The first series of the new Top Gear is over, and, err, let’s just say it wasn’t exactly plain sailing. The show was plagued by low viewing figures, negative reviews, and vitriolic hatred towards main man Chris Evans. Whether you loved or hated it, the producers now have six hours of the new format under their belts, and that’ll help shape the next series of Top Gear.
I actually thought the relaunch of Top Gear was quite successful (apart from the ratings). I enjoyed tuning in each week, and, especially towards the end, believed it was better than Clarkson-era TG.
But this series clearly wasn’t perfect, and because Gizmodo UK is obviously where the Beeb comes for trusted advice and guidance, we’ve created a list of things that need to be improved next series. You’re welcome, Tony Hall.
1. The Presenter Problem
As I’m sure you’re all aware, Evans was widely considered the weakest link in the new Top Gear lineup, but this was helpfully solved yesterday when Chris Evans announced that he was quitting Top Gear.
Personally, I think it was the wrong decision to leave. I’d have liked to see Evans do at least one more series, and maybe tone down the more grating parts of his personality. After all, it takes a while to get used to change, and people seem to forget that Jeremy Clarkson was an irritating tool at times as well. Maybe Evans just isn’t controversial enough for Top Gear fans?
But Evans is OUT, and a BBC insider has said it's not looking to replace him. That leaves us with Matt LeBlanc, Rory Reid, Chris Harris, Sabine Schmitz, and Eddie Jordan.
It would make sense for LeBlanc, Reid, and Harris (all of whom have been received incredibly positively) to take centre stage on the main show, with Sabine and Eddie continuing to pop up now and again for cameo appearances.
If the Beeb changes its mind and does look to hire a replacement, we’d suggest Jenson Button, who was a big hit appearing in the second episode of this series; that, or perhaps Steve Coogan, who has appeared on the show as a very car-knowledgeable guest, or speed freak Guy Martin.
Whatever they decide to do, that brings us onto our second point...
2. Teamwork Can Make a Dream Work
It doesn’t matter what lineup is chosen for the next series, the presenters must have more fun together.
Arguably the best part of the old Top Gear was Clarkson, Hammond, and May’s friendship, banter, and camaraderie. Obviously, it takes time for that sort of thing to develop, but maybe the BBC could pay for an away day with team building exercises for the hosts (I don't charge for my ideas, dear Beeb).
This series wasn’t a train wreck; there were certain moments where you could see chemistry starting to bubble through; again, Reid and Harris were particularly good, and the more relaxed, unscripted parts of the show were also more enjoyable (the SUV group test, and jump competition in the last episode, for example).
The studio pieces were less successful, filled with awkward moments created between Evans and LeBlanc, who clearly do not click on screen. As an integral part of the show, linking all the VTs together is kind of important. They need to get that right next series.
I’m sure this would have fixed itself over time, but the tweaked presenting lineup, sans Chris Evans, may make it happen faster.
3. Stronger Themes and Features
The video features were clearly the highlight of this series of Top Gear.
The ones that stand out, off the top of my head, are Jenson Button in the Mclaren, the enjoyable SUV group test, the beautifully shot Ariel Nomad, the fascinating Tesla Model X, and pretty much anything with Chris Harris.
Now while some of these were the strongest parts of the show, others felt slightly half-baked and not fully realised. The US vs UK Reliant Robin feature in the first episode is a prime example of this.
Clarkson-era Top Gear VTs were watertight, with a much clearer vision of what they wanted to achieve. This was probably born out of many years of experience, but with so much critical pressure on the new Top Gear, the show's producers should have spent more time on getting them right.
The Star In the Reasonably Priced Car feature, with two guests in the new format taking on an extended track, took up far too much of the show's runtime.
One of the key segments that Evans-era Top Gear dropped from the main show was the News, which is a shame as that was always infinitely more enjoyable than the Star In the Reasonably Priced Car. Which can be fixed by...
4. ...Integrating Extra Gear More
Immediately after every episode of this series of Top Gear, the BBC aired an episode of Extra Gear on BBC Three. This 30-minute follow-up show was hosted by Rory Reid and Chris Harris, and gave a much more in-depth look at the cars – a proper geeky, critical analysis of them, rather than just gawping and fawning.
It was easily the highlight of this series; the passion was clear to see, there was debate, banter, and it didn’t treat the viewer like an idiot. This needs to make its way to the main show.
Of course, you can see why the BBC may be reluctant to do so. Once Top Gear starts to become more about cars than personalities it may lose that wider audience appeal that makes it so successful, and go the way of Fifth Gear.
5. Ignore the Critics and Be Consistent
I’m not the biggest fan of Chris Evans, but I really don’t understand the seething hatred towards him. I would have loved to see how the next series developed with him.
The main reason I’m sad to see Evans go is that I think Top Gear needs consistency. When you tuned into Clarkson, Hammond and May you knew what you’d be getting, and there’s something quite comforting in that. If the new TG lineup isn’t consistent and continues to shift around, it’ll end up like Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
Ignore the poor ratings and bad reviews, and build up a new audience of fans who do like the new hosts. (Just a little reminder to Tony Hall, if you’re reading this – I don’t actually know how to make a successful TV show – so this could be awful advice).
Bonus: Get Rid of the Awkward Guest Intros
Seriously, what were they thinking? Having one guest read out the other guests intro, terrible idea.
Did we miss anything out? Is there anything you particularly enjoyed or hated? Let us know in the comments!