Con Reviews: The new and "improved" Top Gear
Reader, welcome to 'Con Reviews'. A place where anything and everything will be reviewed by yours truly. Maybe I'll review a fishing rod? Or maybe I'll go to the zoo. Or maybe I'll review a full day of Channel 10 programming.
This week I'm gonna tackle the new Top Gear in all its glory.
Chances are, you’ve probably at least heard of the BBC television program Top Gear. It’s the most watched 'factual' television show on the planet. The series has won numerous awards. It was BBC’s most watched show. The show had an estimated 350 million viewers worldwide. That’s a lot.
And then the hosts’ contracts were not renewed. The main host had a physical altercation with a producer, and the host was being an asshole. The beloved show had an unsure future. News emerged that new hosts had been selected. They were set to begin bringing new life into the old program. The world waited and speculated. The old hosts then struck an unprecedented $250USD million deal for just three seasons of a car show. A budget of roughly $7.5m an episode. Insanity. While fans of the original hosts wait for The Grand Tour, their new show through Amazon Prime, the BBC went full steam ahead with carrying on the Top Gear name, now in its 23rd season, with a brand new cast and a facelift.
That should give you all enough context. Hope I haven’t lost you yet. To summarise: huge worldwide TV show is cancelled mid-season, fans follow the story, fans now decide whether to continue to watch the new version, or hold off for the old hosts and their new show. I review the first episode of the new version.
I’ve always been a car fan. I don’t know why. It’s not particularly rational. They are dangerous. They pollute. And the vast majority of them are about as interesting as a dishrag spinning in grey water after dinner. But there are a few that just seeing gives me a feeling. The sheer beauty of a thing. An old E type Jag: worn red leather interior, straight 6 shining through slits on an obscenely long bonnet, wood steering wheel sitting at a silly angle, glowing white paint. I’m describing the vehicle my boss owned at the shop I worked at when I was 17 years old. The thing sparkled in the sun. Unfortunately, that Jag stood for all you can have if you are willing to bend the rules and fuck the people, just like my boss did, and I think that lesson fucked me up a little. Nevertheless, that car sounded like it couldn’t give a shit about crumple zones and the health and safety non-sense of the 21st century.
My point is, I like anything with an engine that is fun enough to kill you. Subsequently, I watched Top Gear. The show was more than the deep nerdy engineering stuff. It was entertaining. Silly challenges like driving across Africa in a terrible second hand car were not pandering to pure car fans. They were about three lads exploring, taking the piss out of each other, set to amazing scenery and cinematography to boot. Top Gear’s best moments were a formulaic travel show. I think they knew it too: I can guess what The Grand Tour, their new show, it going to be like.
Right now I’m on the couch, typing this all out on a laptop in a frantic finger tapping vomit, with the new first episode of Top Gear, season 23 paused at the 2 mins and 13 second mark.
That’s how long I’ve lasted.
The new host, Chris Evans, is a weaselly little wiener: he’s just finished running around the bright cheesy new studio telling the audience they are the best Top Gear audience yet, having made this assessment after being a presenter for all of 2 minutes out of the 22 seasons and 2 minutes that the program has been running. Matt LeBlanc, Joey from 90’s sitcom Friends, is standing in front of a wall of shitty stage lights. He has been introduced as the co-host. Chris has made a joke about the ex-host’s demise.
New job, new position, new host, whatever. I think it’s most professional to simply assume the role, not speak about the past. Just become the new person for the spot. If Daniel Craig in the opening scene of Casino Royale made a joke about ice caves or some other bullshit that happened in the silly but golden Pierce days of James Bond, the groans would have collected and connected into the Brown note right there in the cinema. Chris should have just become the host. But no, he decided to point it all out. Now his stupid face is staring at me on pause. The internet groans, collectively, for this new version of the show. Viewership groaned, collectively, as the second episode garnered one third of the viewers of the first. Looks like the new and ‘improved’ Top Gear, despite the hopes of BBC executives, is destined to die.
That’s pretty much it. You know what I think of the new version of Top Gear. And you know what the outcome of this review is going to be. Now I have to work up the courage and strength to un-pause this little wanker staring at me with his shit eating grin and sit through it.
I’m watching Evans reciting exactly what ex-host Jeremy Clarkson would say, complete with phrasing. He wants to be Clarkson so bad I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the news in the near future wearing his skin. It’s horrible. I want to say this new show is a like a car crash, for obvious editorial reasons, however people tend to want to watch car crashes.
BBC infotainment overall is pretty unwatchable. All those horrid gadget shows, some lame experiment show, it all just follows an overused, predictable format. I don’t know if it is Evans’ voice, and I just didn’t notice the ridged script previously, but it now sticks out like English subtitles on an English spoken film: it is hard not to notice and it is distracting. Has the Top Gear script always been like this?
I’ve seen one call-back or reproduction of every single memorable thing that has ever happened in the previous 15 years of the previous show in the first 22 minutes of the new and 'improved' Top Gear, with one difference: they’ve all been performed by someone who, at this point, I absolutely despise. He has done nothing to win viewers. He is acting like a dog on heat. The new show has all the same fun cars, gags and shots as the previous one had. But it isn't even close to enough anymore.
It turns out I liked the old Top Gear not for the cars at all. Not for the cinematography, or the production values, or the old segments. I liked the old Top Gear because of the people. I liked the chemistry they had. Three genuine mates who looked like they genuinely loved the best job in the world: touring around the planet, searching for adventure, seeing some wild shit, and driving some amazing feats of human engineering. Maybe that’s why us car lovers love cars. They become part of the story, if the story is good enough. They allow us the ability to move around in ways we as humans never could before. They are exciting. They’re as close to our own person spaceship as we’ll all get this century.
This new show is like bad porn. They are going through the motions and there is no love. So horrifically obviously scripted. Whipping Phar Lap in the museum. New guys Chris and Matt don’t even pretend to know anything about each other, and don’t even seem like genuine humans. They are acting like they are acting like friends. I would have thought LeBlanc would have at least learned the definition of ‘friend’ given it takes up a 10 year chunk of his resume.
People like people. The old team were the reason to the show’s success. The new show will not rise from the ashes and become a worldwide phenomenon. If producers were to send the old guys to a cooking show, I bet it would be a hit. If producers were to send the new guys to the gallows, I guarantee it would be a hit. Hold strong, The Grand Tour is coming to Amazon Prime. In the meantime, use the hour a week it takes to watch Top Gear to go to a park, read a book or lay on your bed staring straight up thinking about how much white paint would actually have been used to paint the roof, all of which are more enjoyable than groan after groan you’ll have to hear yourself make in trying to watch this shit. 1/10.