the banter, the mocking of co-presenters, it was all hilarious. But what made it was not the challenges themselves, but the relationship between the presenters, a relationship that was missing in new Top Gear. Evans and Le Blanc had virtually no relationship, they interacted with each other the way I interact with cousins I only see once every few years at weddings or funerals, or with my parents’ friends, not with mates I’m going on adventures with. Granted this probably comes from the fact that Evans and Le Blanc don’t really know each other and maybe that will improve over time. They can’t have spent much time together before filming but I don’t get the impression these two will ever be going out drinking together, sitting by each other’s bedside when they’re in need, the way Clarkson, Hammond and May did.
Basically, the whole section with the reliants was useless. Not only did they not roll the reliant or play on any of the factors that make the reliant funny, one of the presenter didn’t even drive his. The whole section of film served no purpose because once they got to Blackpool, the reliants were only seen again at the very end of the piece where they were dragged up a mountain by jeeps. It was utterly pointless and completely dull.
There was no relationship, and as a result, no humour. The funniest bit of the challenge was the Mayor of Blackpool. When old Top Gear had a breakdown, one of the presenters would stay behind attempting to fix their car while the other two would laugh, point out the fact that the broken car was awful and leave them behind to struggle because let’s be honest, that’s what true friends do. True British friendship is built on the ability to mock and be scathing and sarcastic when in mediocre trouble like that. There was none of this in last night’s show. Matt Le Blanc broke down, the two sat together and waited for the rescue truck to come. This in my opinion only highlighted that these two have very little motoring knowledge. Evans may have the most prestigious car collection in the country, but what that says to me is, this is a man who like to say he owns great cars, who likes to look at great cars and maybe occasionally drive them around his estate. It does not say he understands cars. Matt Le Blanc, though lovely and smiley and generally the funnier of the two presenters when on location, has no car knowledge what so ever. I don’t think he ever once mentioned anything other than the engine size of his jeep, Evans couldn’t even tell the difference between third and fifth gear if he ‘wasn’t entirely concentrating’ in the Dodge Viper.
Overall, that was Top Gears problem last night. It lacked not only the car knowledge that came from having three motoring journalists as your hosts but also lacked the humour and the scathing quality that I loved which could only come from the friendship between the presenters. Let’s be honest, British humour is largely sarcasm, it is largely scathing comments taking the mick, it is not being nice. It is not, cheating and then helping your ‘mate’ to actually win. Its cheating to be victorious and then laughing at how cunning and hilarious you are while you watch your mate vaguely struggle.