I’d be the first person to stick their hand up and say they quite like new new new Top Gear. The on-location films are stunning; even prettier than those we’ve seen in The Grand Tour, for my money, and when left to their own devices the presenters feel a lot more natural, which makes it easier to watch.
Yes, the slightly forced studio segments need some work, and yes, Chris Harris looks about as comfortable with smiling and hugging as a claustrophobe is with being shut in a car boot, but there’s definite substance there. Maybe the three main presenters should do something together that ends up with them doing time in a Russian prison, or at least running from the police. That sort of thing builds bonds, not that we actually recommend doing anything illegal.
But there’s a sticking point. Matt LeBlanc used to be such an energetic performer in Friends. Joey Tribbiani might have been a lazy ass at times, but LeBlanc’s acting was anything but. Which makes me wonder how the hell he can be so monotonous in his delivery on Top Gear. He sort of drones, like a sleepy granddad on a comfy armchair telling stories to the huddled kids at his feet. He’s not a natural presenter, by which I mean he doesn’t deliver his lines as if they were off the cuff.
His performances in the studio are like he’s reading from a Teleprompter having never done any rehearsals. It’s like his heart isn’t really in it, somehow. From a presenting standpoint, I don’t think I’m going to be alone in thinking he might be the weak link.
Now, then. Top Gear magazine readers and YouTube channel subscribers will know Tom Ford, the man who shares a name with the well-known fashion bigwig. Not the style, though. He’s been working for Top Gear for years, is pretty handy behind the wheel, and presents as naturally as if he were chatting to you in the pub. He’s also rather… British, in his mannerisms and attitude. You’d have thought he was a dead cert for the UK show, frankly, but for whatever reason he was overlooked.
He’s now confirmed as one of the three Top Gear America presenters, alongside Top Fuel drag racer Antron Brown and famous actor William Fichtner. There’s a Brit on Top Gear America, and an American on British Top Gear. You see where I’m going with this.
What I want is an exchange. It doesn’t have to be CIA-style, but for all I care BBC reps from both sides of the pond can stand at each end of a bridge and send a LeBlanc and Ford walking in opposite directions towards their homelands. Tom Ford could be the perfect foil for Chris Harris, with Rory Reid the characterful man in the middle. Ford and Harris would, I reckon, naturally forge an ongoing rivalry in Top Gear challenges, with each able to side with Reid whenever they wanted a majority vote. The chemistry could happen more fluently, and faster, and even if it didn’t we’d still end up with a more expressive, engaging presenter.
Go on, BBC, you know you want to. Matt LeBlanc might be happy to spend more time Stateside anyway, and Tom Ford must really want to be a face on the original and best Top Gear. The arrangements could only take hours, for all we know. How hard can it be…?