Rebooted “Top Gear” — Getting better?

OK, so now they’re three weeks into “Top Gear: TNG.” How’s it doing?

“Still gaining acceptance?”

Don’t know about that. Wouldn’t be prudent to make a judgment. Yet.

Maybe everybody made up their minds about post-May/Hammond/Clarkson TG with the premiere episode. But as I said back when this monstrosity re-launched for Series 23, they’re entitled to a bit of a shakedown cruise. As the last incarnation took THREE SERIES to get it right, this could be a bumpy ride.

But there are flashes in every episode that show chemistry, comedy and promise. Antique SUV challenge in episode 1, the crunching/bickering South African safari meant to show off the New Jag SUV in episode two, and Matt LeBlanc’s tour de Hoon of London in Ep 3 — those worked.


Pairing up celebrities for the “car in a reasonably priced car” is an improvement over the last incarnation of TG. Kevin Hart, Jesse Eisenberg, paired up with British film and sports stars — better banter, funnier, a bit of interaction between the guests. It’s a Graham Norton touch.

Chris Harris and Rory Reid are better car reviewers, for those who want CAR reviews in the show that started out as a car culture/car review program. Sorry, programme.

Plainly moving Sabine Schmitz into the studio as a third host(ess) is in the show’s future as she’s funny, natural on camera and German — ready-made for Teutonic mockery. And the best driver in the lot.

The last few years of “Top Gear” were “maybe see” TV for me, as they’d run out of ideas and only the “Grand Tour” specials (the name of the new Amazon series starring Clarkson et al) stick with me from that era.

If they’d launched the series with episode 3, they might have dodged some of the abuse they took for their very derivative and chemically-off premiere. LeBlanc is wisely being moved front and center, as Chris Evans starts EVERY test drive with a good bit of shouting. Where do you go from there, Red?

To me, it’s working out. Bit by bit. The banter is awkward, but I’m watching a Series 14 episode, and there were still groaners rolling out from the veteran cast, even then.

My first take, that this is “Matt Gear,” still stands. LeBlanc is the stand up/stand out guy in this mix.

They’re getting the cast broken in, and that Hoonicorn Mustang ride through London was a hoot. A couple more good ideas and they can call their shakedown season a success. But that’s the rub, isn’t it?



About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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