When Clarkson and friends were kicked off Top Gear, we all had an inkling the show was never going to be the same. Last week’s god-awful episode confirmed that, but maybe it was a one-off. Maybe Chris Evans just needed a week to settle in, and we’d have our Sunday evenings back to how they should be.
Last night’s Top Gear, the second episode of the new series, was equally awful. Don’t just take my word for it, either: 2.8 million people tuned in to see it, less than half the viewership of old Top Gear. For comparison, Antiques Roadshow, the selling-crap-from-people’s-attic show TG was competing with, drew in 4.7 million viewers.
If you have an F1 racing driver in a brightly-colored McLaren, a former Friends star tearing around South Africa, and you still can’t beat two old men and an auction house, you know there’s a problem.
It’s a real shame. Top Gear has been a BBC institution since before the days of Jeremy Clarkson. It came from humble roots as a pure car show, and evolved over a dozen series into a high-quality entertainment show that brought car geekery into the mainstream.
Its general-public success was thanks not just to the three hosts, but what went on behind the scenes. Andy Wilman, the show’s longtime executive producer, left along with Clarkson, and he wasn’t the only other member of the show’s team to jump ship to The Grand Tour.
What the BBC was really left with was a format, an incredibly well-known brand, and a man in an all-white racing suit. Unfortunately, rather than trying to start over with a different concept for a car show — what Clarkson, Hammond and May did when they first rebooted Top Gear — Chris Evans and co tried to fit all the magic of TG into one season, and have failed spectacularly.