Remember when ‘Top Gear’ was a genuine programme about cars, geared towards people who were keen on err.. cars? Remember when the presenters were actually interested, not to mention qualified in various aspects of motoring? There was Quentin Wilson a former used car dealer, former Formula One driver Tiff Needell, the ex-rallying Tony Mason, Steve Berry a motorbike specialist, and later Vicki Butler-Henderson, another racing car driver. Jeremy Clarkson, a journalist who once worked for a car magazine, was added to the programme in 1988. Back then he wasn’t the star of the show, the stars of the show were the cars themselves.
The programme started in the seventies, but I remember it becoming popular in the eighties. Tuning in to BBC Two and hearing ‘Jessica’ by the Allman Brothers Band during the opening and Elton John’s ‘Out Of The Blue’ during the closing credits, I became fond of the show that back then was both informative and entertaining. The segmented way ‘Top Gear’ was laid out meant that whatever your area of interest, it was catered for. If you wanted to know what deals to look out for in the used car market, who won the latest rally championship, or which new car had the highest safety rating, then you were in luck. And yet even with this seemingly safe and middle-of-the-road format, in the eighties ‘Top Gear’ was criticised for being too macho. I guess the critics and viewers didn’t know what would become of the programme over the next two decades.
‘Top Gear’ finally became a worn-out format by the late nineties and the show was then cancelled and relaunched in 2002 with a new look. We were then introduced to the new line-up of Jeremy Clarkson, James May, Richard Hammond, and a mystery test driver known as ‘The Stig’. It was at this point that the emphasis was placed on “show” with the reviewing of cars taking a back-seat to pointless, over-the-top challenges. Strangely however, it was this set-up that became popular, and for over a decade this version of ‘Top Gear’ became an internationally known TV staple, despite it being the most asinine shite to ever have been transmitted.
Then, at the height of the show’s popularity, Clarkson was sacked after he assaulted the programme’s producer. At this point the format was essentially split in two, with the BBC retaining the programme’s name and changing the presenters to Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc, and Amazon signing up the “original” three presenters and giving them a different titled series known as ‘The Grand Tour’ to be broadcast on their streaming service. On a side note, where outside of the corrupt entertainment industry could you beat up a colleague and then find a higher paying job in the same sector? It makes you wonder if all this was pre-planned so some overpaid presenters could make even more moolah.
It was obvious to everyone that the BBC version of ‘Top Gear’ would fail miserably. I mean did they even think this shit through? Who wants to watch Joey from ‘Friends’ driving a car alongside the prick from ‘TFI Friday’? So with BBC’s ruination of ‘Top Gear’, we’re now left with Amazon’s offering, a big-budget programme complete with drone shots, epic vistas, far-flung locations, and let’s not forget the endless speed-ramping that seems to be ripped from a noughties Hollywood film. But apart from the budget increase it’s basically a rebranded version of the BBC show.
It seems that nobody cares about uniqueness and individuality any more, if a programme is popular it is kept stagnant for decades until it eventually deteriorates. During its run and even during its decline we have copycats creating their own versions in an attempt to cash in and sway audiences. So despite the current ‘Top Gear’ format being well over a decade and a half old, producers and broadcasters, even on a rival company won’t change it for fear of losing some imaginary audience. It seems that both the BBC and Amazon will keep persisting in a dying format until it’s well and truly dead.
Shows should move with the times, but this ‘Top Gear’ circa 2002 style hasn’t moved one iota, aside from ‘The Grand Tour’ being shown on Amazon Video, this is now an obviously stale and clichéd 15 year old format. And speaking of old, Jeremy Clarkson still seems to revel in his mildly-controversial spiel that also seems to have made its way onto Amazon. In the first episode of ‘The Grand Tour’ he says when referring to the presenters; “We’re like gypsies, but the cars we’re going to be driving will be insured” …how utterly amusing, Jeremy. I’ve heard his fans defend his prejudice in the past, they say crap like; “I like that he’s non-PC”, “he doesn’t care what people think”, and “he’s saying what’s on people’s minds”. Clarkson reminds me of another old-arsed white dude who’s risen to the top of the pile despite being a prejudice prat. I guess we’re in a time where the old guard is becoming the new guard once again. But I digress.
With ‘The Grand Tour’ costing a reported £4.5 million per episode (with Netflix claiming Amazon spent $250 million on the entire series) you have to agree that this show is an absolute waste of money. A motoring programme that’s not only outdated, it’s now a wannabe Hollywood blockbuster too – is this not the most idiotic shite you’ve ever heard of?
So why is Amazon wasting this amount of cash when they haven’t really updated the format? I mean there’s still the same three knob-heads; Jeremy Clarkson (the private-schooled one with a Brillo pad glued to his noggin), James May (the upper-middle-class, flowery shirt fetishist who’s as bland as Bovril), and finally Richard Hammond (the short, perpetually grinning moron whose presenting style and height is more suited to a kids TV show). Hammond’s over-enthusiasm is incredibly annoying to watch, and with at least two of the trio sporting preppie mullets that make Noel Edmonds or Bill Maher look stylish, they really are the epitome of out-of-touch. These three tits have absolutely no charisma between them, and with their Marks And Spencer shirts tucked into their pre-worn dad-jeans whilst their beer-belly hangs over their belt buckle, the three of them giggling at each other’s non-repartee is a sad sight indeed. As the two sidekicks look in awe at the tallest, curly-haired cunt in the centre, we the audience are left wondering what’s so entertaining about a few bell-ends on an all bells-and-whistles show.
Pissing about “touring” the world, erecting a studio, filling it with local fawners – the titles and broadcaster may have changed but absolutely nothing has been updated, even in the slightest. It’s still those aforementioned three twats from the BBC; those dreary, middle-aged morons who seem to be having a prolonged mid-life crisis, driving expensive supercars in locations they probably can’t even point to on a map. And because of their ever-increasing age, and the ever-increasing price tag of the cars they choose to drive, they now “look like a slug on a diamond” as Armando Iannucci once said. The sheer power and grunt of the cars that surround them now make their wrinkly old arses look even wrinklier, surely they’d be better off telling us which car has the most comfortable seats to accommodate their sciatica and hernias? (Other ailments are available).
The only change I can see is that instead of The Stig there’s now a tub of lard known as “The American” who spurts contrived mild-prejudice for foreign cars as his corn-filled gut smacks up against various international steering wheels. But apart from the budget hike and the irritating Yank, what’s changed? Like I said before, it’s the same format, the same tone, the same old audience pandering to the same old prats – it’s the same shite but on a different channel. Watch more than one episode and it’ll leave you simultaneously bored and annoyed, there may be the odd piece of information, but the mildly interesting titbits are once again smothered by exaggerated spectacle.
Let’s not forget that ‘The Grand Tour’ is supposed to be a motoring programme. They’re supposed to tell the public what vehicle is economical to run, has good or bad handling, the right amount of boot space, and on occasion which ones are out of our reach. But this programme has none of that, it’s all about aspirational, non-achievable window shopping. It’s plainly geared toward motoring-masturbators who like to jizz their dusty cum over chromed hood ornaments and pearlescent paintwork, knowing full well they’ll never drive across the Black Rock Desert in a bullet-proof Bugatti. So what really is the point of all this shite?
By the looks of things, I’m in the minority when it comes to motoring shows. If I chose to watch a programme about vehicles, I want to see something that compliments the subject matter. Testing off-road cars off road I get, racing supercars on a track I get, but blowing caravans up? Most of the so-called “spectacles” seem to be there just to distract from the tediousness of the three pricks presenting, but all the slow-mo and corny music in the world can’t change the fact that ‘Top Gear’ and now ‘The Grand Tour’ is essentially men driving some cars. Whoop-dee-fucking-doo.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see endless explosions and stunts. In fact the more I see, the more desensitised I get to big-budget show-pieces, to the point where if Clarkson then suddenly chose to review a Kia Picanto in an Asda carpark, I’d actually be interested (there’s an idea for a show – Sky and Channel 5 take note).
Seeing this titting triumvirate and their decrepit mugs on the top of Amazon Video every time I launch the app, it really makes me consider my subscription to the streaming service. But, whilst I have to put up with these three morons on my Fire TV, I do also have the ability to play The Allman Brothers Band on Amazon Music Unlimited and reminisce over the original show. Then in a nostalgic stupor, I can order some eggs from Amazon Fresh and pelt them at Clarkson, Hammond, and or May if I see them in the street whilst I listen to the original theme to ‘Top Gear’ on my iPod (that I received within 24 hours thanks to Amazon Prime). Subscription renewed.