I’ve had full-blown arguments about Top Gear at least 14 times at different family gatherings, never quite understanding why people I like and respect were so infatuated with Jeremy Clarkson and his cars.
Top Gear drove me up the wall. While members of my family watched each episode and laughed at the trio of presenters doing maverick experiments with various vehicles, I just never got it. It’s not because I’m female – I know plenty of women who love the show and plenty of men who don’t – and it’s not because I hate cars.
When a show is really, really good, it shouldn’t really matter what it’s about. I have watched and enjoyed programmes about all sorts of things, from deep sea fishermen to poisonous plants to robotics. Cars were never the issue.
The issue for me was Clarkson.
I just didn’t find him entertaining, and found a lot of the show really quite cringeworthy to watch. There was a chummy smugness to the trio, and I always felt they thought they were far funnier than they were. It was genuinely difficult for me to watch an entire episode without almost breaking my wine glass through clenched fists.
The announcement that Chris Evans would be the new presenter was a welcome one, but while I could envisage watching the show in future without wanting to scream, I wasn’t exactly excited about it because I had no particular feelings about Evans.
But now that Matt LeBlanc is joining Evans in the driving seat, I can’t wait to see it. Even my 19-year-old brother, who found Top Gear pretty infuriating at times, just texted me with an expletive followed by “OMG THIS IS SUCH GOOD NEWS.”
Since his Joey days, the Friends star has had a glorious renaissance by way of BBC2 sitcom Episodes, and has displayed a wit and charm that makes him a joy to watch on shows like Graham Norton. He’s fit into British TV very well indeed, and the nation loves him. And most importantly of all, he’s self deprecating enough to make genuinely funny jokes about his own career and isn’t overly macho or self-satisfied.
In fact, he seems like the sort of person you’d want to have round for Christmas dinner with your family.
Given all my endless arguments about the car show, it feels extremely odd to say I could soon end up a Top Gear fan – but Matt LeBlanc might just drive me to it.