Was the rebooted show any good? Or just a colossal failure?
The first episode of the rebooted 'Top Gear' aired last night in the UK. If you live in the US, you will have to wait until tonight at 9:00 PM ET. Unless you got creative and managed to find the first episode online (don't worry, we won't tell anyone). If you have gone on Twitter, you may see all of the negative comments pouring in about the new hosts. Clearly some people are very upset, but are their reactions really warranted? Here's what we thought of the first episode of the refreshed 'Top Gear' and its new presenters.
If you haven't seen the show yet and don't want to know what cars will be featured, we suggest you click away now and come back after you watch. The first episode starts off in the studio with an energetic Chris Evans introducing the first non-UK presenter, Matt LeBlanc. Evans' studio portions were extremely high-energy and seemed a bit forced. Evans had to yell his lines at the audience to draw applause, which seemed a little staged. The studio has been redesigned a bit, and seemed to be more empty than usual. When Evans was yelling his lines, it sounded really echoey in the studio. So this is just us being nit picky. It is the world's premier motoring show after all. So how were the segments?
Just like before, no expense was sparred to make the action look top notch. Right away we witness the spectacle of Evans blasting around a runway in a Dodge Viper ACR with Sabine Schmitz chasing him in a Corvette Z06 with laser guns attached to it. Sounds just like 'Top Gear' right? Well, while this segment was visually spectacular, it kind of makes us ask, "why did it happen?" Whenever something happened on the old show, there was always some explanation of why it was happening. Why turn a Jaguar into a train? Because trains are too expensive. Why buy a cheap Porsche? Because we want to see if they would actually run. With this first episode, it seems that the BBC has lost that sense.
The next piece involved a US vs UK challenge that started off with two Reliant Rialtos (basically nicer Robins). The challenge poked fun at LeBlanc, who repeatedly didn't understand some aspect of British humor and clearly doesn't know his way around the UK. The challenge turned into a competition with a Willys Jeep and a Series One Land Rover which was a little better. However, we hope that the series doesn't just bang on about how LeBlanc isn't British because it simply wasn't that funny. So how were the reviews? Well, Sabine Schmitz was pretty cool in the Corvette, but she really didn't talk much. We spent most of the screen time watching Evans scream his head off in the Viper.
Yes, Clarkson, May, and Hammond would scream occasionally, but only after making some intelligible comments. Evans does an admiral job reviewing the Viper, but he doesn't need to yell quite so much when reviewing the car. Hopefully he'll get the hang of it. LeBlanc has a completely different style. This first episode showed LeBlanc driving around the desert in the Ariel Nomad. This was by far the most enjoyable segment, and we think Joey showed some promise reviewing the car. However, there is a reason why this new cast hasn't been well reviewed and we have an idea why. Look at any of the car-based YouTube channels that you watch and ask why you come back to watch more.
You may watch a video because it features a certain car, but chances are you come back because you like the host. This might be the problem with the new 'Top Gear.' Anyone who becomes popular on YouTube, does so because we choose to watch their videos. Unfortunately, that just isn't the case with Chris Evans. Because the BBC is such a big entity, executives thought that people would love the new show simply because of what it was called. This is like the 'Tonight Show' when Conan O'Brien took over for Jay Leno. The show did poorly and soon Leno was brought back. We all watched Clarkson, Hammond, and May review cars because we cared about what they thought.
The production value of all of the segments was still top-notch, but who cares if the footage is visually spectacular if you don't care about what is being said? Matt LeBlanc did a pretty good job reviewing the Nomad, but don't you think people would have cared more if it was Clarkson doing the review? We've seen Clarkson review other cars, and he can point out the small differences that make a car good or bad. That is why the Viper review with Evans just didn't go well. Of course the Viper is fast, we all know that. Screaming as it accelerates doesn't really tell us much about the car, and that is why the review doesn't mean as much. So how was the star in the reasonably priced car?
For starters, the car isn't reasonably priced anymore. The new segment has a Mini Cooper that has been turned into a rally car. The new lap has two dirt sections and a jump. We don't know why the show made this change, but it seems a bit unnecessary. So what was the best part of the show? Not to be sarcastic, but it was the end. That is when Extra Gear began. We weren't sure what to think about this "behind the scenes" show, but count us impressed (with some complaints). This is the show that we always wanted to see. Occasionally, Clarkson would film a small behind the scenes segment, but we always wanted to see more. Extra Gear might become that show we always dreamed of.
Rorry Reid is the main host, with Chris Harris doing some awesome driving. We wish we heard more from Harris, but hopefully we will get more of him in future episodes. Our main complaint about Extra Gear is that there wasn't enough of it. The episode was only about 20 minutes long, and the big budget that the main show plays with is nowhere to be seen. The show basically looked like a nicer version of a YouTube show. When Clarkson was fired, Chris Harris seemed like the perfect air-apparent to the 'Top Gear' throne. We want to see more Chris Harris with a bigger budget. That would certainly make the new show better. Why go and bring on Harris if you were just giving him a glorified YouTube segment?
The best way to describe the new show is to use a Clarkson metaphor. When he reviewed the Ferrari 599 GTO, Clarkson made the comparison that Ferrari had messed up, basically naming the new car "Jesus." If they named it Jeff, or Steve, or John, it would have been fine. However, they gave it the best name it the company's history, GTO. If this new show was called anything else, people might like it. But it is called Top Gear, so it might never live up to expectations.