Top Gear finale review: going out on a high
After seven instalments, Top Gear has concluded its difficult second series in its far more difficult third era. But how did the 2017 finale fare, and has it cemented itself as its own beast away from the ghosts of Clarkson, Hammond and May?
Let's take a look at the series 24, episode 7 and how it reflects the series as a whole, and what indications it gives for Top Gear series 25:
Chris Harris and his grumpy persona
We're not sure if this is a real-life character trait or one that was contrived for the series, but it's working. Chris Harris getting bored at having to go slow for tests or getting annoyed at being chucked around at the back of a car-boat hybrid, is one of the most entertaining elements of Top Gear this series.
Chris has been allowed to flourish this year after the departure of Chris Evans, and he has clearly been eyed as the show's lead when it comes to credibility. His reviews are genuinely interesting and he seems in his element when delivering them. Though, the writers could probably do with reining in the jokey lines that only sound original when Clarkson is saying them.
The boys adventuring as a trio
We've said before how we find it odd that more often than not, the 'adventure' segments (aka the best bit of the show) usually only has two of three hosts, and one (usually Rory Reid) misses out.
Thankfully, for the supercaryacht segment, all three starred and it was easily one of the best moments of the series. It was of the few films that felt largely unscripted and it benefitted highly from it, as they all seemed to be ad-libbing and were genuinely funny when doing so.
The show has felt far too forced for much of the time due to the amount of obviously scripted scenes. Even with Matt LeBlanc as one of the hosts, they struggle as actors and it doesn't need to be like this.
Top Gear is at its best when the boys adventure and complete tasks together. It just feels weird (and slightly boring) when one or two of them aren't included.
The calibre of guests
Old Top Gear would often attract some genuinely huge stars (Tom Cruise, Will Smith). For this series, we've had the likes of Ross Noble and Jay Kay. Now, no offence to these guys – but they're no Tom Cruise. The biggest stars we had this year was James McAvoy and David Tennant.
We'll defend Jay Kay's inclusion purely because he seriously knows his cars and thus was able to join in the conversation a whole lot more than most. But other than that, Jamiroquai isn't exactly a big-name band in 2017. If Top Gear is going to keep the celebrity segment, it needs to start getting some more interesting and impressive coups.
The Bernie Ecclestone interview
Now, we're sure there are some viewers who are big F1 fans, and thus an interview with Mr F1 Bernie is quite a big deal. But surely that's only if he gives a crack interview.
Instead, we had a three-minute chat with Eddie Jordan (a Top Gear friend who probably needs to be retired next year), in which he revealed nothing noteworthy and just felt rather flat.
Top Gear felt weird having an interview like that stuck in the middle of it. It made it feel more like The One Show or The Premier League Show. And we'd argue that a huge amount of Top Gear fans aren't necessarily fans of F1.
It would only have worked if it was a seriously juicy interview. If Clarkson was doing that interview, it would have been a hell of a lot different.
Matt's nude adventure
No, Matt himself didn't get naked. But the whole segment in which he picked up a load of nudist hikers was just… odd.
Yes, we know that most of the CH&M era episodes were all scripted and contrived, but they were done in such a way that didn't feel too fake or forced. They were cleverly edited and performed. But this whole film which also included rescuing the boy from the well and following a Lassie-type dog was just silly.
On one hand, it was an original way of showing off how impressive the the bonkers Russian SUV Avtoros Shaman was. And we know they weren't trying to make out like it was all real, but it just felt like an unfunny comedy skit.
Maybe the writers think that with a comic actor on the show they should contrive comedy bits for him, but we think they'll be better off letting him loose a bit more. And if he can't do unscripted (which we don't think is the case), then maybe they should think of hiring someone who can.
Top Gear has vastly improved from last year. The show is far more enjoyable and far less cringe-inducing than its 2016 run.
However, there are still a few elements that need to be ironed out to make it feel less forced. Rory Reid needs far more screen time, and they need to invest in more films that includes all three of the main hosts.
Plus – fewer obviously-scripted segments, more ad-libbed journeys, more interesting celebrities (or no celebrity segment at all) and you've got yourself a brilliant car show. It's so very nearly there, and we'll definitely be up for more in 2018.
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