Top Gear is about to make a return and with Chris Evans now out of the picture, the hugely popular motoring show needs to prove itself once again, for the second year in a row after the rowdy departure of Clarkson, Hammond and May.
Being one of the biggest TV factual shows on a global scale doesn’t necessarily guarantee you success, and Top Gear learned that the hard way last year, scoring disappointing ratings, which in turn, led to the resignation of Chris Evans, the then-frontman of the show.
Despite last year’s difficulties, though, Top Gear is coming back with the help of Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid who are tasked of bringing this huge brand into its next chapter.
So, when Top Gear invited us over to their revamped studio for a sneak preview of the upcoming 24th season, they didn’t need to ask us twice.
There isn’t a car-related show that captured such a global audience like Top Gear did and for a good reason. There have been many shows with fancy supercars being thrown around, destroying their tires into oblivion, but none of them grasped the attention of the public like Top Gear did, thanks its laid-back character, the stunning production quality and of course the perfect chemistry of the original presenters.
Yes, it’s not the same anymore as it was with Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, but after watching a few clips of the new season, Matt, Chris and Rory look like they have everything it takes to bring Top Gear back into the hearts of everyone, including the aforementioned and truly necessary, chemistry between them.
You don’t need us to tell you that Chris Harris is THE man and Rory Reid has well established his excellent presenting skills, but the most surprising part was watching Matt LeBlanc pushing away his Hollywood celebrity status and just showing how much he enjoys doing stuff like this.
LeBlanc certainly was one of the few genuinely good surprises last year, but there’s a strong vibe that he’ll now be able to persuade even the most hardcore fans. Seeing the three together, talking cars, making jokes and generally enjoying each others presence fills you with this kind of optimism. Too bad The Stig wasn’t around to pitch in at the time of our visit.
Consider the 24th season as a fresh start then, as everyone at the Dunsfold Aerodrome was acting like the last one was more like a gap year in the long, successful history of Top Gear, leaving the unwanted drama behind them and focusing instead on the things that made the series the huge brand name that it is.
With more time on their hands this year, the producers and presenters of Top Gear went back into features like the ever so popular epic adventures which include traveling in Kazakhstan with cars that have covered at least 480k miles in search for the most reliable of them all, turning a Ssangyong Rodius (!!) into a yacht and setting sail with it, storming Cuba with $6k used sports cars and more.
And if the concept behind them sounds right, wait until you see just how far the on-camera relationship has improved between the hosts. The jokes are finally (finally!) good again and their enthusiasm feels real for everything they are doing, showing that this is going to be a mighty return to form for Top Gear, one that might actually put aside the heavy shadow of the original trio.
As for the actual metal in the new season, we’re going to see cars like the Aston Martin DB11 being put up against a Mercedes S-Class Coupe in Montenegro, the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder battling the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet for the title of the best all-weather convertible supercar, the Russian-made eight-wheeled Shaman SUV trying to prove that eight is better than four and of course cars that everyone is dying to see them in a Top Gear review: the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, the Ford GT, the Bugatti Chiron and the track-only Ferrari FXX K.
There is even going to be a race between Chris Harris and Sabine Schmitz to settle which one is the fastest driver, after Stig of course, once and for all. Problem is that they are going to do that at the King Of Hammers, an off-road event taking place in California that includes desert racing and rock crawling, with Eddie Jordan and Matt LeBlanc being the team managers.
Even the new studio reflects Top Gear’s return to form; the modern minimal decoration is being brightened by three classic supercars mounted around the set. Proper man-cave stuff -which sadly can't show you for obvious reasons- and arguably one of the best ways of communicating Top Gear’s newfound focus to its core values.
Maybe this is even the year when The Grand Tour starts taking notes from the new Top Gear boys. It certainly feels like this season should be the first one in the post-Clarkson era. So buckle up and get yourself ready for the new Top Gear to debut on BBC America in the US, on March 12, because this one looks like it’s going to be really good.
Stay tuned for more Top Gear info in the coming days