Sunderland University lecturer on whether a new caring, sharing approach can get Top Gear back in the TV fast lane
It was once the flagship of Lads’ telly – but now a Sunderland University lecturer says Top Gear is getting in touch with its senstive side.
The hit show makes its return to the nation’s screens on Sunday, with its third presenting line-up since the departure of Jeremy Clarkson and co.
The early signs are that the new team of Freddie Flintoff, Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness are aiming to show a more caring side.
Angela Smith, Professor of Language and Culture at the University of Sunderland, says the change may be just what the show needs.
She said: “When Clarkson, May and Hammond left under a cloud of controversy in 2015, the future of the franchise seemed in doubt.
“The anti-liberal discourses that typified that line-up used banter and laddish humour to disguise underlying misogyny, racism, xenophobia and anti-environmentalism.
“The BBC chose a new ensemble that included a female host - Sabine Schmitz - two BAME presenters Chris Harris and Rory Reid, and an American - Matt LeBlanc - alongside Chris Evans and Eddie Jordan.
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“Such a large cast was ditched after Evans' departure, and something closer to the triumvirate of the Clarkson era fronted the show, with LeBlanc alongside Reid and Harris.
“There was a stronger sense of genuine friendship between the three, particularly LeBlanc and Harris, whose set-piece foreign trips lacked the jocular hostility of the Clarkson-era trips and instead presented a greater sense of masculine friendship.
“It seems the choice of Freddie Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness, both men who are already well known for their quick wit and laddish humour, might mean a return to the more familiar laddishness of the Clarkson-era.
“It remains to be seen if McGuinness and Flintoff's familiar anti-pc humour is allowed to translate back into the studio.
“There is, perhaps, less underlying animosity between the presenters, as there is already an out-of-studio bonding between Flintoff and McGuinness that draws on a shared sense of 'northern' identity.
“In fact, as Flintoff has previously spoken openly about mental health issues, the underlying friendship that comes with on-screen banter may now be bolstered with genuine awareness of the emotional well-being of others that was so lacking in the Clarkson-era.”