After the steak and punch incident from last year and the subsequent fallout that saw Jeremy Clarkson leave the show, followed swiftly by fellow presenters James May and Richard Hammond, Top Gear has finally made its comeback. A fresh line-up has already been the subject of talking points, with fans wondering if the new series can live up to its longstanding reputation.
Trailers released before this weekend’s episode left us dangling, desperate to find out if it could ever eclipse the Clarkson/Hammond/May led series. The answer? It hasn’t just yet… but there’s plenty more to come from the team.
The new line-up
One of the main draws of Top Gear for over a decade has been the camaraderie and chemistry between its three presenters. Sure, at times it seemed too staged, but on the whole their antics were amusing and viewers were used to their characteristics and recurring jokes. Recreating this with a new set of presenters is always going to be a difficult task.
However, with Chris Evans in the driving seat, the BBC have chosen a divisive figure who is also exceedingly passionate about cars – in many ways, much like the outgoing Clarkson.
As co-host, Matt Le Blanc provided the majority of the laughs in the first episode. As he tore up the Moroccan desert in an Ariel Nomad, he described the car as the most fun one could have with their clothes on. Many viewers will be more than pleased to know that Joey Tribiani is still alive and well.
There were also promises before it aired of smaller presenting roles for car journalists Rory Reid and Chris Harris, racing driver Sabine Schmitz, ex-F1 boss Eddie Jordan and of course The Stig. Sunday’s episode saw Schmitz fight it out against a Dodge Viper, in a script that bore striking similarities to those of previous series, complete with all the guns, military aircraft and historical undertones we have come to expect from the franchise.
Cars, cars, cars
Aside from the presenters’ banter , Top Gear is all about cars. Alongside the Dodge and the Nomad, the team also tested out two World War 2 era all-terrain vehicles, in the Land Rover and the Willy’s MB Jeep. This presented our hosts with the opportunity to pit their respective nations against each other in a series of challenges that were familiar, yet more subdued, than those fought out by the three former presenters of the show.
‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ has been rebranded as ‘Two stars in a Rallycross Car’, with this week’s guests Gordon Ramsay and Jesse Eisenberg hilariously driving around the new track in a modified Mini Cooper. Much of the format remained the same, as Chris Evans interviewed the pair before and after on the sofa (the same green sofa) to find out how they got on. Evans was at his best here, seeming a lot more natural and less nervous than he was running around in front of the camera.
Top Gear has made a name for itself in the past for a number of controversies, one of the most recent being when the crew were quite literally chased out of Argentina. From the first episode, there seems to be a less controversial angle to the narrative, which is probably for the best, considering this is what essentially led to Clarkson et al’s exit from the show. Still, it’s done wonders for publicity and we can’t wait to see what the rest of the series holds.
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