Top Gear trio go on another ‘top’ mission

Sunday:Top Gear; (BBC One, 8pm)
Freddie Flintoff, Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinnessFreddie Flintoff, Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness
Freddie Flintoff, Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness

Have the BBC finally found a Top Gear formula to rival the golden Jeremy Clarkson era?

It’s actually been six years since Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May left the show following an unsavoury incident during filming.

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In that time, we’ve seen reboots featuring Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc, joined by Rory Reid, Sabine Schmitz, Chris Harris and Eddie Jordan, but nothing has come close to to the original (the 1977 incarnation presented by Angela Rippon and Tom Coyne was technically the original, but you know what we mean).

However, the likeable presenting trio of Harris, Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness, who took over in 2019, now seem to have gelled sufficiently and the show has found its feet again.

Harris is the one who actually knows about cars and can drive them. He is known for his brutally honest, no-holds-barred automotive journalism and does his best giving viewers precise and thorough explanations of how vehicles work.

Flintoff and McGuinness, on the other other hand, also love cars, but they are far more concerned with raising laughs than increasing our knowledge of torque and horse power.

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And despite the constant banter between the likeable trio, Harris appreciates that the show needs as much fun in it as possible.

“Top Gear always has to be a little bit of a cartoon,” he told The Drive.

“I think [if] it’s not a cartoon, it just becomes a very cold, antiseptic review show and everyone’s realised that’s not what mainstream television wants because we’d get about half a million viewers and we’ll be off the air fairly quickly. Yes, there is a crazy Lamborghini that’s got too much power that is unaffordable.

“It’s a very difficult balance, really. Top Gear should be a good balance of silliness and relatable content. And in the last year, the motor car has not continued its role in our lives that it once had.”

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In the unexpectedly heartfelt first episode of this 30th series, the presenters headed to the Lake District to go for a spin in the cars their fathers drove.

Then, last week, they got the chance to drive some of James Bond’s greatest-ever cars.

Tonight, they’re on a mission to identify the best-performing off-roader, and head off on an icy expedition across the untamed Scottish Highlands.

Will the Land Rover Defender, the Mercedes G-Wagen or the Ariel Nomad be the best vehicle at tackling the extreme conditions?

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Covid restrictions have made the epic overseas jaunts that were the series’s lifeblood under Clarkson and co an impossibility.

Also off the menu at the moment are celebrity guests and the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car time challenge.

Nevertheless, despite the lack of these optional extras, Top Gear is still a well-built show, and Chris, Paddy and Freddie have proven that there are plenty of miles left in the tank for the BBC’s flagship motoring magazine.

In fact, if the trio can provide this much entertainment during these difficult times, just imagine how good this show could be once things are back to normal.

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