can Chris Evans really square up to Jeremy Clarkson?

Top Gear is back tonight. To be honest, Sunday evenings have not felt quite like sunday evenings without my weekly dose of car-related anarchism. Only, it won’t really be Top Gear, will it? I can’t help thinking that a large part of what made Top Gear Top Gear was it’s presenters, and without that slightly juvenile, slightly blokey, slightly fascist chemistry between Clarkson, Hammond and May, it won’t be the same show. They can get new presenters, and no doubt they will try to recapture the feeling which made the show so popular, but inevitably it will be an imitation, and we’ll all know it. No doubt Chris Evans et al will do their best; perhaps, conscious of the potential criticisms, they’ll ”take the show in a new direction” and ”make it their own”, but we’ll all know we are watching a show which should have been allowed to die. They are stepping into other people’s shoes, trying to make other people’s glory their own.

I have been wrong about such things before, of course. The show tonight could rule. But can Chris Evans really square up to Jeremy Clarkson? You could say he can’t win: if they try to do something too similar to the previous show, people will accuse them of imitation; but if they try to take the show in a new direction it would just feel too different to the show we all love. Either way, people will turn off. Perhaps the bbc should have just let Top Gear pass into history. Then again, I could be wrong and we could find ourselves watching something even better than it was before. It boils down to the question of how integral the original presenters personalities were to the success of the program. The radio times notes that Clarkson, Hammond and May now have a show going out concurrently on Amazon Prime. Which will be better received? We’ll just have to wait to tonight to find out.

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