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TV review: Top Gear has lost its mojo and is as safe as the One Show

Top Gear presenters Chris Harris, Matt LeBlanc, Rory Reid - (C) BBC WorldWide - Photographer: Todd Anthony
Billy Foley

Top Gear, BBC 2, Sunday at 8pm

Top Gear is a tired, old format.

Incredibly, this is season 24 of Britain's number one car show. But even in its revised, irreverent version it aired for the first time 15 years ago.

Jeremy Clarkson and his pals made a fortune for the BBC (and themselves) through the noughties so the broadcaster is determined to keep making it and selling it abroad.

Matt LeBlanc is back for the second season since Clarkson took a swing at a producer and ended his BBC career.

You'd have to say that LeBlanc does a solid job, along with co-presenters Rory Reid and Chris Harris.

Most of the scripted jokes work, albeit they're presented a little woodenly.

And notwithstanding the teenage pranks and humour, the first episode of the new series was a reasonable hour of entertainment.

But, by God they're not taking any risks. They stick to the format slavishly.

Thus the main segment of the show involved the three presenters travelling to Kazakhstan to have a race in cars which had more miles on the clock that the distance from the earth to the moon and back. (For pub quiz fans that's 480,000 miles, by the way.)

Every element of the Top Gear format honed over the last decade was there.

There were the instruction envelopes from the producers, decorating the cars, crashing into each other, language difficulties, ridiculous tasks and a tight finish.

In other segments, they tested a supercar around a racetrack, got a celebrity to do a flying lap and had a discussion about which car they'd buy if they had £150,000 to spare.

The viewing figures show the audience was down by two million, expect it to fall further unless they can bring back some excitement.

The key to Top Gear's success was that Clarkson upset the PC brigade and petrol heads love him for it - the new show is as safe as the One Show.


Inside Windsor Castle, Channel 5, Tuesday at 9pm

Tales from the Royal Wardrobe, BBC 4, Tuesday at 9pm

There was a bit of a royal fest on Tuesday night for some reason.

Predictably Channel 5's version was the straightforward populist one, giving us the story of the royals at Windsor Castle and the comings and goings of Queen Elizabeth, Charles, Diana and the rest of the crew.

It didn't even pretend to be bringing something new to the viewer, just giving us a chronological run through with all the juicy marriages, affairs and break-ups thrown in.

Over on BBC 4 it was much more serious.

They were presenting the history of royal fashion and rather overplaying the significance of it.

Fair enough, how humans choose to present themselves to the world through their clothes has cultural and historical significance.

But presenter Lucy Worsley lost the run of herself.

“This was how she spoke to us,” Worsley said of Diana's fashion choices.

And of the royals generally - “In the eyes of their people every single outfit has been a statement … and determined if they were loved or loathed.”

Aah, stop it.


Broadchurch, UTV, Monday at 9pm

For once a journalist has been presented sympathetically in popular television drama.

Traditionally, the reporter has been the seedy man in a mac harassing people in their homes and lying to everyone he comes into contact with.

On this occasion we were invited to feel sorry for the editor of the local paper whose page one decisions were being rejected for fluff stories, along with being told the local office was closing. When she complained she was told there was no money in newspapers any more.

It was probably better when we were in a mac with greasy hair.

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