Because I make Fully Charged, a tiny micro series about electric cars and the future of transport and energy, I suppose I should give a moments attention to the recently re-launched Top Gear.
I don’t really want to because there’s only been one episode and just about every mildly annoyed middle class white male and their dog has already passed judgement.
I try to stand as far as I can from that grouping even though I’m a mildly happy old middle class white man with 2 bloody dogs, although one is my wife’s and I’m the numptie who has to take him for walks.
Only one episode has been broadcast as I write this and who knows how it will develop, I wish the team, especially Rory Reid who is a delight, all the best with it.
Of course I'm more than happy to say what I felt was wrong with the old Top Gear.
The opening credits, the music, the format, the ridiculous adulation of absurd, old fashioned cars, the endless use of old runways, the tiresome use of drone footage, low angle shots, smoke and flickering light-jump-cut-zooms on wheels and exhaust pipes.
Middle aged men standing in front of a crowd that has been carefully managed to ensure at least one or two youngish women are seen peering over the shoulders of the presenters.
Tired and tedious, and that was the old Top Gear.
The new Top Gear, um, is exactly the same, which is a great shame.
Now, I have little interest in Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc, the 'chemistry' seems a little awkward but early old Top Gear chemistry was non existent. That stuff takes time.
Whatever happens to Top Gear it’s not their fault poor fellows. Nor any of the other presenters, they don’t make decisions about format, music, title sequences, studio layout etc etc. The producers do, they, for some rather depressing reason, decided not to use the opportunity to come up with something actually new.
I fully accept that Top Gear is an entertaining show, it’s not meant to be a dull factual show about cars, that’s the really old Top Gear (1970’s -2000) and that was truly dire.
The new (2001-onward) format proved itself to be a massive winner, three grumpy, dysfunctional right wing white men droning on about which car was faster, louder or made you ‘look good.’ All that was fine and dandy, I always watched, I laughed, cringed and was entertained. I learned nothing, less than nothing, it turned my brain to pulp but I was entertained.
The newly launched Top Gear re-creates that with integrity, precision and a massive lack of imagination or risk taking.
We are facing unprecedented changes in the very arena Top Gear is about. Personal transport and the energy used to power it, none of this is remotely referred to in either a dull boring way or an entertaining jolly way.
Huge changes in not only technology but company policy, corporate decisions, deceptions and U turns, governmental energy and pollution policy which makes almost every car driven on Top Gear utterly irrelevant.
There’s no question that what originally spurred me to start making Fully Charged was precisely this, the fact that what is really happening in the world of cars is joyfully ignored by this hyper popular show.
Yes, Top Gear has made the BBC a fortune, and under the current UK administration, the BBC needs every penny it can get as it’s under relentless assault from Murdoch and his government, sorry, the government.
The Murdoch press will naturally use the re-launch as an excuse for another assault, and to make matters worse the soon to be released old fellows from old Top Gear on Amazon show is doubtless going to be amazing.
I know several people working on the show and they are all raving about it. They have a virtually limitless budget and no reason to hold back on the misogyny, racism and homophobia, they’re going to have a field day, Murdoch and his lackey’s are going to fall prone, worshipping the man god Clarkson.
Of course the new Amazon version will contain the same ridiculous old fashioned cars, jokes, settings and editorial decisions, which is fine, it’s what they should do.
The new Top Gear, so far, I’d be happy to be wrong, has missed an absolutely golden opportunity to do something genuinely different and that leaves me feeling very sad.