OK, we’re only two episodes in, the weather’s been good and people have been out but whatever allowances and excuses you make, the new Top Gear isn’t looking like a success.
I think the BBC has made two serious mistakes – one is to have the dire, shouty Chris Evans and the very good Matt Le Blanc wandering around the Clarkson-era set, the other is to rush the show back onto our screens before Clarkson and co’s Amazon show has debuted.
There are some fundamental weaknesses in the new Top Gear. It’s not just the inane, childlike, shouty and talent-lite Evans, the gags largely don’t work, there’s no chemistry between the presenters and the show lacks any sense of atmosphere.
But of course some of the audience kick-back is a direct reaction to the absence of Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. Viewers who tune in for those three are especially motivated to loudly share their dissatisfaction via social media.
Had the BBC debuted the post-Clarkson Top Gear next year, after his new Amazon show was available, the section of Top Gear fandom which is currently missing its trio of presenters would have much less to grumble about and could come to Top Gear with a more open mind.
Or just stay away.
But by being the closest thing to the series they enjoyed, the Evans-era Top Gear is right in their firing line.
Also, and importantly, the BBC could have spent the year off-screen to get the new Top Gear right – something they demonstrably haven’t done.
Of course, skipping a year would impact the show’s international sales, but any loss of income couldn’t be more damaging to the BBC and programme than the confused and unfunny mess that’s currently being pumped out.
But while this series is looking like a flop, there is still time to fix the show providing the BBC is willing to admit to its failings.
Last year, in the wake of Clarkson’s infamous punch, BBC Director-General Tony Hall made it clear that Top Gear was bigger than any one presenter.
Now he and his team need to do the same again and announce that this is Chris Evans’ one and only run on the show and work with Le Blanc and Top Gear Extra’s impressive Rory Reid to retool the series around their obvious strengths.
That way Top Gear can have the future success it viewers want and licence fee payers – who derive a fortune from its commercial exploitation – deserve.