When will Top Gear be back at its best? No time fast | Top gear

l will admit it’s been a while since anyone thought of Top Gear with any intent, but it’s still going, out there, spinning. The last time you probably thought about it was when Matt LeBlanc was hosting; he no longer hosts it. Or when someone drove a tank to the BBC to protest the firing of Jeremy Clarkson; that was seven years ago and the protest didn’t work.

The current hosts, in case you were wondering, are Paddy McGuinness of Take Me Out, Freddie Flintoff of cricket and Chris Harris of “my buddy Chris likes cars?”, and this is their third full year together. hosted. They’ll get there: Flintoff is such a regular TV natural that it’s almost a shame he wasted all that time on sports. Harris is a calm anchor that keeps the others from becoming the “second marriage deer”, and Paddy McGuinness is Paddy McGuinness. To use a football analogy, they are quite Arsenal-esque in rebuilding their club: you can see the green shoots of a viable performance here, you can see the staff almost starting to gel despite sporadic bits of mold, but sadly it’s all still overshadowed by that really good lineup they had in the early to mid s. Throwing all this away and starting over would be silly, but seeing them coming slowly isn’t exactly fun either.

My problem with this setup is that I hate Paddy McGuinness. This is my problem and I’m taking steps to fix it, but essentially he’s a hard-core ITV guy locked into a BBC contract, so this experiment will never work. To understand McGuinness as a presenter, you have to realize that the only show he was ever equipped for was Take Me Out, where his silly, grinning-at-his-own-puns, too many hand gestures, “oh-ho- ho-yes!”, “cheeky bouncer the girls just flirt with so they don’t have to queue so long” shtick once really worked.Take Me Out couldn’t have been organized by anyone but Paddy McGuinness;Paddy McGuinness can’t host anything but Take Me Out This is why Top Gear still isn’t quite there, not even a few seasons in. Essentially, Paddy hears McGuinness in front of a stage and encourages a girl from Huddersfield to get into the worm put him behind the wheel of a car, with no commercials to introduce himself, clapping his hands broadly, and he looks lost and a little distraught.

All of this suggests that the new Top Gear series is a doomed folly that the BBC is only investing in because it owns the title rights, which isn’t entirely true. In the new episode (8pm Sunday, BBC One), Paddy, Freddie and Chris embark on a Florida road trip, taking in three facets of the state’s unique automotive culture, and I have to say it’s really, really good. . We start in Miami with the donk race scene, where the guys (it’s always “boys”, not “boys” – this is informed by McGuinness, the show’s de facto banter leader; “Just then guys, what do we do?”) towing a quarter of a mile in some of the most beautiful vehicles I’ve ever seen.

Then they work across the everglades and compete in swamp races, again adapting cars to their environment. Every country on Earth has its own car culture (we have two different ones: “caring too much about a vintage Jaguar” or “cruising a lowered Subaru around a roundabout on the edge of town”) and this one is unique to Florida. Then further west to a Nascar ring set up by a YouTuber, where they race retired police cars for sale at auction. It’s good, and feels new enough to be its own thing. By the end of the classic Top Gear run, the show was mostly just Richard Hammond dramatically saying “what is” That” while looking at a somewhat old car Jeremy Clarkson bought off eBay as a joke, while James May blinked too much and thought about toys. The new show manages to move away from guys over 40 who try really hard to chat, and instead talk to other people about car culture, which is much better.

It’s still not there – the cold studio opening is still painfully stilted and they’re going to have to fix that (how? send Patrick Joseph McGuinness to an improv class? It’s the only way I can think of) before this show can take place back in the Champions League. But for now, progress is being made. At least 33 more Top Gear series are coming into our lives. We might as well enjoy it.