Richard Hammond

Editorial | What road for Top Gear now?

Clarkson and Top Gear have dominated the news this week. EngageSportMode’s editor gives his opinion on what this latest controversy means for the future of the world’s most popular motoring media brand.

2015 Top Gear Live Newcastle 001

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or in an area without 02 signal, for the past week you’ve probably heard a little story about Jeremy Clarkson. Actually, going back a second, an area without 02 signal could be virtually everywhere in fact. Sorry, I digress.

But yes, ‘Jezza’ has landed himself in hot water again for reportedly striking a Top Gear show producer in a fracas over his dinner. That’s what the papers and, curiously, the Radio Times will have us believe. In short, nobody really seems to know the full details, and those that do are keeping very quiet whilst the incident is investigated. In truth, it doesn’t really matter. Of greater significance is the potential ‘end of days’ for the Top Gear TV brand as we know it.

It’s been almost 12 and half years since ‘new’ Top Gear returned to our screens in October 2002. Given that, were it a person, TG would have now qualified for secondary school, it seems hardly apt to refer to it as new anymore. That in itself is, perhaps, one of the greater challenges Top Gear faces – no longer is it fresh and novel, but instead has become increasingly formulaic and predictable. (more…)

Review – Top Gear Live 2015 at Metro Radio Arena

Turning an immensely popular global television success story into an arena show – how hard can it be? The short answer is not particularly difficult. The longer answer is whether or not such relative ease truly adds anything to the Top Gear brand, other than around 90 minutes of fireworks, flames and digs at the Argentinians.

2015 Top Gear Live Newcastle 001

The stage from the TV show makes an appearance, with added V8 power. The Stig in bits under the coffee table.

It’s hard to know how to describe Top Gear Live succinctly. A ‘car circus’ is perhaps the most appropriate analogy: an over-the-top ringmaster compéring proceedings in Clarkson, a troupe of clown sidekicks in Hammond and May, death-defying stunts and dramatic explosions. It’s also much like a circus in you know Hammond will have his teeth made fun of, that James May will be called slow, and that Clarkson will make comments about the Daily Mail. Much the same way you know the circus lion won’t eat the lion tamer, and that the trapeze artists will always catch each other – there’s no hidden surprises here.

The show can be split into two distinct categories – the bits which involve Clarkson, Hammond and May ‘cocking about’ and the bits which are a strange, but mesmerising, form of automotive interpretative dance. The former consists of staple TG challenges such as drifting, racing Reliant Robins, and car football. On the other hand, the latter includes precision stunt driving, French motorcyclists inside a globe of death, and hauntingly strange sight of a woman with flamethrower arms, setting Porsche 911s on fire as they slide around. That last one looks just as surreal as it sounds.

There are actual performance cars in Top Gear Live though. The ‘supercar parade’ includes a long list of wonderful exotics, ranging from a Morgan Plus 8, to BMW M6 Gran Coupé, Ferrari 458 Italia and Lamborghini Aventador. It’s like a short moving motor show, just without the chance to get up close and actually see the cars. Or see half of them, depending on where you sit. (more…)

Top Gear Series 21 – Not A Review

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 mentionedTop 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? (more…)

Top Gear Review – Series 20, Episode 6

Although it seems like it has only just begun, series 20 of Top Gear concluded with the 6th episode on Sunday night. Like all five reviews previous, contains spoilers below.

Top Gear Series 20, Episode 6 – UK Air Date 4th August 2013 

After just six short weeks, Top Gear pulled out something quite dramatic for the final show of the series. Range Rover Sport 001

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Top Gear Review – Series 20, Episode 5

After the mixed up message from the previous week’s episode, including the media fallout from parts of the Hover Van segment being staged, what would number five bring? As usual, contains spoilers (of the pop-up kind too).

Top Gear Series 20, Episode 5 – UK Air Date 28th July 2013 

Some people have already labelled this as the best episode of the season so far. Hmm…

Porsche 911 (991) 001

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Top Gear Review – Series 20, Episode 4

We are now two-thirds of the way into this season of Top Gear. So, how did episode four shape up? Like an old copy of Max Power magazine, this post contains spoilers.

Top Gear Series 20, Episode 4 – UK Air Date 21st July 2013 

This episode turned out to be somewhat of a mixed-bag in terms of quality, ranging from competent to cringeworthy.

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive 00

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Top Gear Review – Series 20, Episode 2

So after the initial hurrah of a new series, we’re now at that awkward second episode stage for this season of Top Gear. Check out what EngageSportMode made of it below. Warning, contains spoilers, but is gluten-free.

Top Gear Series 20, Episode 2 – UK Air Date 7th July 2013

EngageSportMode wasn’t hugely complimentary of last week’s opening episode. So, what would the second episode bring us? Hopefully more car reviews and news, and less staged stunts and painful puns. (more…)

Top Gear Returns – Series 20, Episode 1 Review

Top Gear is arguably the biggest motoring-related television programme in the world. So for what is now the 20th (!) series, EngageSportMode will be writing a short review of each episode. So here we go [warning, contains non-aerodynamic spoilers]:

Top Gear Series 20, Episode 1 – UK Air Date 30th June 2013

I’m not sure what I’m more surprised at. The fact new Top Gear is now into its 20th series, or that I can still remember reading the copy of the magazine which announced the beginning of this era back in October 2002. Eitherway, the latest series is claimed to reflect the fact the format is now almost eligible for secondary school by promising to deliver “more mature and slowed down” action. Cue montage of destruction, caravans, staged comedy moments and more caravans.

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