Top Gear: The Next Next Generation

Well, I suppose it wasn’t entirely unexpected that Chris Evans was going to step down from Top Gear (although uncannily announced the same day as Nigel Farage stepping down from UKIP – maybe they’re swapping jobs? (grin – wink)).

That said, the Top Gear team doesn’t need to hire anybody new to replace Evans.  We already have a great line-up.  Chris Harris, Rory Reid, Sabine Schmidt and Eddy Jordan.  I’ve found Chris Harris to be a very capable, very good presenter out of the 5 remaining presenters (The Stig doesn’t count as a presenter, not unless they give him a laser pointer or a very big stick – and that’s probably asking for trouble).  Rory Reid, too, is a very good presenter and his presenting on Extra Gear brings the Top Gear format a fresh and much-needed update (although I do feel, especially now, that Rory’s skills are much more needed in the main programme now that Evans has gone).

So my vote would go to Chris Harris to lead the next series.  He’s definitely the best qualified out of the team.  Chris is an experienced automotive journalist, just like Jeremy Clarkson, who has many years working  in print and TV.  So why try to find somebody new to replace Evans?

Don’t like the new Top Gear?  Here’s a solution..

.. turn off your TV.  Or change channels.  Or read a book.   Or listen to music.  And never tune into the thing again.  Because you’ll just keep having a moan.

Anything but the repetitive droning on about Chris Evans shouting; that it’s boring; that they using canned laughter (they’re not – and indeed, it seems that people and newspapers are obsessed over the BBC using canned laughter – what flipping century are you living in?); that this is the same; that it’s too different; insert all manner of swear words and insults because people seem to think THEY own Top Gear.

New Top Gear: Not bad if I do say so myself

Oh boy.

This was always going to divide opinion, but I actually liked this newly revamped Top Gear.  But here’s the thing that people must remember: it’s the first episode.  It’s the first episode of a new series which required significant changes in staff both in front of and behind the camera.  And they’ve had about the same preparation time as the old series.

So I think Chris Evans and chums have done a spectacularly great job given the circumstances.  Given that I can see what’s going on at the Top Gear test track and studio as I worked next door to them, the amount of effort being put into the show is no less than 100% – in fact, I’d say there’s more staff (security and crew) and more kit than previous series.  They even had the production office (a cabin) spruced up.  As we’ve seen, there’s now a dirt track to liven up the segment formally called Star in a Reasonably Priced Car.

Try trawling Twitter, and you’ll come across all manner of opinions – all the way from knuckle dragging idiots that are calling the new presenters all names under the sun, through to “boring”, through to thinking the BBC could simply produce animatronic puppets of the original presenters and keep exactly the same show as before.

One thing that irritated me was Carole “Countdown” Vorderman’s comment:

which is silly.

Carol Vorderman has worked extensively on many TV series, including revamps, she should know better that you’re not going to get things completely right in the first episode of a new series – and a new series that has been given a bit of a revamp and was extremely popular beforehand. It took Clarkson and chums 10 years to get the format to what is was.  The camaraderie between the presenters took a while to build as well.  The point is, the expectation that the team were either going to be clones of the original team, or that there would be super witty un-PC “banter” right off the bat was presumptuous and wrong.

So I tweeted her to say as such (I was not rude or disrespectful – I like the lady). I was immediately blocked, and Twitter informed that my account was suspended temporarily as they suspected something bad had happened. So I reset my password and got back in.

Miss Vorderman is completely entitled to her opinion, and she’s entitled to block or report whomever she pleases. But it suggests to me that she’s not receptive to anybody thinking that maybe – just maybe – one should give your fellow industry colleagues a bit more of chance and not write the whole thing off instantly.  She didn’t like it – fine.  We get that.  But to be so dismissive.. sigh.

Also, unless she’s been privileged to watch unfinished episodes of Amazon’s The Grand Tour, she can’t make assumptions about that until it airs. Just because it features Clarkson, Hammond and May doesn’t mean it’ll immediately be brilliant.

In any event, I don’t think we can expect Carol Vorderman to turn up on the new Top Gear show attempting the improved test track…

In the mean time, let’s give peace a chance. Let’s wait and see what the new Top Gear team has up their sleeves in future episodes. I’m sure they’re monitoring social media, the newspapers, and so on, and maybe (because the show is recorded two weeks before it airs – obviously except for the big VT pieces), adjustments can be made. But don’t write the show off completely yet, please. It’d be an insult to the very hard work that’s gone into this thing.

Driving lesson update: I drove past The Stig!

Me!  Driving in the opposite direction to The Stig!  Me! Driving!  The Stig!

He was passing in his [censored] on his way out of Dunsfold while I was making my way back from my Dunsford-Guildford driving lesson loop.

The driving lesson itself was fine – a few mistakes, but managed not to get my big feet push down on the pedals simultaneously.  Also managed to take the Guildford gyratory system pretty well too, although the car in front struggled to get in the right lane at one point.  *shakes fist – ruddy experienced drivers*

And on that bombshell: Inside the madness & genius of Top Gear

Until my employers Memset Ltd. moved to Dunsfold Aerodrome a few years ago, I had no interest in Top Gear whatsoever.  I still hadn’t learnt to drive, and the antics of Clarkson, Hammond and May were of no interest to me.

But then we moved into our big brick office, we were directly next to the Top Gear hangar-cum-studio and the Top Gear production offices and garages.  We were also overlooking the start of the Top Gear test track, with glorious views of Gambon corner.

Then they started filming.  VT pieces, then Star In A Reasonably Priced Car. Then I started watching the show because I was now very curious about the whole thing.  And you know what, it may be about cars, but as overall entertainment goes, it was very entertaining.  But I did, maybe, learn a few things about cars too.  If only I could learn to drive.

Watching the team film some of the crazier segments – including the “improved” ambulances (one of which was a Nuclear disposal vehicle) up close was fascinating.  It made you wonder what the actual hell are were doing for this week’s show (or one of the other weeks to allow for editing). They were clearly enjoying themselves but were completely professional at the same time.  Watching the BTS of Top Gear was a joy to behold, even if it was behind bars of a gated property.

As the shows continued to film, I continued to watch the shows as they went out.  All was well until one day Jeremy Clarkson decided to something completely stupid and caused the entire Top Gear format to go TITSUP (Total Inability To Support Usual Performance) and bring on the death of the much loved/hated show.

Which is why I bought Richard Porter’s marvellous book, And on that bombshell: Inside the madness and genius of Top Gear.  Richard was the script editor (amongst other things from time to time) during Clarkson et al. years, having also spent a little bit of time during the Pebble Mill era too.

The book is an amusing history of Top Gear throughout the ages – and I found myself chuckling a few times in public on my way to work as I read through the chaos of the specials, the mad antics of the trio during The Bollocks Hour (which is their downtime period before they start shooting VT links, etc. at the hangar-cum-studio at Dunsfold), and what they were doing with the number 14 Routemaster bus  (currently parked in the TG hangar – I see it every day) as a potential item, and as a party bus for the team after a particularly good season end.

Interestingly, Porter has quite a few good things to say about Matt LeBlanc, who has become one of the six presenters of the new, new, new Chris Evans fronted Top Gear.  All signs indicate that the new, new, new Chris Evans Top Gear will still be filmed at Dunsfold from what I’ve seen (after all, why change that if you’re going to change everything else).  Hopefully they will keep the Star in the Reasonably Priced Car – but then again, maybe they won’t.

Now I’ve finished the book, I’ve moved onto Perry McCarthy’s autobiography, Flat Out Broke: The Original Stig. Perry was the very first Stig (dressed all in black), and way before my time of watching Top Gear. I’ve not far in, but already enjoying McCarthy’s good humour and ability to tell a good story.

In other news – third driving lesson went well.  Didn’t get too horrendously confused with lane changing and signalling during roundabouts.  Managed with the three lane madness of Guildford’s one way system too.  So things are moving forwards quite nicely…