Chris Evans and the New Top Gear Team are Finding their Feet

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I’ve just finished watching episode 3 of Top Gear, and I’m pleased to report that the new top gear team are pulling it together. I found the show really fun. It seems to me that the comments and criticism aimed at Chris Evans and the crew seem quite harsh.

Sure the new team are not as up to speed as the old one, but being asked to seamlessly take over a format hand crafted by Jeremy Clarkson over a decade was never going to be a seamless transition. It’s a bit like asking someone new to a business role to be as good as the outgoing person. Its going to take at least six months to come up to speed. But give them time and they will make the roles their own, tailoring them to their own strengths and individual personalities.

Chris Evans is not only a really good presenter, but he has more experience of chat show hosting than all of the previous lot put together. Let’s not forget he practically invented the fun, informal chat show format in TFI Friday, and so is right at home presenting the ‘couch segment’, easily the most natural and fun part of show number 3, plus the star in the rallycross car (which is a fun addition to the format).

As for the rest of the team, Sabine is an amazing driver but she’s no presenter, being German doesn’t help in this regard. I’ve not yet seen Eddie Jordan in action but I expect he’ll come across well on camera, being used to TV appearances in F1.

Matt Leblanc is great on his VT edits, but still a bit wooden in front of a live audience setting, and struggles to find words above the few offered to him by the autocue. But do you know what, he is funny, and his presenting skills will improve, so I’m not concerned about Matt’s future on the show. After all, everybody loves Joey Tribiani.

Chris Evans does come across a bit like he’s doing a Jeremy Clarkson impression, but then again he is doing a Jeremy Clarkson impression, so that’s hardly surprising.

The scripts, the VT’s that are put together by the Top Gear production team, the audience setting, are all identical. Evans is required to deliver these same elements as the lead presenter. Once he finds his way in it all, he’ll be just fine and will sound more like Chris Evans and less like a poor rendition of Jeremy Clarkson.

If you thought you were critical of Chris Evans’ performance on Top Gear, I would imagine you’re not as harsh a critic as he himself will be. I’m sure he’ll make the show his own, with his own new ideas, changing things around gradually to the way He wants them to be, really make the show his own. It’s also worth saying that Matt Leblanc cannot carry TG on his own, he needs a steady pair of hands in Chris Evans to carry the show.

As for the others, I’m delighted that Chris Harris has finally found recognition. I’ve been a big flag waver of Chris since I discovered his YouTube videos, and I knew it was just a matter of time before someone picked him up and gave him the audience numbers his talent deserves.

The modern media has moved away from writing words into presenting videos, a move that Harris embraced fully and in which he has excelled. He is a rare individual; eloquent, gifted at pitching his delivery, with the right balance of geekery and normalcy, and at the same time he is an accomplished racing driver. He’s not just a rich guy with lots of cars, like most of those yanks on drive, he actually knows what he’s talking about.

Arguably Clarkson is less qualified than Harris is when it comes to the ‘car stuff’. Having woken up to the requirement for video output, established auto journalists are spending more time making videos of their own car tests. It’s pretty dull viewing though, watching two cars racing round a closed track. Also, while most car hacks are good drivers, they come across on video with all the charisma of a Ukrainian Cosmonaut

Chris was always going to get his big break, it was just a matter of time. In terms of his live presentation in the studio, there are clearly nerves there, you can hear it in his voice, but let’s not forget this is Top Gear were talking about, the biggest show on the BBC, it’s a big deal so it’s hardly surprising if the new crew have butterflies. Clarkson is a tough act to follow.

Chris’s VT segments are as good as ever, smooth and effortless. It’s odd, but in ep03 he came across as the most accomplished presenter of the lot, despite being a relative unknown to most, because he’s so practiced at what he’s doing. I wonder if Neil Carey came along as part of the deal? I’d be surprised if Chris left him behind.

Rory Reid is a fun guy. I’ve not come across him before, I think he’s been on Sky, but he’s a good anchor too, having a good deal of natural swagger, and he has a fun, friendly, cheeky character. I suspect he and Chris will offset each other well.

The bulk of the show, the video segments, are as polished and fun as they ever were, and this is what makes great viewing; quality output. Not just three middle aged twerps pretending to be stupider than they really are.

Clarkson, Hammond and May (CH&M sounds like a consulting firm), even before they played ‘follow the leader’, behaved in cringe-worthy ways on a weekly basis, we just got used to their errant buffoonery. “Oh, it’s those wallies on Top Gear, they’re so silly!”. We don’t cut Evans that much slack because we’re not used to it. Hopefully it will stay that way.

And those awkward conversations following a video transmission where two hosts discuss what they like about a particular car when standing next to them, are as dull and forced as ever, and even CH&M struggled to make those look effortless. ‘So you like the Focus RS then?’ “Yeah, I really like it”. Yawn!

So, on the balance I give the new TG team full marks for effort. TG is a cracking format, and it is bigger than Clarkson, Hammond and May. Once they find their way, Evans and the team will really shine, they just need about six months.