Paddy McGuinness hints drive-in Top Gear format could stay after COVID

The drive-in format has replaced the usual live studio audience due to coronavirus restrictions.

Top Gear

Top Gear has had to undergo a few forced changes ahead of its upcoming new series – and the biggest of all has seen the live studio audience replaced by a new drive-in format.

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And according to host Paddy McGuinness, the new method was so successful that he can imagine it sticking around even after the end of the pandemic and mandatory social distancing.

Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press at a live streamed Q&A ahead of the new Top Gear, the popular presenter said: “It’s a bit of a happy accident, we did it because of what’s going on at the moment. We stayed COVID compliant and (producers) Claire and Alex suggested the idea to us and we were like ‘yeah let’s go for it.’

“When we turned up on the day I think the three of us were totally taken aback at how it looked and I think just for an audience to get back out there and see other people and bring their own cars… it just worked really really well.

“So it might be when we go back to normal life and everything else we might end up sticking to a very similar format for the show.”

Of course the pandemic posed a few other problems for the show, with production having been paused in the middle of shooting the series – leading to one or two continuity errors.

But McGuinness said that those minor problems aside, once the hosts had got used to the new filming procedures everything felt more or less exactly as it always had.

“We filmed certain things out of sync, we filmed before the lockdown and after the lockdown.

“And in one episode we all get into our cars and go off for a drive and then we get out the other end I’ve got bleach blonde hair, Chris has lost about two stone and Freddie’s got long hair – so continuity’s gone out the window.

“But it’s just once we got back into the swing of things and we got used to not being right on top of each other it was just like it always was really.”

McGuinness reckons that the segments of the series filmed before the lockdown might prove particularly uplifting for viewers, offering a happy reminder of what life will hopefully be like again in the future.

He pointed to the first episode of the show, which sees McGuinness and his co-hosts Freddie Flintoff and Chris Harris take on a challenge in his home town of Bolton – complete with karaoke inside a company car.

“What’s interesting about the Bolton episode, which I think will be nice when people see it on the TV, is we did that just before all the madness hit with the pandemic and everything else.

“And considering that was at the beginning of this year, to see people around the car and having a singalong and enjoying it and us three sort of climbing all over each other.

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“It’s strange seeing that now but it’s very uplifting and it fills me with loads of hope and memories of what life will be like again.”

Top Gear returns for series 29 on Sunday 4th October on BBC One. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV guide.