I’ve been getting a lot of tweets since Matt LeBlanc announcing he is leaving Top Gear.
Just as I did when the light entertainment show went through its previous spasm when Chris Evans left, and just as I did before that when the entire cast left after some unfortunate behaviour by the big fellow.
My response has always been the same and it goes as follows:
I have never been approached by the BBC to take part. That is kind of relevant. Okay, other than one evening 12 years ago when a panicked producer called my agent late one night to see if I would be a ‘star in the reasonably priced car’ the following day. Not a month ahead, or the following week, the following day when I was already busy filming Scrapheap Challenge.
That gives a clear indication of how low down the list I was, but I was on the list! Boom.
Secondly, I have been publicly critical of the old fellows that used to do it. Mainly in connection to their 1950’s era attitude to electric vehicles. Thirdly, and to me most importantly, there is no way I would have the editorial freedom to follow the stories we do on Fully Charged. The BBC is very tightly constrained by their very laudable editorial ethics and an inherent obsession to be ‘balanced.’ I am not very balanced.
The entire reason I struggle on making Fully Charged is not because I secretly want to be on Top Gear, it’s exactly the opposite. It’s because I actively don’t want to. Some people comment that if I was on the show, I would get to ‘a wider audience.’ That gives the impression that more people watch Top Gear than watch Fully Charged. While this has been very true up until recently, the pendulum is clearly swinging in our favour. The nature of the traditional TV trade is governed by very tight regulations and agreements, created to maximise income from the production. That’s not a criticism, that’s just the way it is. But it means that people around the world can often not see the shows we make in the UK. In many ways Top Gear is, or certainly was an exception, but I think its star is fading. 55% of the Fully Charged audience is outside the UK, primarily the USA, Australia, Canada and Germany. We even have 4 subscribers in Chad!
Top Gear, as I have said many times, is a great light entertainment show aimed very firmly at a niche audience of mainly men who like traditional cars and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I hope it continues for a long time. Fully Charged is also followed by a very passionate and dedicated niche audience, but it is an audience that is growing very rapidly. There are no longer any valid arguments within most industry and governments that oppose the transition to clean tech, however, there is still widespread ignorance and distrust among the wider public. I’m regularly exposed to this but from long time observation, I would claim it is diminishing.
Oddly it is the wider media that is still skeptical, that’s a good thing as long as the skepticism is based on something resembling science and fact. Not always the case. So no, I won’t be applying for a job on Top Gear, I’m up to my eyeballs running Fully Charged, and recently way over my head helping to organise the upcoming Fully Charged Live event at Silverstone next weekend, 9th and 10th June. (Don’t worry, very professional people, Dan Caesar, and team, have organised it so it will be good. If I’d tried to do it on my own it would be a pigs breakfast). The response to this show is proof enough for us that we are covering a very exciting and challenging field of technology and development. It’s going to be huge!