Last night, for the first time ever, I was rendered speechless at the outcome of a television show. 22 seasons. Hundreds of cars and guests and laps and mishaps. Always ambitious but rubbish. But the final goodbye was disgraceful on the part of the BBC. That was not the bombshell we needed.
**Edit** I originally wrote this last year after the final episode of top gear came out. Given the fracas the newest one keeps ding itself in, I wanted to repost this to show some of my dislike of what’s going on. I still don’t like how the old one ended and j think the ghosts of the past re haunting this newest iteration .
I was never a theatre or musical member in my high school or college years. But recently I have spent some more time around the arts and I’ve gained a certain appreciation for the production of each show. Specifically, the ending. I recently attended a symphony which, start to finish, was mind blowingly good. It was very well orchestrated, the cast had great chemistry, the audience was enamored with the subject, and the pacing and order of songs was spot on. But I couldn’t figure out why the encore song stuck in my head so hard. It wasn’t on the program. It wasn’t even hinted at. But my mental recording of the night is so bright on that last song. It wasn’t until I talked to a friend about it afterwards that he was able to explain it to me. I don’t recall him word for word and if this is a famous quote by some great performer, forgive me for being ignorant. But he told me that a surprise encore like that, so long as it is well done, sticks with you so ahrd because you were given a brief period of reflection. A moment to breathe and realize that it is over. Your life is going back to where you were before, but you want to be back in that world created for you by the music. So when the conductor comes back out and you see everyone is still at the ready with instruments in hand, to hear an unexpected final performance come out is very powerful.
Now let’s go back to TG. This entire episode was their encore. Their last dancer. The curtain call happened off screen while the drama of the fracas was sorted out. One by one, the production staff and crew took their unceremonious bows to muted applause and apprehension as the show seemed to call for a few more pieces. But it wasn’t to be. The word that we would get an encore afterall and to not leave our seats just yet was a wonderous announcement met with the apropriate response. But.....The final song was not supposed to be a duet. Not when we came for the trio. And it was not the usual concotion of energy, chemistry, and love that usually filled each and every performance by our actors. It was a corporate enforced march onto the stage. No audience. No backup. Just the last two performers trotted out in chains by some of the theater owners to do some token performance to fill out the requirements. Even after the dust settled, there was no proper chance for everyone to bow out with some semblance of grace and dignity. No way for the stage to be honored and the audience properly thanked. It was a heartless fulfillment of procedure like it was done to fill out contractual obligations and a way to cleanly wash everyone’s hands of it.
I’ll be frank with my thoughts on that. Clarkson deserved to be sacked. Regardless of whether or not the producer he smacked forgave him or not. However, I don’t think he should be denied the ability to say goodbye. Rather, I don’t think the show should be denied that right. An empty audience, no star for the reasonably priced kia, no cool wall, no news, no......nothing. That wasn’t 75 minutes of Top Gear. That was 75 minutes of a funeral procession for a man who was scheduled to be killed at the end of it! And to put a god damn cherry on it, he wasn’t allowed the decency to be able to march in it! To not even crack a joke at clarkson’s removal outside of the elephant remark is the least Top Gear thing they could have done.
And what bothers me about this is that they will try and plop new people in those roles and pick up where they left off. But the cool wall isn’t just the wall - it is the bickering of jeremy and richard about what the wall *is* that defines the wall itself. To put it differently - “The cool wall” isn’t a physical wall at all - it is an amalgam of opinions and humor that so perfectly lampoons car enthusiasts arguing about brands and body styles and drivetrains and.....well......It’s basically the comments of any car related article on the internet! Soto have it just hang there, like it is an instrument that can be picked up and played by any musician is very off base in my eyes. I sincerely hope that they will let the new hosts develop their own segments and grow them as they feel natural. And if they are going to do that, then I fail to see why the hosts couldn’t be allowed to wrap up everything. Have the cool wall be invaded by.......nissan murano cross cabriolets in the DB9 fridge! Have the reasonably priced car burst into flames because Piers Morgan wanted a go in it! Have an airplane land on the track as the stig is testing something and he decides to.....become a pilot! And then let jeremy walk out, make some british snide remark like “Well the wheels really fell of this program” and then say an honest, heartfelt goodbye, and give the show as a whole the closure it needs to be able to move on!
Maybe I’m being entitled here. But from a business perspective, the BBC HAS to see they can’t just copy/paste the format and get instant results. American top gear tried it. It was above average, but the weaknesses of trying to adhere to the same format and character typing as the british one strained the show. But by the final season - the show was AMAZING. Still rough around the edges at times but they had it dialed in! They had their format, they had their characters, they had their chemistry......they had their identity. It was no longer “british TG but worse”. It was a show that had strong ties to an idea and concept, but done in its own way. So if the BBC won’t let the show get some proper bookends, then I can only assume it is because they want to continue with as many of these jokes and arcs and storylines as they can. And if they do that, then they deserve whatever fate they are dealt. I hope it does well, I really do. But if you trot out a “jeremy”, a “richard”, and a “may”, then don’t be surprised when the audience “changes the channel”. Because they’ve already done that for australia and america.
So as I sat there and watched the credits roll......I felt so hollow. That wasn’t a “goodbye”. James said the word, but that isn’t what was meant or implied. The word felt like it was weighed down with anger. With sadness. With regret. And I reflected on all the moments that show gave myself and others in my life. Sending my best friend the top gear review of the MkV GTI after his MkIV golf got totalled and he had the chance to pick one up for dirt cheap. The weekly top gear ritual watching at my fraternity. Top gear segments being featured in the weekly meetings for the car club in college. Sending my parents and little brother clips and segments as they are relevant. Even the girl in my life loves the show and I use the show to bridge the gap between us as she isn’t a massive enthusiast, but she loves the show and can “get” the car humor in that format. Hell......I was pushed over the edge on the Fiesta ST because of top gear! My very own fiesta might not be in my little parking spot if it wasn’t for top gear. So to see the show end the way it did? I can’t accept that. I know and understand that they did what they did and I don’t see them re-doing the goodbye. But from a standpoint of what is right and correct? I can’t accept that it was the correct way to go.
On behalf of myself and what I hope is a fair number of enthusiasts, we wish the crew of Top Gear the best as they disband. And for the BBC, we wish your new version of Top Gear will be just as successful as the old one. But all I have to say is - I’m not afraid to change the channel. And on that bombshell......It’s time to end. Good night!