The 21st Series of Top Gear started the other night, Sunday 2nd February 2014, here in the UK. EngageSportMode had planned to review each episode like we did previously but, quite frankly, the whole thing left us feeling completely apathetic.
Series 20 had its good and bad points – that Hovervan thing being an obvious low – but in general it showed there was still a car programme fighting to get out. Based on episode 1 of the new series, that faint glimmer of hope seemed to have disappeared in a barrage of scripted nonsense and predictability.
Taking three hot hatches from the eighties/nineties (Ford Fiesta XR2i, Volkswagen Golf GTI and Vauxhall Nova SRi) could have been a superb chance to compare them to their modern counterparts. But no, that would have been real car journalism, and remember Top Gear is a light entertainment show just like Strictly Come Dancing or Downton Abbey. As a lot of the reviews of this episode have already mentioned, Top Gear is so far away from journalism you could fit all the copies of Clarkson’s various books ever sold in the void left behind. Is this a bad thing?
Well, no, if you just want to watch something vaguely amusing on a Sunday night as an alternative to Call the Midwife. That in itself isn’t a bad reason to watch Top Gear, but it still pains genuine car enthusiasts, tweeters and bloggers who have to see it paraded around as the prize specimen of motoring viewing. Reviews by Chris Harris On Cars via the /DRIVE YouTube channel are vastly superior to anything Top Gear has done in years, when it comes to actually testing and analysing cars for petrol heads, but we don’t get to see that on TV. There is so much better motoring content out there, but it gets pushed aside by the juggernaut of Clarkson, Hammond and May’s excruciatingly scripted ‘banter’ and big explosions.
Reading Twitter after episode 1 aired on Sunday showed two very distinct schools of thought about Top Gear. Those with no real interest in cars thought it to be the best one ever made. Viewers with an ounce of petrol in their veins generally found it to be infantile and stupid. However, the viewing figures will be big, the audience share huge and the BBC will be perfectly happy to let Top Gear carry on doing what it is doing. Given just how much money the franchise has made the BBC’s Worldwide arm over the past decade (enough to buy out Clarkson’s production company responsible for it) it’s unlikely we’ll see any change in direction. In fact, given some of the comments about the first episode, there’s more pressure for fewer cars and more cartoon-y parodies instead. Eventually Clarkson and the BBC will call time on Top Gear, once the bottom of the barrel has truly been scraped clean. Then there’ll probably do a movie…
So no Top Gear reviews from EngageSportMode this year. We can’t bring ourselves to watch Strictly Come Dancing or the X-Factor to offer a broad range of entertainment show appraisals, so we’re afraid it’s out.