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Top Gear Shelved: BBC’s Flagship Motoring Show Set To Take Indefinite Hiatus




To even its most diehard fanbase, there was always a lingering sense of inevitability about its demise. The writing had been on the wall for some time.


Especially once its core reanimators (along with producer, Andy Wilman, let’s not forget) Clarkson, May and Hammond departed for grander tours.


Yet this week came confirmation of speculation which had been rife for months.


With official - and cautiously-worded - statements emerging from the BBC press office stressing that its flagship motoring show, Top Gear will be ‘rested for the foreseeable future’ following an in-depth health and safety review.


Which as we all know came in the wake of current presenter, Freddie Flintoff suffering awful injuries whilst filming for the last series of the long-running motoring magazine programme.


Other reasons cited by various sources (but not substantiated) suggest that insurance costs had been spiralling for a long time, and were no longer sustainable. Steadily increasing over every series, and possibly stretching as far back as to Richard Hammond’s brush with mortality in 2006. When if you recall the dragster he was driving on set crashed, causing him serious and life-altering injuries.




(controversy followed then to Patagonia)




However, to its legions of detractors, this latest news hasn’t arrived soon enough.


From the woke warriors to the eco-savvy, they have lined up in their droves to take down one of the BBC’s most lucrative exports since motormouth Clarkson first uttered something ill-conceived and potentially inflammatory about Mexicans.


For Mexicans, also read the denizens of Argentina, India, Wales, America’s deep south, Romania, Albania, etc.


But we’re keen to know what YOU think about this recently broken news that might, ultimately, signal the end of the road for the UK’s longest running motoring magazine programme.




(getting the band back together)




TG BC (Before Clarkson)


Previous to its second coming as a light entertainment juggernaut with Clarkson, May and Hammond at the steering wheel back in 2002, you might recall Top Gear was an unassuming - yet informative - car show once fronted by the household name likes of Noel Edmonds, Angela Rippon and 'basically in Nottingham's', William Woollard.


Which your dad would have avidly tuned into.


Yet once Clarkson had successfully pitched his brazen - but ingenious - programming ideas to the powers that were in the early noughties, TG rebooted chased both stupendous ratings figures and controversy at most turns.


Culminating in a serious accident befalling one of the last gasp presentation line-up, which effectively ushered in this largely anticipated hiatus two decades on.




(Clarkson in full mansplaining pose)




The Post-Clarkson Era


But truth be told, the writing was on the wall for TG long before Freddie Flintoff’s accident at Dunsfold which saw him sustain appalling injuries.


Arguably Top Gear never recovered from parting company with the aforementioned triumvirate of Clarkson, May and Hammond; despite the Beeb’s continual - and thankless - efforts to ‘replace’ them.




The problem is, the chemistry between the three anchormen could never be recreated. Irrespective of how many times the presenter deck was shuffled.


In order for TG to ever work again, the format wheel had to be reinvented, and a new team built around it. Rather than attempting to shoehorn new presenters into an existing blueprint which had Clarkson, May and Hammond’s names writ large in neon lights all over it.


After all, how can Clarkson alone - love him or loathe him - ever be understated.


More about this later though.




(the unusual suspects)




Behold The Top Gear Presenter Randomizer


In the direct aftermath of Clarkson, May and Hammond collecting their P45's, the presenter randomizer threw up Chris Evans, Eddie Jordan and Joey outta of 90’s US sitcom, ‘Friends’.


We say ‘threw up’ as if it were the result of some sort of presenter lotto. It might as well have been.


In the event, someone, somewhere at the BBC thought they’d gel.


Truth be told, they represented possibly the most ill-at-ease trio you could ever imagine being thrust together and told to create magic.


Their short-lived tenure was followed by the last incumbents; Messrs Flintoff, McGuiness and Harris. A brave new, new dawn. Same cinematographers to hand, same slick production values in tact.


What could go wrong.




Although the latter, a respected motoring journalist with an impressive body of work to his name, Chris Harris, promised much from the outset, instead he was left floundering by handed the predictable Hammond-esque role of stooge.


To the supposed comic genius of the Flintoff and Paddy McGuiness double act.


The only reason most scenes didn’t feel as awkward as they should was due to the underlying fact that Evans, Jordan and LeBlanc had claimed that mantle as their own shortly before.


And that accolade remained in safe hands.





(lads and their Escorts)




Appeasing The #Lads


We’re not quite sure why Flintoff and McGuiness were drafted in.


Perversely to perpetuate the mass appeal of Top Gear, we suspect. After all, the viewing demographic was a famously broad church.


Only their 90’s #ladishness hangover was at times teetering on the precipice of embarrassing.


You see, contrary to popular belief, Clarkson, May and Hammond transcended what is colloquially referred to as ‘lad culture’.


Despite Clarkson in particular being perceived as boorish, brash and confrontational, off camera he had a lot more in common with Descartes than Dapper Laughs. May was deeper again, and Hammond was by no means as light as he was commercially portrayed.


Lads, they were not. And we're not referring to their advancing years, for the record.


None of which, with respect, could be said about those who took up the baton. Affable and harmless they might have been, but the camaraderie felt forced and unnatural for the most part.


And the laddish streak continues to runs deep.


So much so that McGuinness’ response to TG being axed went along the lines of; “We were always going to be bellends, but we were your bellends.”


Ho and indeed, hum. And therein resting our case.





(silencing their critics)




So, What To Any Future?


Expanding on what we touched on above, Top Gear essentially needs a reimagining on the same scale as it underwent over twenty years ago if it’s to be saved.


Times, along with collective consciences and concerns have changed significantly in the interim decades, and the new-look Top Gear needs to carefully reflect this.


James May himself reflected on the need for this when interviewed in the week, stating; “Since we left, Top Gear has followed a similar format and framework to the way we left it.”


The old adage about avoiding fixing something which isn’t broke not the case here and now.





May went on to add; “There must be another way of doing a show about cars that will perhaps embrace more fulsomely many of the questions that are being asked about cars that weren’t being asked for a long time.”


What that man said.


Rather than settling for trying to replicate the ‘big boys adventures’ that Clarkson, May and Hammond still manage to somehow pull off on their now occasional Amazon Prime show, any revitalised TG should start with a clean sheet.






What Does TG Need To Do?


It needs to focus more on a spectrum of human interests derived from the existence of the car. Such as alternate fuels, niche automotive groups, individual car cultures, motoring nostalgia and motorsport.


Irreverence still has a pivotal place in any Top Gear version 2.3, providing that it’s supported by facts rather than fiction. Your average petrolhead isn’t a paint-by-numbers viewer who sees TG as moving wallpaper.


They want to be engaged.


Specials and challenges should still get a look in, in our opinion. As let’s face it, few people are bothered by what goes on beneath the bonnet. Be it in conjunction with an internal combustion engine or an ion battery pack.


Alas, so a return to the Chris Goffey and Quentin Wilson years aren’t recommended.




(Hanson: Where are they now?)




But What About That Hot Potato That Is The Presenters Question?....


In terms of presentation, there are a raft of potential candidates who have cut their teeth on a variety of new and old media platforms, to our minds.


Youth needs to be blended with an experienced hand.




But they mustn’t consider TG as a vehicle for their personal talents. Conversely, any future presentation team needs to become an integral part of the new look machine. And be able to build a rapport with the viewer as well as their fellow presenter from day one.


As opposed to hiring presenters who are already established stars in other broadcasting fields away from the sphere of motoring, the BBC should adopt a more blinkered approach if anything.


Chucking names into the hat, Jonny Smith (The Late Brake Show’ and Fifth Gear alumni), Ant Antstead, Tim Burton (aka, Shmee 150), Joel Wignall (YouTuber, ‘It’s Joel’), Fuzz Townsend (Car SOS), Ian Seabrook (aka, YouTuber, ‘Hubnut’), Alexandra Mary Hirschi (aka, Supercar Blondie), Miles Reynolds-Cole, YouTuber, Sarah-N-Tuned, TG alumni and Fifth Gear stalwart, Vicky Butler-Henderson or even go all out for Porsche disruptor-in-chief, Magnus Walker.


Seriously.


There’s a wealth of expansive possibilities out there the Beeb should mull over.


And women should be integral to the selection process.


The late Sabine Schmitz brought a welcome breath of fresh air to proceedings, and reminding ourselves of the passion for all things automotive that true car fans possess in an abundance.




(The Stig in reflective mood)




In Summary


The BBC can’t really afford to take their foot off the peddle for too long. Not least because it is the only broadcast motoring offering of note on terrestrial TV.


That said, there’s a plethora of content-rivalling programmes which sustain us petrolheads of all persuasions out there via alternative media outlets.


With YouTube being the new home of some exceptional independent programme-making; some of the rising stars of which we’ve alluded to in the previous paragraph.


Who knows what - or indeed, who - will arise from the ashes of Top Gear ‘as was’. The only thing we want is a successful - and long overdue - return to form.


But a new kind of future-proofed form. Where the car is the star, in whatever guise and light it’s presented.



Incidentally, the Stig was unavailable for comment.


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