So, it looks like Top Gear is off the road again, like it was in 2001, 2015, and more than a fair few times during the intervening years which the BBC nonetheless pretended were off-seasons, even though the show used to run twice a year and for a far longer run than they have in more recent years. This time around, out of a matter of safety, given what in fairness did seem to be a very serious accident for Freddie Flintoff rather than the more PR-stunty crashes he had a few years ago.
That said, I don’t feel any pity and do not share certain figures’ sentiments that the show must go on. It is not the same Top Gear that used to exist; it is the BBC’s product that has been tailored to look like the old show, but shares little in common. It is a façade which fewer and fewer people care for.
Personally, I feel it’s high time the BBC reins this act in once and for all before someone gets killed. Top Gear already has its place in television history. It doesn’t need for its legacy to be further tarnished by people who at their prime wouldn’t have been fit to shine Jezza and Co.’s toecaps. It was cute at first, and Flintoff and McGuinness can certainly write that they were “former Top Gear presenters” in their CV for future jobs, but in the immortal words of Joji Miller, it is well and truly time to stop.
And given that, if I’m correct, the track is now starting to be dug up for housing after many years of delays (from what I recall, the whole reason Google Maps went and captured a lap back in 2011 was because it was on borrowed time even back then), I feel it’s a fitting time to respectfully bury the remains of Top Gear with it.
Top Gear was a great show. It always will be. But its time has come and gone.
No one reads the magazine anymore, and what’s worse, it’s getting its ass handed to it by Car magazine of all publications. Car. How do you even manage to lose to the publication that’s designed to be as inoffensive and generic as possible for the indecisive layperson? When Top Gear was in its prime, it was fighting off Max Power at the height of its popularity as well as Evo when Harry and Harris were in the driver’s seat. Top Gear has become the NME of car magazines in more ways than one; they were once cutting-edge and gave younger readers what they really wanted during its mid – late ’00s peak, then shuffled into obscurity and irrelevancy once its time was up, and still doesn’t understand this.
Paddy and Freddie are not car journalists. They may have learned a lot these past few years, but they have too much temerity to think they’re invincible. Too many times in the past several years (and not even that many episodes) the pair have binned it in situations where they shouldn’t have. Part of this is down to them essentially “skipping the tutorial level” in the world of automotive journalism, as although Paddy McGuinness did indeed appear in an episode of Fifth Gear to retake his motorcycle test, they never drove cars at the volume that their predecessors did, and it’s really beginning to show now.
What also hurts them, which I’ll go into greater detail in my imminent video (which now needs to be amended again thanks to this news, but it will be out very soon), is how they were essentially forced by the BBC to imitate CHM-era Top Gear by putting themselves in wilfully dangerous situations, because that’s what attracts ratings, apparently. If the people making (or rather, not making) Top Gear cared to sit down and watch the first 3 – 4 series again, they’d soon realise there were shockingly few dangerous stunts and challenges in them, partly due to budget, but also partly because Top Gear is far more than just “dumping a Metro from the sky on a bungee cord look how quirky and original we are lmao”.
The programme lacks the nuance that it did during the days of CHM. It’s another argument that you’ll have to see in my upcoming video to really understand, but Top Gear is not as focused as it once was. When it came up with films in the old days, like the Hilux destruction or the races across various countries, its purposes were at least three-fold; to make an entertaining film, to prove a point, and to do something on TV that no-one else can.
The problem is, 90% of films produced by the “New” Top Gear crew since 2016 lack these latter two points. Now admittedly, the third of these is not their fault. Nowadays, anyone can do what Top Gear can. Hell, if you’re a certain farmer’s boy on YouTube with a huge pile of your parent’s money to piss away, you can even make a career out of doing stupid, dangerous, and wasteful stunts with cars that could have been given to less-privileged enthusiasts who want them. What Top Gear did stopped being special a long time ago as technology and the access to said technology has increased.
But it’s the second of these factors – proving a point – that Top Gear has lost the most.
From the earliest films, that’s what Top Gear segments were all about:
- Could a granny be taught to do a relatively complex driving manoeuvre which most drivers are unable to?
- Could a company renowned for sports cars, Lotus, make a sports saloon out of anything you gave them?
When Jeremy Clarkson made the original Hilux film, it was to prove how tough these cars were anywhere, especially in war-torn African and Asian nations. When the £100 used car film came out in 2004, it was to see if it was cheaper to just buy a banger on its last legs than to use public transport. When most other used car films came out later on, it was to see if you could be a member of a certain marque’s enthusiast groups on a minimal budget, perhaps most famously with old Italian supercars.
Everything, even the farces of the later series, had a point to make, even if it was dulled down from the early days. Could two idiots put together an action movie sequence? Could a different pair of idiots buy a better car than the overpriced, low-range first generation of electric cars had to offer? Everything had a point.
And that’s what modern Top Gear lacks above anything else. As far as I’ve been able to surmise, it’s just flashy film after flashy film, showing, but not telling anything. “Oh look, here’s a bunch of our presenters doing banger racing!” “Oh look, here’s a bunch of our presenters in their first cars!”
What points are there to prove? The thing that pains me the most is that even without any sort of TV experience, I have SO many ideas I could write up for the BBC to make Top Gear great (or at least ambitiously rubbish) again. Purely by using the simple formula Clarkson and Wilman derived.
- Can you make a petrol-powered car last longer, drive better, and cost less than an electric car? To find this out, all three hosts would buy a cheap, clapped out hatchback from the late ’90s – early ’00s, strip them down but keep them road legal, and turn them into budget hypermilers.
- Can you win a race without even being present at the racetrack? Just make another big RC car out of a spec MX5 or something and have the presenter sit at a computer desk like he’s playing an ultra-realistic video game.
- Can you take an old hatchback or estate and turn it into a better, fun-to-drive crossover that’s also more practical and stronger than a newer one?
Admittedly, that last one’s a bit similar to the MG “Magnificent” film The Grand Tour did, but it just follows the basic Top Gear formula to make a hit film.
But on the whole, I digress. This article is mostly to let everyone know I’m still alive and most importantly, rejuvenated.
I know I haven’t been active what for must now be about a year or so, if at all. Most of that is down to burnout, poor planning, and poor management skills on my part as I worked on other things in the background, and that will end soon. I’ve had a lot to sort out, and have been getting ready a lot more pictures for the TG picture archive. I greatly appreciate all the support I have had since January 2022, even if I haven’t been there in-person to appreciate it.
I am still working on the same videos as I have been for the past year. I will get these done before anything else.
Once again, if you missed my most recent video, a 20 year retrospective on the first episode of Top Gear, watch it here: Top Gear 20th Anniversary Video (S01E01 Episode Review & Commentary)
I don’t know if the situation’s changed in more recent weeks, but it was blocked worldwide within half an hour of its original upload on YouTube and I tried everything to get it watchable. Nothing short of turning it into a slideshow was going to work because the BBC are bastards. That’s the simple explanation.
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