March 19, 2015

Horse 1861 - Top Gear Mark III

I think that it's probably fair to say that Top Gear on the BBC has probably come to the end of its run, in the most inglorious but not unexpected circumstances. This incarnation of the show has been on telly since 2002, which isn't a bad run it must be said. Always courting the realm of bad taste and controversy, the show which purported to be a motoring was in fact the very embodiment of the trope "three chaps faffing about". It had the mechanics of a comedy trio, with a thick leader, an equally thick sidekick and the one sane man.
The reason why the show was able to carry on for so long was entirely due to the fact that Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May had all had extensive careers in journalism before they were presenters on Top Gear. Clarkson and May had also previously appeared on the original run of Top Gear in its 1977-1998 run, before the reboot. In an age where usually image is everything and you need good looking people, it proves that provided the writing is good enough, image is a lie.

With Mark II on the nose and still rating the pants off everything in its timeslot except for The Great British Bake Off on BBC1 and being the corporation's single biggest export earner, it makes sense to reboot the show again and produce Mark III.
If we were to suppose that the BBC was going to embark on Top Gear Mark III, they'd first need to find at least three new presenters. As localised versions of the show in Australia and America prove, simply casting three people as direct copies of the roles, simply isn't going to work. To that end, if you were to select three new hosts for the show, they'd have to bring something new to the gig.
I don't think that recasting the roles is going to work but I do think that the same generic formula of finding people with strong writing credentials is. There's no other rational explanation for why a car show should do so well. To that end, I'd like to nominate three presenters for Top Gear Mark III.

Marcus Brigstocke
As the host of I've Never Seen Star Wars, The Brig Society, a sometimes panelist on QI, Just A Minute, occasionally on The Now Show, Marcus has proven that he can drive a show from the hosting chair if required.
As a regular antagonist on Argumental, he also proved that his wit is sharp enough to bounce off the other co-hosts as well.

Andrew Flintoff
This is going to sound extremely strange to select a former England cricketer as the host of a motoring show but hear me out. Mr Flintoff has already appeared in Freddie Flintoff Goes Wild  where he looked for elephants in Borneo, watched the wildebeest migration in Tanzania with the Maasai, spent some time with Aboriginal people in Arnhem Land, and went hunting for deer with First Nations people in Canada.
As the winner of the Australian series of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, he was also asked to participate in strange challenges - this is rather useful for the host of a television show as it means that he's game for pretty well much anything. Also, given that he was a professional sports player at the highest level, I'm reasonably sure that with a bit of driver training, he'd put as much passion into fanging a car around at high speed as he did in unleashing fury at batsmen from 22 yards away.

On any motoring show, you need your headline stars and then you need your one token nerdy person who actually knows something about cars. Admittedly, I've had no experience in either television or radio but as Andrew Bolt frequently proves, not having any experience at the thing which you are doing, is not necessarily a hindrance to performance (he's a professional journalist who doesn't have any qualifications in journalism).
What I do bring is the ability to write streams of gibberish, invective and wonder, plus a life long interest in motor cars. If you read through the archive for this blog, I think that that bears this out as well.

I've thought for some time now that Top Gear needed a reboot anyway. Part of the problem with the show is that it like so many publications, is overly concerned with thrashing supercars. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with supercars but for 98% of the population, we're never ever going to get the chance to drive them; so those reviews are pointless. If a car is capable of producing 690 brake horsepower and sing along like an eight cylinder symphony, how does that make a lick of difference to John Plebian or Janet Citizen? You may as well be describing the experience of going to the moon; which is something that they'll also never do. I think that part of the duty of a motoring show is to show off small hatchbacks, sedan and wagons, utes and SUVs because that's what Janet and John are going to spend their hard won dollarpounds on. For most people, buying a motor car means buying something which will hang about for maybe ten years and if you are going to be punting about it in every day, then you want an informational show to help you.

As for the three chaps who have ruled the roost for more than a decade: Clarkson will probably be picked up by ITV and still continue is column in The Sunday Times, May will continue to write his columns and Hammond could just as easily get a job on Radio 2 or Radio 4. I don't see any of them remaining unemployed for terribly long.

Actually the third presenter should probably be British Touring Car driver, Matt Neal; I was blowing my own trumpet for a bit - someone has to.

No scratch that - it should be me. There needs to be more token whiny nerdy people on television. We're the ones who are genuinely passionate about things and produce better writing.

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