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

CityPress - - T# -

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.

PHOTO: LUCKY NX­U­MALO

AN ALL-NEW SHOW? Top Gear has diver­si­fied its cast, but new host Chris Evans (cen­tre) seems to be try­ing too hard

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