The new Top Gear team has reportedly seen an opportunity to capitalise on The Grand Tour’s focus on contrived humour, and will reportedly indulge in a level of vehicular geekery not seen since the days of Quentin Wilson and Tiff Needell on old-old Top Gear.
“The car is absolutely central to our approach,” says Chris Harris – who will present the show alongside Rory Reid and returning frontman Matt LeBlanc. “Everything we do begins with the automobile, whether it’s old, new, bizarre, weird, strange, or cool.”
Harris also took a shot at the scripted humour in The Grand Tour which proved to be extremely unpopular with critics. “We’re not going out to make a comedy show, and that’s great, certainly from my point of view because obviously I’m totally obsessed with cars and I don’t really like people,” he said.
Harris also maintains that the newly revamped show is also going out of its way to avoid the controversy which made the Clarkson, Hammond and May version of the show so popular. “We don’t want to damage cars,” says Harris. “People work hard and save money to buy these things.”
When asked what the most offensive moment of the new series might be, the team eventually agree it’s probably the accidental smashing of an Alfa Romeo windscreen – hardly a front page tabloid scandal.
But will that mean Top Gear Series 24 will be full of car geekery and lacking in humour? Well Matt LeBlanc certainly doesn’t think so. “In my experience, in this business, if you’re having fun making it, generally it’s fun to watch,” LeBlanc says. “It’s fun to find the balance between the car porn and the funny element. The jokes are as important as the cars.”
As the new Top Gear team continue to refine their on-screen relationships and find their groove, there’s no doubt that the show will continue to face criticism from existing fans who are still holding on to the “Bring Back Clarkson” mentality.
“Some of the things that are said are unkind, but we come from a YouTube background so if you think TV critics have got teeth, they’ve got nothing on a 14-year old with a keyboard in Alabama at four in the morning,” Harris says. “You just have to be grown-up about it, don’t you?”
But it’s that sentimental attachment and passion for cars which the new team are hoping to tap into, with the hope that the once most popular car show in the world will continue for many years to come.