The rebooted Top Gear season 23 has been over for a few weeks and the reception throughout it all was as expected, cold. Ever since the teaser trailer surfaced on Youtube it quickly amassed a torrential downpour of dislikes, despite the usual over the top and glossy production quality we have come to expect. We knew Top Gear was not going to be judged solely on its merits, but weighted with what the BBC had done the previous year: Firing Clarkson and drawing the ire of its paying viewers.
The group of six presenters, led by the now dethroned Chris Evans, felt a lot like a long term audition for the Top Gear tenure spots. And looking back, we never expected Rory Reid to be one of the more talented presenters in the bunch. Yet here we are months after the ratings numbers have been recorded, the presenting lineup have been shifted, and we have seen Rory Reid’s face in the news not once, but twice! The first one was an extremely awkward interview, and now an exclusive interview with Red Bull. Maybe this is a sign of things to come?
In this interview Reid opens up about what it was like to enter the Top Gear world:
So Rory, how do you reflect on the first season of Top Gear?
Well it’s been a very intense experience – intense is probably the best word. Way more involved than I ever thought any show could be. The level of scrutiny that the show is under has just been absolutely immense. The way I thought about it was like being a soldier parachuted into a war, and you have some people that are on your side, and some people that are not on your side, and then you have the rest of them who are just watching to see what happens anyway.
Were you surprised at the level of hostility from some factions? It seems some people were ready for it to fail before it even aired…
I was definitely surprised. I thought that we’d come in, do the job and then be judged according to the job that we did. But it’s not just a TV show – it’s an institution. It’s like if the Wu-Tang Clan took over from One Direction. The fans of One Direction would be like, ‘What the hell are we watching, who are these people?’ Even if the music they made was good, or comparable, the fact that you’ve got massively different people taking over from something that you’ve watched and loved for years – that’s a massive challenge for people to get used to.
But even so, I was still very, very surprised at the level of hostility. There were special Twitter accounts that people set up to tweet negative shit about Top Gear. Part of you wants to say, ‘It’s just a TV show’, but then the other side of you has to think that these fans were really devoted to that show (under Jeremy Clarkson) and that it’s going to take a long time to get used to.
That hostility certainly existed and was mentioned in almost every story we have covered related to Top Gear or The Grand Tour. Reid is correct here that the old Top Gear under the Clarkson, Hammond, May and Wilman’s watch was a completely different brand of television than the facelifted version. I’m sure every segment and schtick that was done by the new cast looked like pantomime to Top Gear diehards.
Look ahead to next season, what are we going to see changing, and do you think the loss of Chris Evans will affect the show?
I’m not allowed to talk about the next series yet. I haven’t signed a contract yet, and I don’t know if anyone else has, but the expectation is that we will continue without Chris. I don’t know whether they’ll bring someone new in or they’ll stick with the presenters as they are now and change the format around to suit those presenters, but we’ll find that out in the very near future.
Let’s assume that everyone except Chris Evans remains on the show; then I think that the format has to change, because the way the previous show worked was Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc bouncing off each other in the studio, and then they’d get one of the others – myself, Chris Harris, Sabine or Eddie – to take part in something specific. Without Chris Evans, you’d only have Matt LeBlanc to do that, and I don’t know if that’s a route the BBC would go down, to have him on his own. I think they’d incorporate the rest of us to make it like an ensemble piece. We’ll see what happens, but I expect it to be a pretty big change, and that things will be pretty different for series 24.
The fact that Reid has not signed a contract, nor is he aware of anyone who has is proof that we don’t know what to expect for Season/Series 24. Even though Matt LeBlanc has been chosen as the Top Gear frontman due to the circumstances, the fact that the motoring show is not even his first priority should give BBC executives some uncertainty as to what the Top Gear landscape will look like when it films again in September 2016.
Talk to us about the moment Chris Evans cried on Extra Gear after he’d driven the McLaren F1…
That’s the beauty of Extra Gear; you get that kind of unexpected stuff that you can’t use in the main show because it’s so spontaneous. I remember talking to Chris and watching the tears build up in his eyes and I’m thinking, ‘Where is this going? How am I going to handle this? Do we cut, do we roll with it, do I keep pressing? Am I going to get fired because I made him cry?’ But I went with it and people really appreciated that moment because it showed another side to Chris. The cars move him in a certain way, and it’s not all scripted. There’s a passion deep inside him – not just him, but all of us – for the job that we do and the cars that we drive. I think that was a really golden moment for Extra Gear, which made us realise that actually, we’re doing something really positive here.
The McLaren segments were quite touching indeed and we’d be lying if we said we couldn’t relate to the emotions Chris Evans was feeling at that time. But the reports we have heard in the background, about all of the bullying and the harassment the radio host has pressed upon his old colleagues, makes this sensitive moment feel a bit fake and empty.
We have told you, the readers, that you should give new Top Gear a chance despite knowing it was not going to be as good as the Top Gear under the silly trio. Now that series 23 is done and in the history books, we can firmly say that this reboot was a season filled with few great moments, few terrible moments, and a whole lot of mediocre and rehashed moments. As is, it would quickly follow the same fate as Top Gear USA: headed to the trash. Now that they’re in the off season and in time for The Grand Tour to ramp up, this is a good time to really see if they want to make series 24 not just an average show, but a great one.
(Source: Red Bull)