With the departure of the headliners of Top Gear for the last 22 seasons and their new Amazon show, Grand Tour, and the recast Top Gear the interest is high and success is a high bar to reach. The inevitable comparison of Top Gear season 22 versus Top Gear season 23 is such a dis-service because season 22 was in stride knowing what they were and right now season 23 is trying to find their footing.
Organically it does a poor job of setting any foundation outside of trying to be Top Gear. They are trying to recreate what previous hosts had perfected and it shows. They really don’t do enough to establish their credentials and love for cars. The episode comes across as celebrities and cars, but not anyone who has a deep found respect and love for the automobile as art, technology, power, and toys. The episode only tried to establish a friendship between Chris Evans and American Matt LeBlanc, but nothing to establish Sabine Schmitz who had the most love for the automobile that she was not afraid to insult the corvette Z06 she was driving. Matt sounds like he is doing a documentary and comes across as very dry in his voice overs. Chris is the better of the two and has personality in his presentation. They need to find their own groove and they could grow into it, but it will be a while before it gels together and the ratings will suffer as a result.
The change to a rallycross track and off road combination for the stars in the reasonable price car was a unique twist and having two stars as the first show to establish some competition was wise, but it appears this might be a trend to have 2 stars each week and if they continue to fail to have any commonality in their promotions then it will just continue to be dry segments.
Production wise the show was not quite up to the expectations of Top Gear fans. The audio was just mixed poorly with crowd and music being too loud compared to the presenters and commentary. The picture quality is excellent outside of an oddly too bright Stig lap with the Dodge Viper ACR that I suspect is a combination of abnormally great weather and higher quality filming (4k maybe), but it just felt like it missed the traditional Top Gear blue tint on their track filming.
The first show just felt like an odd combination of segments, rough production values, and personalities that are still finding their voices. The show should be unapologetically British and Matt’s presence might not have the lasting appeal.
Extra Gear the additional show presented by Rory Reid and Chris Harris showed more personality, comfort about discussing cars, and actual car humor as they insult the mentality of having a phone app to open your door when handles still work. Extra Gear did a better job trying to recreate the feeling of Top Gear then Chris and Matt were able to pull off.