We’ve all seen the accident that’s just about to happen. Somebody sets foot on a patch of ice without realizing, your friend leans back just that bit too far on their chair. Any infant who somehow has been given a smartphone. In those brief instances, we know exactly how bad things will be. That’s what the first forty seconds of Top Gear were like. We opened with Chris Evans claiming that it’s ‘a new and improved audience’ before stealing Jeremy Clarkson’s opening voice-over gimmick… badly. ‘I get chased, Matt gets chased. And then, in a bizarre twist, I chase Matt, Matt chases me.’ They have a new (worse) studio, Matt Leblanc steals the ‘back to the studio’ gimmick and somebody in the audience thinks that the Indian guests are the new caterers. Just your average up-front racism. Then it gets worse as Chris has apparently planned this because he is quick to quip ‘we don’t talk about catering anymore’. That’s the only reason he seems to have brought them in: a cheap shot at Clarkson.
Chris cuts away to reviewing a new Viper. Remember all the rumors about being unable to drive and talk without vomiting? I’m fairly sure that this is true because, other than a ten-second clip about a gear knob, all the Google-learned facts are either edited in later or done besides a stationary car. The following dogfight was a mess of talking and poor puns (coming from me, that means something). The introduction to the Stig is lousy, with more bad jokes and the audience chiming in after Evans claims ‘we got custody’. Matt and the ginger-Clarkson-wannabe then set off in a pair of Reliants to Blackpool. Sorry, LeBlacpool.
Following a weird Star In A Car (they seem to have dropped the reasonable price), we finally hit the good stuff. Evans buggers off back to his radio show and Joey steps up to the plate. LeBlanc is testing out the Ariel Nomad and clearly the best way to do this is by running away from several of the paparazzi. One has a ‘children’s toy’ (drone), another is ruthless, heartless, homeless (probably) on a bike and Pete, a lizard with opposable thumbs who will be riding a parachute and fan. Matt does an amazing job. He drives well, the music is on point and so are his jokes. The camera crew get some excellent shots and (shockingly) our favourite Friend can actually drive at the same time as talking. Matt eventually makes it away from the intrepid reporters with an Italian Job loading into a moving truck piloted by the Stig and closed his segment on a high-note. After a certain Radio-Face reappeared, I gave up hope for the final half.
Following a series of challenges on Blackpool beach, in which LeBlanc takes all the points, Evans becomes a sore loser and claims he only gets a seconds headstart in the next event. Something tells me that it would have been more if he had won. The race is up a muddy hill with LeBlanc being given a white Hulk and Evans receiving a guy with a map. Team Brit constantly cheats throughout and it was here that I finally figure out how BBC could salvage something from this wreck of a show: fire Evans and place LeBlanc in the driver’s seats. We close with Matt getting out ‘And on that’ before Chris flips out again.
Top Gear, as it is now, is just desperately trying to relive the glory days of Clarkson, Hammond and May. Evans is hopelessly imitating the Clarkson style in poor form and there’s none of that competitive rivalry that there was before. In the Africa Special, they would just leave each other behind when the going was tough. During the South America Special, Clarkson just abandoned his best friends on the most dangerous road in the world and went for dinner. Our new duo was unable to sit comfortably atop a hill and mock the person in second-place. And what was that waste of talent that was Sabine Schmitz? “Let’s just have her drive a car around and not have any actual dialogue.” Sorry Top Gear, I’m following the Three Stooges over to Amazon to watch The Grand Tour.
There’s only one way to properly evaluate the new Top Gear: