With the new series of Chris Evans’ Top Gear out next month and Jeremy Clarkson’s The Grand Tour out in the autumn, here at ALA GAP Insurance we’ve decided what better time to compare the presenters and discuss what motoring fans can expect to see from the shows.
Top Gear vs The Grand Tour
The BBC may have fired Clarkson, but it’s clear that their promotion of the new Top Gear show, with constant leaks of trouble behind the scenes and their ill-advised Cenotaph stunt, is still trying to maintain the previous show’s edge. How they’ll be able to achieve that with the new format juggling six new presenters, without coming across as insincere or premediated, will probably be the biggest reason to check out the new show. Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of the new Top Gear, it’ll be interesting to see whether it can create the kind of chemistry the old show produced, and was ultimately the secret to the show appealing to such a wide TV audience.
Unlike the BBC, Amazon has kept its cards very close to its chest. Spending a reported £4.5 million per episode and with the trio backed by their old Top Gear production team and free of BBC constraints, expectations couldn’t be higher for The Grand Tour. Clarkson has said that the new Amazon show will depart from the old format, which he helped to create on the BBC, and that the show will be more like their specials. With expectations rising with each passing month, here’s hoping Jezza, Captain Slow and the Hamster don’t disappoint.
Chris Evans vs Jeremy Clarkson
Born 1st April 1966, Chris Evans’s broadcasting career began at Piccadilly Radio as a teenager, before becoming a presenter for the BBC’s Greater London Radio. It was television that turned Evans into a star with Channel 4 shows such as The Big Breakfast and Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. But it would be his Radio 1 Breakfast Show and TFI Friday that catapulted Evans into public notoriety, thanks to his antics with celebrity friends Paul Gascoigne and Danny Baker.
More recently, Evans has settled down at the BBC, hosting Radio 2’s The Chris Evans Breakfast Show and BBC1’s The One Show. But it was signing a new three-year deal to lead the new Top Gear show that has thrust Evans back into the spotlight.
Even though Evans founded CarFest, his car credential isn’t great. In fact, Evan’s even admitted when he was a guest on Top Gear, that he actually knows very little about cars. He does, however, know an awful lot about making a successful TV show, but his most successful shows have been built solely around him. How Evan’s unique kind of TV magic will work in a bigger team remains to be seen.
Born 11th April 1960, Jeremy Clarkson is the UK’s –and arguably the world’s – most high profile motoring broadcaster. His career began at the Shropshire Star as a motoring columnist, after which he formed the Motoring Press Agency (MPA) in 1984, where he conducted road tests for local newspapers and automotive magazines and eventually Performance Car and Top Gear.
But it would be presenting the Top Gear TV show where Clarkson would make his name. First joining the show in 1988 and leaving in 2000, he soon returned to the show in 2002, with a new format and two new presenters. It was this new format, and these three presenters that transformed a little-watched motoring show into one of the most-watched TV shows on BBC Two,
Considering the amount of controversy Clarkson has attracted down the years, in retrospect it was inevitable that his reign at Top Gear would end in tears. However, it was Clarkson who transformed Top Gear into a show that would be broadcast to over 100 countries around the world.
And it’s that global reach that has inspired the name of the new show. In a statement Clarkson said, “we’ll be travelling the world hosting each episode in a different country, from a giant tent. It’s a sort of ‘grand tour’, if you like. So we’ve decided to call it The Grand Tour.” In a tweet Clarkson went on to say, “the Grand Tour (GT for short) will come from a tent, which we will put up in a different location every week. Your town?”
James May wasn’t too thrilled with the name. “I wanted to call it ‘Nigel’, or ‘Roger’. “We needed a name, and they’re names”,. Where as Richard Hammond seemed more positive. “I already love camping. But this is something else. We are like our pioneering and prospecting forebears, sallying forth into a new frontier of broadcasting, and making our home wherw”
Now they’ve been given a free rein with The Grand Tour at Amazon, many motoring fans are curious to see what Jezza, Captain Slow and the Hamster will do next. It is important to note that the majority of the original Top Gear production team have followed Clarkson to Amazon Prime, meaning they should, in theory, hit the ground running.
Matt LeBlanc vs Richard Hammond
Born July 25th 1967 Matt LeBlanc is best known for his role as Joey Tribbiani in the hit sitcom Friends. After a failed Friends spin-off, LeBlanc found further success playing a fictional version of himself in Episodes, winning a Golden Globe award for the show.
In 2016, a surprise announcement was made that LeBlanc would be one of the hosts on the new Top Gear. Even though this will be his first foray into presenting, LeBlanc has always come across as an engaging and amiable personality. Whether they’ll be any chemistry between LeBlanc and Evans is a hard one to call.
Born December 19th 1969, Richard ‘The Hamster’ Hammond’s career began on BBC radio, including Radio Cleveland, Radio Leeds, Radio Newcastle and Radio Lancashire, but he is best known as a presenter on Top Gear.
In 2006 his love of speed nearly cost him his life after he crashed a jet-powered dragster at 300mph. Even though he sustained brain damage in the accident he made a successful recovery and went on to become a Top Gear fan favourite, and the butt of many jokes.
Eddie Jordan vs James May
Born in Dublin in 1948, Eddie Jordan is a former racing driver and team owner. Starting out in the world of kart racing, Eddie soon worked his way up to Formula 3, Formula 2 and testing a McLaren Formula 1 car (in 1979).
In 1990, Eddie established the Jordan Grand Prix team and went on to great success in Formula 1 until he sold the team in 2005. Since then he has received a number of honorary doctorates, presents the BBC’s coverage of Formula 1, and is now a Top Gear presenter.
Eddie is definitely a safe choice as a presenter. His car knowledge is beyond question and he even has presenting experience. Where he’ll fit into the new format and how well that’ll work is too early to say.
Born January 16th 1963, James ‘Captain Slow’ May’s motoring career began as a sub-editor for The Engineer and later Autocar magazine. Such was the tedium of his work at Autocar that May started to insert random initials into the reviews that eventually spelled out “So you think it’s really good, yeah? You should try making the bloody thing up; it’s a real pain in the arse.” He was soon fired after the editors found out.
Even though May is best known as a presenter on the revamped Top Gear back in 2002, he had actually been a co-presenter in the original show during 1999. What many people may not remember is that James May was not a presenter in the first series of the revamped show. In fact it was Jason Dawe, who May went on to replace in the second series.
Without a doubt May is the most normal member of the old Top Gear trio and it wasn’t until he joined that the show that the chemistry between the presenters started to happen.
May is also lined up to present an accompanying motor show for Amazon Video in 2016.
Sabine Schmitz, Chris Harris and Rory Reid
Moving away from the three-presenter format, the new Top Gear show has three additional presenters, in the form of Sabine Schmitz, Chris Harris and Rory Reid. Sabine Schmitz is best known to fans as the hyperactive driver who showed up Clarkson on the Nuremberg Ring, whereas Chris Harris has been a motoring journalist for many years and Rory Reid is a motoring presenter on YouTube.
How these three presenters will fit into the new format will be very interesting to see. With Evans and LeBlanc’s car knowledge not being of the same level as Jezza, Captain Slow and Hamster, it may well be the case that Evans and LeBlanc will do the entertainment pieces, leaving the real car reviews to the rest of the presenters.
That old Top Gear show was pretty much an entertainment show, where the focus was on the chemistry of three friends. Whether non-motoring fans will want to see proper car reviews is unlikely. That was effectively the format of the old Top Gear, that nearly got cancelled, and the now less successful Fifth Gear show.
Click here to read more: Entertainment ALA Connect.
Jeremy Clarkson image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Author: Tony Harrison
Richard Hammond image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Author: Ed Perchick
James May image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: JamesMay.jpg: Ignitedfirestarter derivative work: Ukexpat
Top Gear Trio image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Author: Phil Guest