So that turned out to be alright. This year’s series of Top Gear was massively improved by the BBC paying out for a new set, the ditching of Jeremy Clarkson’s catchphrases and, of course, the absence of Chris Evans.
Tonight’s debut episode is what the BBC should have offered up last year but instead executives rushed to hire Evans and speed the show back on air in order to prove they didn’t need Clarkson.
What they actually achieved was to demonstrate the limits of Evans’ appeal and almost kill one of their biggest cash cows.
As I wrote almost two years ago, the show needed to be radically reworked to have any chance of success and tonight’s episode proved that point.
Last year a lot of viewers found themselves inevitably comparing the delivery of catchphrases with the presenters’ predecessors and mulling on how odd it was to see someone else standing on Clarkson’s set.
In every comparison the Evans-led team came up short. But tonight the BBC’s belated changes allowed the show to stand on its own two feet.
It wasn’t perfect – the three presenters do not come over as natural interviewers so the James McAvoy segment was a little stilted but it was mercifully shorter than last year’s version which served as nothing more than a platform for Evans’ huge ego which just endlessly demanded to dominate the show.
Evans, if he watched, might have noticed that his former team mates had enough class not to ridicule his unplanned departure from the series, something he couldn’t manage in his single season opener when he immediately lost the goodwill of many fans with his ill-advised pop at Clarkson’s expense.
And while the challenge sequence sometimes felt a little timid, it at least had more narrative framing than was the case in last year’s opening episode – the presence of Evans and his screaming and shouting meant I never watched beyond episode one, but on the strength of tonight’s show I’ll be putting Top Gear back on series link.
Somehow I suspect this presenter line-up won’t have to to take to Twitter in the coming weeks to spout bollocks about “repositioning” the way people watch TV.
And as the BBC now clearly realises it has no need for Clarkson’s catchphrases it should have no need for lawyers should they find their way into the next season of Amazon’s The Grand Tour…