It’s hard to imagine a show like Top Gear and The Grand Tour without Jeremy Clarkson at the helm. When Jeremy was let go from Top Gear in 2015, it felt a bit like what I assume it was like when Sean Connery left the role of James Bond and George Lazenby replaced him. Some roles are simply stuck with one person, even after that person is gone.
The series immediately following Jeremy, James, and Richard’s departure was helmed by Chris Evans. He was very shrill and shouty, and most viewers were immediately turned off by his presence. It seems the BBC heard the complaints loud and clear, as Evans would not show up again after series 23.
However, after the departure of Evans and a few more episodes of growing pains, Top Gear seems to have found its groove with the trio of Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris, and Rory Reid. Not only is this trio watchable, but the show is actually quite good.
LeBlanc, Harris, and Reid are working much better as a unit, and have developed an excellent on-screen chemistry. Whereas the later seasons of Clarkson-era Top Gear were known more for its controversies and over-reliance on scripted nonsense, LeBlanc-era Top Gear plays it safe with no offending material, fresh faces, and a renewed focus on the car itself.
What of The Grand Tour? It’s still brilliant; I love watching it and will never miss an episode. But it’s more of the same thing that happened in Clarkson-era Top Gear. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing (truthfully, it’s why I tune in every week), The Grand Tour is playing it safe with a tried and true formula.
Three years ago, I don’t think I could have found one person that would think that Top Gear would survive without Jeremy at the helm. Now with series 25 debuting, not only has Top Gear survived the departure of its original three hosts, it has also survived a season with Chris Evans and become an excellent show in its own right.
For car fans, it’s the perfect situation: two great car shows to get you through the year.
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