Spoilers ahead, proceed at your own risk!
It’s finally here, the debut of New Top Gear. Fresh with that new cast smell. The show has been highly anticipated ever since the re-casting as a result of the “fracas”. There are many differing views on the new cast. Some say, “if it isn’t Clarkson, Hammond, and May (CHM), it isn’t Top Gear.” Others adopted a wait and see approach. I personally fell into the latter. Now, on to the first episode in the new era of Top Gear.
There was the almost obligatory catering and “And on that bombshell…” jokes. They weren’t awful and the catering joke (crowd assisted) was actually pretty funny. With that said I’m glad they got them out of the way. They have to realize that this is new Top Gear. No matter the budget or effort these guys will never be CHM. Best to cut the cord and just move forward doing their own thing.
The first piece was Chris Evans driving a Viper ACR at Top Gun. Yes THAT Top Gun, as in “I feel the need, the need for SPEED!” Top Gun. Did you know there are some people who still haven’t seen that movie? Anyway, the review is as expected until Sabine Schmitz Shows up in a Corvette Z06. So naturally there was going to be some kind of comparison. This was achieved by playing laser tag… Again. This marks the 3rd time on a Top Gear where a Viper was tested by playing some form of military grade laser tag. This time each car was fitted with fake guns and missiles while on the inside there was a device to simulate missile lock. First one to achieve Missile lock wins. Riding shotgun with Sabine and Chris were 2 Top Gun instructors. In the end Evans and the Viper wins. Although Sabine did manage to make her “co-pilot” puke. Whether this was staged or actually happened I cant say for sure. What I can say for sure was the best part of the whole bit, was to see Sabine awkwardly trying to quote the movie. It was excellent.
My favorite part of the episode was Matt LeBlanc driving the Ariel Nomad across the Moroccan desert. Attempting to out run the terrifying evil that is the paparazzi. This was the kind of piece that got us hooked on Top Gear: I review an extraordinary car in a fun way. More of this please! And less of this next bit…
The “Big Film” was a USA v. UK bit. Matt LeBlanc for America and Evans for the UK (obviously). The first part was a drive from London to Blackpool in Reliant Robins with the roofs cut off. Naturally one was less reliable and the attempted hilarity ensues. Top Gear being a UK show you can probably guess who got stuck with the lemon. Yup, the Yank. I honestly didn’t see the point. What is exactly USA v. UK about both presenters being given the same car that was built in the UK? I mean someone somewhere probably thought, “The Robin is a hilariously bad car. It worked with Clarkson lets do it with these guys.” The gag has been done, move on, there were better ways of doing this. Anyway the next part was a little better. Evans was given the Land Rover Series 1, and LeBlanc a Willys Jeep. There were the obligatory 3 tests which LeBlanc won 2 of. this earned him a whopping 1 second advantage where the 2 raced to the top of a mountain towing the Robins with their Vehicles. This entire piece felt forced, like they were trying too hard. Which brings me neatly to…
The in studio interaction was pretty good but over produced for my liking. Only LeBlanc and Evans were present in studio. Though Chris Harris and Rory Reid hosted “Extra Gear.” The giant door that they now introduce guests through is over the top. As is the theme music played as the guests walk out. Instead of the old flat screen they use a giant screen to display any manner of things, in this case it was for the guests various cars. The Stars in question were Gordon Ramsay and Jesse Eisenberg. The interview was almost a complete waste of time. The one exciting thing, was the announcement of a new LaFerrari Spyder, and that Gordon Ramsay will be one of the lucky few to own one. Other than that announcement it was too much Chris Evans and not enough guests.
The biggest changes to the previous “Star In A Reasonably Priced Car” was the track, the car, and the name. That was 3 changes, but moving on. The name is now “A Star In a Rallycross Car.” as the name suggests, the new car is a Mini, and the new track for the stars contains 2 dirt sections. This change is actually really neat and is one that improves the show. It’s similar in concept to the previous, but new enough to be refreshing.
This was far from the best example of Top Gear. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either. I’m not 100% sold on Evans yet. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but there is something about him I don’t like. I got the impression he was trying too hard. I don’t know much if any of his previous work, so this may just be how he is. In any rate, I saw enough to keep me watching. Like I said there were some things I didn’t like but the show does have some potential. It will never be the same as the CHM era but given time I think the show can grow into its own thing and be successful.