Over the Top Gear
Amid the hype around the BBC’s revamped motoring show, featuring new hosts Evans and LeBlanc, Melinda Ferguson finds herself longing for the days of Clarkson
Top Gear BBC Brit (DStv channel 120) Wednesday, 8pm Top Gear much the same. Throughout the hourlong season 23 premier, there were plenty of the usual great technical shots, exotic locations and ridiculous car stunts – The Stig even makes an appearance. While these may satisfy some viewers, they also remind us what we used to have and what’s not working – did I mention Evans’ relentless shouting? He has clearly listened to Clarkson and is attempting to imitate the previous host’s boisterous overthe-top enthusiasm. Let’s blame R1.1 billion of pressure and firstshow nerves. Thankfully, LeBlanc’s laid-back American attitude provides muchneeded relief. The highlight of the show has to be LeBlanc creating dust bowls in a Moroccan desert in a little two-wheel drive buggy, the Nomad, which weighs, he grins, “as much as your mother’s G-string”. The segment gets racier as he’s chased by three of the “biggest villains on the planet”, the paparazzi, to test whether the Nomad is the best getaway all-terrain car in the world. It’s Top Gear at its best, with great aerial shots, plenty of dusty wheelies and dramatic getaways.
Another welcome new element is racer Sabine Schmitz. In a muscle car shoot-out – with Evans in a sky-blue Viper ACR and Schmitz in the Corvette Z06 – the German shows what real driving looks like, and she swears even more than Clarkson does.
A new element is the US vs UK challenge – the producers are clearly courting an American audience. The premiere saw Evans in the classic British Landie go head-to-head with LeBlanc in the classic US Jeep. Shot in dismal English weather in Blackpool, the tepid chemistry between Evans and LeBlanc became obvious.
Evans is going to take some getting used to. It’s clear that the show is heavily scripted and his nerves often make it feel like he’s reading his lines. He has a huge set of boots to fill and, at this early stage, he seems to be trying too hard.
By the end of the show, I was somewhat bored. I was one of the those who was happy to see the last of the boorish Clarkson, but in hindsight ... dare I say it? ... I miss JC.
AN ALL-NEW SHOW? Top Gear has diversified its cast, but new host Chris Evans (centre) seems to be trying too hard