Why Top Gear needs to be turned off… and Fifth Gear turned back on

Forget the back-story and the atrocious return to the screen last year, there’s a new Top Gear on TV, but I’m not so sure it should be.

WE ALL KNOW what happened with what we all refer to now as ‘old’ Top Gear and has now effectively become The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime after Jeremy Clarkson was sacked from the BBC. Fellow hosts, James May and Richard Hammond quit in support and went and built a new show, and a brand with Amazon.

And then the BBC decided to resurrect TG without them. And it was a train-wreck. There were enough presenters for a seven-a-side soccer team, and not a single person seemed to like Chris Evans. And then, the BBC decided to jettison its soccer team and cut the team back to Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid.

The first episode of the new season has already aired in the UK and the second episode airs there tonight, but in Australia the first episode of the season return kicks off tonight. Now, via Facebook I know that many of you have already seen Episode 1 and by the time this is published probably episode 2, too (and BBC Australia is very cross). You’ve also probably seen the latest round of The Grand Tour. Moving on.

I sat down to watch my preview copy of the first episode with an open mind. And the first minute or two, didn’t disappoint. The cars and photography in this season are epic, and the shift to a Toyota 86 for the Celebrity in a Reasonably Fast Car is clever.

But, the hosts, LeBlanc, Harris and Reid are way too wooden and seem uncomfortable both in front of a camera and with each other. While the others were trying, LeBlanc was seemingly acting his way through the first episode. Look, I’m sure it’ll take a bit of time for the trio to gel and the script writers to provide just a framework, and let the hosts riff a bit…

But, I keep coming back to this… Do we really need Top Gear anymore? I mean, The Stig isn’t even in the first episode and no amount of stunning cinematography and cool content can make up for the fact that the presenters came across as dull. And, having seen each of them in other things, we know they’re anything but dull… they’re all very talented.

If I’m honest, it feels like TG UK has followed the format it did here in Australia with the hosts when we tried to produce a local version… I didn’t get why Chris Harris was teaching the celebrities to drive… that used to be The Stig’s job… with the celebrity as the main attraction in that segment. As harsh as this is going to sound, it’s almost as if I was watching a rehearsal of the old Top Gear with the understudies performing the lines.

Personally, I’ve always ‘liked’ Top Gear but I loved the magazine and, as a car show, I much preferred Fifth Gear. So, what should the BBC have done? Well, it shouldn’t have bothered with LeBlanc – just because he was more popular than Chris Evans didn’t mean anything, and Chris Harris is an epic driver and a great writer and had a great YouTube series, but… I do think, however, that Reid was a good get for the show; I think he’s one presenter who can make a place for himself on the show. 

What the BBC should actually have done is employ the staff from the no-finished Fifth Gear and put them into the TG studio and let them produce the sort of content they were producing at Fifth Gear. Those presenters had good chemistry, could all drive and produced solid informative content. Using the Fifth Gear team would have meant there wouldn’t be any comparison with The Grand Tour… the curse of being a new Top Gear presenter would have been broken and car show fans would then have had two great, and different shows to watch. Instead of one that’s all about POOOWWWEERR and one that feels like it’s just going through the motions.

Anyway, if you’ve already watched the latest episode(s) and I’d love to hear from you and, if you watch it tonight (legally) then do stop by and let me know what you think. But for my two-cents, I say, bring back Fifth Gear. Or, am I being too harsh?

According to the BBC, around 2.8 million Poms watched the season opener of TG in the UK… so maybe I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about.

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.