Did Chris Evans have to resign? Were things so bad for Top Gear? Yes, and probably, yes; viewing figures had dropped to 1.9m for the last episode, from 4.4m for the first episode. I watched the last episode of Series One with bemusement, and the occasionally quiet smile whenever Matt Le Blanc or Rory Reid, the only two decent presenters, spoke.
I wondered, above all else, why they had stuck so rigidly to a format that belonged to Clarkson’s team? The build-up in the studio to the Stig’s lap, the one that begins, “Some say he…” was just awful. It was a weak enough schtick when Clarkson/May/Hammond told it, but the new series kicks off, with everywhere to go, and runs into the same tired old tropes as the previous programme, which was already on its knees, as Andy Wilman, the show’s producer, had willingly said on many occasions.
Yes, the BBC had to keep the name, or watch BBC Worldwide, its commercial arm, practically go under, but everything else was surely up for grabs. So different was this premise – a team of at least six interacting, interchanging presenters with no rapport between them – that it’s so odd to see them stick to the same tired conventions and formats.