When you approach a new series of the British TV classic Top Gear you perfectly know what to expect: improbable challenges on any type of vehicle with four or more wheels and a steer, funny interviews with celebrities interested in cars, a unique and sarcastic review of the week’s novelties in the automotive world and a report on an impossibly beautiful and expensive car. If this formula worked so well in the past 20 seasons, why change it now?
And indeed, the producers of Top Gear went for the safe successful recipe. The first three episodes of the new season involve a fight between used hatchbacks from the ‘80s, the catwalk of two recently launched sport cars in the wonderful sceneries of Lake Como and Bruges, and a prophetic trip to now at war Ukraine to test three compact “shopping” cars. To increase the variety of the program and the potential target audience, the car-maniac moments are interspersed with exhilarating interviews with Hugh Bonneville from TV series Downtown Abbey, Tom Hiddleston from Hollywood blockbuster Thor and James Blunt. Even the enigmatic figure of the Stig, the super driver with an un-known identity, is still present in the show, together with that of his younger cousin.
Therefore, if you are a fan of automobiles, the episodes are a perfect mix of descriptions of key technical details on the vehicles tested or challenged, demonstrations of the vehicles’ behaviours on different types of surfaces, updates of what is going on in the industry and opportunities to approach, at least on the screen, cars and vehicles (like military tanks) that are really hard to experience in real life. Even if automobiles are not really your thing, though, it might be worth watching the celebrities interviews, especially the surprisingly hilarious one with Tom Hiddleston, or have a laugh in Mr Bean-style with the most ridiculous challenges invented for the trio of conductors such as the race among a supermarket’s shelves (no need to tell how it ended up for the supermarket) or the fake police chase with any sort of vehicles including a military tank equipped with a firing cannon in an abandoned camp in Wales.
To sum up, the show is clearly still functioning very well in terms of comic times, mixing between technicalities on vehicles and comedy, as well as wonderful landscapes and unexpected sceneries such as military bases and submarines stations. Nonetheless, if you have followed Top Gear for many years, it starts feeling too predictable with the same trio of conductors, interacting in exactly the same way and travelling the UK and the world with improbable means of transportations involved in crazy challenges. It therefore might be the time for the producers to use the consolidated success to try some new ideas and see if something even better than the current very well structured format comes up. Otherwise, as good as a show can be, it seems hard in a fast changing world that 21 more seasons might be able to follow with exactly the same formula of fans, passion and unforgettable moments on the weirdest 4-wheels you can imagine.