Of course that isn't what anyone remembers is it? Nope, Top Gear is the Jeremy Clarkson show, ably assisted by Richard Hammond and James May. This was the result of a reboot in 2002. And all of a sudden a rather quaint and niche program became a massive, mainstream show, becoming one of the biggest moneyspinners for the BBC. Clarkson and co conquered the world (well most of it, the Argentinians were none too impressed and gave them the same short shrift we gave them when they invaded the Falklands).
|The new Top Gear Team|
Then is all went wrong. A key ingredient of the success of the show was Clarksons arrogance. Arrogance is a very strange personality trait. Much as we'd love to hate arrogant people, when they are on a roll, we are strangely drawn to them. We forgive them all their sins. This is perfectly normal human reaction. We want our leaders to be brash, self confident and arrogant. Who would want to be lead into battle by a quivering wreck. Sadly like all such men, ultimately this arrogance was Clarksons downfall. He believed he was untouchable. His appalling behaviour got him the boot.
This gave the BBC a major problem. How on earth can you replace such a figure. The show is a huge moneyspinner and they would be negligent if they simply ditched it. It had history before Clarkson, so there can be no argument that the show was Clarkson. However I think that last night we saw they'd picked the wrong man. Chris Evans just hasn't got the charisma for the job. He's great on the radio and he's pretty good when he's in his comfort zone interviewing drug addled rock stars. But Top Gear is a completely different beast. I think the consensus is that his co-start Matt Le Blanc was actually pretty good. He clearly loves doing stupid things in cars. I am pretty sure that the BBC are savvy enough to figure this out. If I was them, then I'd get the editors in and recut the whole thing. I felt all along that Evans was a poor choice. They could have done something really radicle and got Jodie Kidd. I think she'd have been great and added a whole new chemistry to the show. It is early days and it may well be that eventually Evans gets it, but he simply comes across as a loser and a dork in the first episode. That really is not a recipe for success in a show like Top Gear.
All that said it is early days and it is just a TV show. It will be interesting to see what Clarkson and Co come up with on their Amazon show. Will they stick with the tried & trusted formula and risk the charge that it has become stale? Will they try something different and risk bombing? For Amazon, this is a massive opportunity but also a huge risk. My guess is that Clarkson and Co will go for the jugular. I'd guess that no opportunity will be missed to lampoon the BBC, Evans and the old show. We've already seen that Clarkson doesn't know where the line is that he shouldn't be crossing. I suspect that perhaps the best scenario for both Clarkson and the BBC is that both shows do well. If Top Gear fails, then Clarkson will lose a huge store of barbs and digs. If the Clarkson show tanks, then the BBC also may well suffer. I suspect that Clarkson fans will actually watch Top Gear, even if they don't like it so they can get the jokes.
One thing I've learned over many years is that new shoes always hurt at first. As a child, I can remember thinking every Doctor Who was worse than the previous one after the regeneration. It usually took half a series, then suddenly you realised that the new Doctor was the Doctor. Will this be the way with the new show? We can but wait and see.