It’s been well over four years now since BBC’s Top Gear lost its most prominent trio in the show’s nearly two-decade history. Having seen two “reboots” of the series in recent years, mixing and matching between different presenter combinations, the spark was seemingly lost. Shortly after the 26th season’s finale, it was announced that the show would undergo yet another reboot of sorts, this time introducing Paddy McGuinness, Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff and Chris Harris for the 27th season. With the change in presenter lineup, the BBC hopes to usher in a new era for the show, and by what I’ve seen in the first two episodes, there’s a lot to look forward to.
What made the trio so great through to its peak over ten years was their chemistry, mixed in with their comical adventures, opinionated dispositions and a lot of controversies. But at the heart of it, they were still passionate petrol heads.
Personally, I found that recently one or more of these elements was amiss in the show. However, from the offset, Paddy, Freddie and Chris seem to have hit the mark with each of those described elements, bringing back a lot of the fun in the process. While each is famous and well-known in their own right, it’s not easy to simply get up on screen and gel with a bunch of other people, irrespective of your experience.
It’s easy to see that the trio spent some time getting to know one another before any of the cameras started rolling, which always adds great value with inside jokes, recurring themes and just having fun with one another. The show was deprived of this for almost four years and it’s great to have it back once more.
The new season kicks off with a special in Ethiopia. But right off the bat, you know they aren’t going to be taking things too seriously, with Freddie having compared the recent changes in presenters to Doctor Who and its frequent casting changes by means of character regeneration.
In doing so, the BBC made a decision to directly address the elephant in the room before growing too large, while at the same time noting that things will take some time to settle between the cast. It may have been a little scripted, but it was genuine and very welcome.
Top Gear maintains its formula here, with the team getting out of their comfort zones in a country they know very little about. The journey is made a little more special with each purchasing a vehicle identical to their first bought cars. For McGuinness, this is a Ford Escort. Chris brings his Mini Cooper. The surprise of the day, however, was Freddie’s Porsche Boxster, having only purchased his first car six years into his professional cricket career. While they’re getting to grips with their emotions, the team also starts gaining experience together on the road.
And, for the most part, it works. It could have added some of the local experiences into the mix, as well as discussions or engagements with the local people and what they experience living in Ethiopia on a daily basis, especially having previously mentioned how their view of the country was only what was made visible to them during events like Live Aid and the famine in the region.
Apart from indulging in a few challenges along the way or to fix one or two glitches with their cars, the team hardly got out their cars to do much else. There are a lot of factors to consider that may have caused this result, but it comes across a little narrow-minded from a company as global as the BBC. Perhaps the main reason here was to keep the show limited to what it is at its core; a show about cars.
In the end, Top Gear Season 27 kicks off well enough to make viewers, especially those like me, to come back and enjoy it again. It’s easy to see the presenters only growing from here, having had quite a laugh themselves while also engaging the viewers, something which I didn’t experience in the last four seasons.
It’s great to have Top Gear back the way it’s supposed to be.
Top Gear Season 27
After numerous false starts, BBC's Top Gear has finally managed to find the combination it's been searching for the hit TV series.