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.