Top Gear’s return answers one half of the question

Top Gear returned on Sunday, with the first episode presented by the new line-up airing over the bank holiday weekend. I’ve been waiting with anticipation for this moment, along with the debut of the Clarkson/May/Hammond Amazon adventure as well.

Top Gear in its previous guise was brilliant but it was never quite clear if it was the format of the show that made it great (gorgeous HD photography, fun stunts alongside interesting but not so useful car reviews) or the personalities and relationship between the three hosts. Jeremy Clarkson’s angry outburst has given us the exact situation where we can find out.

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Out with the old

With the boys off on their Amazon odyssey, we were left to see what the BBC and their new host Chris Evans could do with the existing format. The answer is: keep it almost exactly the same. I suppose they didn’t want to mess with something that wasn’t broken, but in all honesty, it felt like a missed opportunity for a bit of a revamp.

Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc served as the main hosts for the first episode, and whilst their relationship seemed a little forced at first, I think there could be a good camaraderie in there somewhere. The UK versus USA thing could be something that drags on, but for this first episode it was an entertaining way to start.

It was a shame not to see more of the other hosts, we got to see Sabine making a fighter pilot throw up (which did seem very odd, but hardly faked), and the Stig made an appearance or two as well. On the other hand, I was glad not to see Eddie Jordan, so it’s swings and roundabouts in terms of the larger cast.

The more things change

Other than the faces at the helm, the show was pretty much exactly the same as always. The hosts took a turn at reviewing cars around various gorgeous vistas, they were pitted head to head in a contest, and a couple of celebrities appeared to talk about their embarrassing first cars and their struggles to go round the track. I did like the new dirt section of the lap, but worry how much cleaning has to go on before and afterwards!

Overnight viewing figures were reportedly just less than 5 million, which is the target Chris Evans was aiming for, and this collection of reviews the BBC has gathered sums up much of what I thought of the show. I don’t feel like it is quite as good as before, as in I won’t make an appointment in front of my TV to view it, but equally, I do want to watch the rest and see how the series pans out. Now we just have to wait and see what the Amazon bunch come up with.