July 22, 2015

Horse 1943 - Why I Should Be A Host On Top Gear Mk3

Yesterday, apart from being the 46th anniversary of Neil Astronaut kicking the moon and declaring that it was a small step for him (but one heck of a doozie for mankind), was the last day to send in your application videos to the BBC to become the hosts of Top Gear Mk3. The first host, Chris Evans of Radio 2, The One Show on BBC One and Channel 4's The Big Breakfast fame, has already been announced, and the BBC have taken applications worldwide for the other two people who will have what is arguably the best job... In the world. I like so many other have thrown my hat in the ring in the remote chance that someone at Aunty will see my mug and think that I'm wonderful.
I will say this though, I suspect that initially Top Gear Mk3 is doomed to fail.

Oh howl howl howl. Calamity! Cry 'havoc' and let slip the dogs of war... I don't hear you say. I'm just displaying the opposite of schadenfreude - sour grapes - I also don't hear you say. The reason that I don't hear you say any of this is that the medium of a blog post is a silent method of communication and it's one way*. How can I possibly make such a claim? Surely that's dramatic over reach and use of hyperbole? Well, yes it is and 'good work' to you if you noticed that but did you ever stop to think why Top Gear Mk2 worked so well?

Right at the beginning of Top Gear Mk2, there was actually a different lineup. Looking back over what became the biggest export earner for the BBC, that's almost difficult to remember but in that first season, Jason Dawe was there to give practical advice about motoring and talk about issues concerning used cars and the like. Top Gear Mk2 started out very much in the same sort of vein as Top Gear Mk1; which itself was more informational in format. In fact, both James May and Jeremy Clarkson had both appeared on Top Gear Mk1. So what changed and why did Top Gear Mk2 become this multimillion dollarpound behemoth, wiping out all and sundry from your telescreens except for Bake Off, Big Brother, Mastershout, Sherlock and that documentary series about the time travelling physician and his blue Police Box? Writing. That's what.

It must be said that before Top Gear Mk2, Clarkson, Hammond and May were already published journalists with columns in national newspapers. Top Gear Mk2 worked so well because they all took their journalistic sensibilities and then wrote what basically amounts to short columns for television. It's pretty obvious that the best television, radio, theatre, movies, novels, whatever, that continues to endure, does so on the strength of the writing. When you have three journalists writing your pieces for you, then the rest should fall into line fairly easily... and it did.
The other reason that Top Gear Mk 2 worked so well is that wallpapered over the top of good writing, was a classic power trio comedy format. Once Dawe left and was replaced by May, it then meant that Clarkson, Hammond and May fell into the three classic comedy roles of the Brash Leader, Energetic Sidekick and The Only Sane Man. These roles were pretty much interchangeable where required but most of the time they were fairly fixed.

Now I'm not saying that Chris Evans is going to be a bad host (because he's proven himself over many years to be quite competent and entertaining) but I just don't know how in scouring the world for two more prospective partners, that the BBC can possibly hope to make three hosts click together that easily. As the Australian version of Top Gear proved, you can't even cast a like for like set and hope to make it work with that same sort of resonance.
I think that if you did want to make the new show work right out of the blocks, then you do need to critically look at why Top Gear Mk2 worked so well and instead of replacing like for like, start from the strength of three established writers. To that end, looking through the staff who already contribute to the writing of the Top Gear magazine might be a good place to start, or else looking through the tabloid newspapers to find the next set of writers and hosts, is probably the best way to go. Most of the time, good writers will produce better shows than forceful and dominant personalities.

Hence the reason why 740 words after I began writing this, I'd like to state why I'd be the most stellar choice for one of the prospective hosts of Top Gear Mk3... in the world.
Granted, I don't have the most forceful or sparkling personality (I'm quite a bit reserved) but I have an ego slightly larger than Belgium and what I hope is a proven ability to write many dozens of words. If Top Gear Mk3 is going to live and die on the strength of its writing, then I'd like to think that I'd be sufficiently good enough to knock that one out of the field; over the boundary and into the Vic Richardson Gates for six. Writing about cars is something that I already do reasonably often and motor cars have been something of an interest of mine since I was a wee lad.
It's not that I think that scouring the world for application videos isn't an interesting exercise, it's just that I don't know if you really can convey your writing abilities in 30 seconds. You might be able to find someone who at first impression presents well but can they bring their journalistic sensibilities to the table? Unless Aunty gets that right, then Top Gear Mk3 will cough, expire and die.

*Unless you leave a comment below

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