This is a bit of a digression for me, but I thought I would “review” the relaunch of Top Gear. I put “review” in quotes because I didn’t actually see the new episode,but I did did read the live blog provided by the Guardian, and I had more than a few comments.
The summary of this (and few other reviews I have seen) is basically, it was pretty much like the old Top Gear, just not as good. To which I have to say, I think what they really mean is that the “old” Top Gear just weren’t that good, but everyone had gotten used to the old one. Sort of like that stinkly smell that just doesn’t really register any more.
I have to say that I was introduced to Top Gear about a year or so ago by my (then) 15 year old son. I will admit that I am not a fan of the show and I want to take some comments about the relaunch that say exactly why I am not a fan of the show.
About halfway through his live blog, Stuart Heritage had this to say, “If you like watching people you vaguely recognise from TV talking endlessly about cars you’ll never be able to afford, then this is amazing television.” Which is exactly the two sentence review I would have given the old Top Gear about 6 months ago after watching several years worth of episodes.
Living in the Midwestern US, I have pretty much zero chance of even seeing a car they talk about on Top Gear, much less getting up close and personal with one. So, Heritage’s line about the Stig’s obligatory test lap, “He’s driving the blue car around the track, and it’s all meaningless really because no normal person is ever going to buy one, and what’s the point of it and what’s the point of anything?” Exactly. And so it has been for years!
Or as I often put it, “Ohhhh the car that cost as much as an 8000 square foot mansion was two tenths of second faster than the one that only cost as much as a 5000 square foot mansion!” Wow! Cue the applause! Heritage also says that the review segment in the first episode of the relaunch is “IDENTICAL” to the old ones. Which were all obviously IDENTICAL to each other. ZZZZZZZ.
Heritage also made a comment that the best way to survive the new show was to record it and fast forward through the boring parts. Which is the only way that even my son, who is a Top Gear fanatic, can make it through the old episodes. He never watches the “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car.” The “news” segment is often passed over as well, as being pretty insufferable.
Which brings us to the legendary “chemistry” amongst the “Three Amigos.” Frankly, I never saw it. It was all so forumulaic. Clarkson, the combination of addled adolescent and crusty curmudgeon. May, “the voice of reason” and Hammond, the youthful enthusiast. Such talents! I dare you to go through the old episodes of Top Gear and count how many times Clarkson moans “Yesssssss” or snears “Could be worse.” Hilarious! Just like “Dyn-O-Mite” or “Whachu talking about Willis?”
Or perhaps you go through the news segments and count how many “It’s rubbish” “Oh, I rather like it” exchanges you can find. Again, ZZZZZZZZ. Occaisionally a genuinely funny line would gurgle up, but not very often. I never thought of the three as “great talents.” This was highlighted when they tried to do other projects.
When May tried to show that he could be “fun” on ManLab, it was unwatchable. When Hammond tried to be “smart and serious” on that big idea show, it was also unwatchable. I guess Clarkson does some kind of game show, but I can’t imagine I would be impressed.
For me, the poor reviews of the new Top Gear simply serve to underscore how bad the old one really was.
Now, that being said, the old Top Gear did sometimes have a saving grace. Most of the special episodes were actually somewhat watchable. Taking the hosts way, way out of their comfort zones actually did, occaisionally, make for interesting television. Yes, they did have their cringe-worthy moments where the people of the host country were deeply disrespected, but seeing the guys truly working together and coming to respect their new surroundings was usually pretty affecting. But this did not happen often enough.
I wish the new crew well and hope they find a way to move in new directions with Top Gear, because to my mind the old ways never did work anyway.