GRR

Preview: Top Gear Season 27

13th June 2019
Dan Trent

After the tumultuous departure of Clarkson, Hammond and May and controversial Chris Evans tenure it seemed like Top Gear had rather got its mojo back, thanks to a focus on core values and the undoubted car nut credentials of Matt Le Blanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid. Le Blanc’s departure has been amicable but prompted yet another shake-up in the presenting team and another nervous wait for fans as they wait for the new show to drop.

It’s a wait that will soon be over, however, as the first episode of Season 27 hits our screens this Sunday. 

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You’ll likely be aware Chris Harris has been joined by Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff, while Rory Reid is in charge of taking Extra Gear online and making it more than just a home for out-takes and cast-offs. Come Sunday night the main show will, inevitably, be the focus of everyone’s attention though. The question being, are we talking revolution or evolution?

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The arrival of two new mainstream ‘celeb’ presenters might have suggested a shake-up, were it not for the fact the lads’ dynamic of three middle-aged blokes doing daft stuff in exotic locations has very obviously been maintained. Trailers showing Harris, Flintoff and McGuinness out in the wilds, sweating in jungles and deserts and eating grubs will do little to offset fears it’s basically I’m A Celebrity on four wheels and the show still can’t shake off the shackles of the Clarkson-era format for a more diverse approach. 

In conversation Paddy McGuinness is quick to nip the assumption in the bud. “That question only comes up because of the nature of the show,” he asserts. “It only comes up because it’s a car show – if we were doing Country File nobody would even mention it. And I think when people watch it and see the little tweaks we’ve made I don’t think it’ll be a problem for anyone.” Chris Harris agrees. “The reality of the show is you have to make it so car nuts like me can watch it without feeling it’s too lightweight but not leave a mainstream audience asking what are they going on about,” he says, concluding, “I think we’ve hit a good balance.” 

Location filming long in the bag and fresh from the first recordings with the studio audience, executive producer Clare Pizey is similarly buoyed and talks of a presenting team ready to show their sensitive sides, albeit among the familiar toilet humour and banter. The choice of Ethiopia for the first big film of the series provides a suitably spectacular backdrop. But also an opportunity for the presenters to offer personal views on their expectations of a country defined to many by the famines we saw represented on our TV screens not so long ago. Reuniting the presenters with their first cars also produced some unexpected moments of reflection, Flintoff admitting cricketing success and the purchase of a Porsche eventually forced him to take a more professional approach to both his sport and life in general. 

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Back home in the UK a typically Top Gear exploration of the realities of life with electric cars proves the show still has the ability to combine genuine consumer insight with slapstick humour and the kind of mainstream family entertainment the show’s best moments pull off like no other. Flintoff’s steely competitiveness in the challenges, Harris’s authority as a car reviewer and McGuinness’s natural showmanship in front of the live studio audience have reassured Pizey they made the right choice with the new line-up and fans have little to fear from this latest shake-up. Whether or not audiences agree will become clear very soon. 

Watch our ride-along with Chris Harris round the Top Gear track in a Mercedes E63 AMG S here.

Photography courtesy of BBC Studios and Lee Brimble.

  • Top Gear

  • Chris Harris

  • Freddie Flintoff

  • Paddy McGuinness

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