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Is It The End Of The Road For Top Gear?

Is It The End Of The Road For Top Gear? - News

Not for the first time this last year, the BBC's long-running motoring show Top Gear has been in the news again, as the impact of just how serious Freddie Flintoff's crash was whilst filming at the show's test track in Dunsfold Park last year is starting to emerge.

The former England cricket captain, and one of the show's current team of hosts alongside Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris, was pictured in public for the first time since the crash at England's recent one-day international against New Zealand in Cardiff a week ago Friday (8th September), where the extent of his injuries was visibly apparent, with scars on his face and surgical tape on his nose.

But now Radio Times is reporting that, following the sudden suspension of filming at the end of last year following Flintoff's crash, new reports from insiders are suggesting that the show's future is looking even more shaky, as the current production team on the series has been 'quietly dismantled'.

The BBC has thus far declined to comment on such reports, instead saying that a health and safety review of the show is still ongoing, with a final decision on future instalments to follow in due course. But given that it is now almost a year since the 33rd series aired its last episode, it is undoubtedly adding to the feeling of uncertainty around the show's future.

Of course, as we've discussed numerous times of late, Top Gear in its current iteration has been no stranger to controversy or presenters being in hair raising crashes - fans of the show will remember when Richard Hammond was in a crash during filming in 2006 which left him in a coma for a fortnight, when similar questions about the show's status were raised.

There is even some suggestion from those in the cricketing world, where Flintoff first made his name, that he is likely to leave the show if it returns, and return to what he is best known for. Separate from this though, is another argument rearing its head that would have done so anyway without his crash happening.

With the move to electric or hybrid vehicles in light of concerns around climate change and pollution, some, such as Louis Chilton, in his recent column for The Independent newspaper, believe that "the series has been struggling to justify its own existence for a while", pointing to the shock departure of the series' best known presenting team of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May in 2015 as the point where it started to lose the apex of its popularity.

Further pressed, Chilton said "I understand Top Gear can't suddenly start recommending that everyone park their Toyota and take a nice stroll to work instead… but shouldn't it? It speaks to a cavalier attitude about pollution and climate change that is outdated in 2023."

Speaking from our perspective, it seems as if there is merit in all arguments concerning health and safety on the show, but also how the show stays relevant in an ever changing world.

Regardless of the show's future, there will always be car enthusiasts - we still see them booking onto our driving experience days with regularity - and in its most recent series, Top Gear was still attracting an average weekly audience of around 4 million viewers.

Whilst that is around 3 million less viewers than it was achieving at its height in 2007, in an age of on demand and streaming services, that is still on a par with what most primetime shows on all the major terrestrial channels achieve in the ratings on a weekly basis. In terms of international sales and audiences, only Strictly Come Dancing is perhaps as best known and loved a format as Top Gear.

But ultimately, as we said a few months ago, any show that has been on air for as long as Top Gear has does so because no one person fronting it or one hair raising incident is bigger than the show. There may well be another new presenter getting behind the wheel. The focus may move gradually away from the show's perceived perception of laddish banter, fast, petrol fuelled cars and larking about on track. But as long as it still has a loyal audience that grows with the show, it's not over until the tank is empty, so to speak.

18 September 2023

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