Top Gear ‘bromance’ is revving up as hosts steer bumper new series
With the new series of Top Gear already on screens in the United Kingdom, and expected to be aired in the Middle East shortly thanks to the smash-hit motoring show’s recent deal with StarzPlay Arabia, we caught up with hosts Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harrison and Rory Reid to find out what audiences can look forward to.
The hosts were in Dubai recently to film upcoming episodes, though the shoot was strictly off limits to the media and public.
Eye witness reports suggest a yacht versus car race through Dubai Marina may be on the cards, but sadly the stars were not able to shed any more light on it. The episode still has not screened, so the cast are required to remain tightlipped about their adventures.
Harrison, however, was in no doubt as to why Dubai was an ideal location to shoot the show: “It is hyper-car central, isn’t it? It is the epicentre of people buying incredible cars. If you reverse-engineer it, the reason why those cars exist is the Middle East,” he says.
Co-host Reid agrees: “It is one of the few places where we could turn up with a film crew and an amazing car and no one would bat an eyelid,” he adds.
Dubai residents may be somewhat blasé about the automotive beasts the gang regularly travel around the world in, but for LeBlanc, the novelty clearly has not worn off yet. “Sometimes, I sit there thinking: ‘I can’t believe I am making a film about this car’. As far as dream jobs go, it is up there,” he says.
“It’s really fun. I wish I could say it is not that great, but if I am honest, it is totally awesome.”
“I was actually supposed to be semi-retired right now, but when they offered me this, I said: ‘That sounds like great fun. I’d love to do that’.” LeBlanc and the gang may be barred from talking about their Dubai adventures right now, but of the episodes that have already screened in the UK, he already has a clear favourite stunt – it is from the series premiere.
“Kazakhstan was pretty out there,” he says. “It is a challenge where we have to drive across Kazakhstan in cars that have half-amillion miles on the clock. It was tough to find them, but it was really fun to try and keep them going. You have to choose the right course. We had one Mercedes, one Volvo and one London taxi. We experienced what it means to drive a car that is truly old.”
The current Top Gear team have faced a tough challenge since replacing the show’s long-standing and much- revered former hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, who also shot an episode of their own follow-up show The Grand Tour in Dubai for added local competition.
The first Top Gear season with the new team received mixed reviews and somewhat disappointing viewing figures, culminating in the departure of co-host Chris Evans, leaving the current trio of main hosts to carry the show. Reviews of the new episodes have so far been good, with episode 3 widely touted as the best post-Clarkson show so far.
Much of the earlier criticism stemmed from the fact that the chemistry between the new hosts did not match up to that of their predecessors – perhaps unsurprising as the previous trio had 13 years in the hot seat to develop their relationship.
Harrison feels this is something that is improving, and will only continue to do so. “A large part of the appeal of the previous generation of Top Gear presenters was the chemistry between them,” he admits. “But that took time. It does not happen overnight. We have a great emerging ‘bromance’. We’re learning about each other and when we can needle each other. After all, if you can’t laugh at yourself and your mates, then you are a bit doomed, aren’t you?”
This generation of hosts have no desire to simply be carbon copies of their predecessors, he adds.
“The expectation might be that our chemistry would be the same as the previous presenters, but of course it is not going to be the same,” he says. “I’m really enjoying the fact that we are stamping our own authority on the show. It feels like we are doing it our own way. There are some really funny bits, proper belly laughs, but it We have a great emerging ‘bromance’. We’re learning about each other and when we can needle each other Chris Harrison host is not an imitation of a previous sense of humour. It is our sense of humour.”
LeBlanc agrees: “I think it is working very well. [There is] a genuine respect for each other and a genuine understanding of each other’s position. We all have a fondness for the automobile and travel, culture and exploring,” he says. “Even though we are very different, we all share this passion for cars. In my experience with friends back home, inevitably gatherings always end up in the garage around a car or a bike. That is when the laughs start flowing and the ribbing starts, and the whole ‘bromance’ happens. Already, Chris, Rory and I really enjoy each other’s company and having a laugh together.”
LeBlanc also gives a glimpse into the future when he adds: “I’d like to carry on for the foreseeable future. I’m really enjoying it.”
Harrison is perhaps more effusive when he says: “I come from a background of making films about cars. They used to be broadcast on a thing called YouTube. As and when this ends, I’ll go back to doing that. That is what I like doing. It just so happens that I’ve got this incredible opportunity to work with these amazing guys.”
series 24 is expected in the Middle East shortly on StarzPlay. It is already screening in the UK and the US
Top Gear’s new hosts, from left, Rory Reid, Chris Harrison and Matt LeBlanc are enjoying the ride.