With former Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May reportedly in talks for a show with ITV, Joe Ellison wonders whether people will bother changing channels at all...
The elephant in the room was hard to miss as Top Gear aired yesterday evening, bringing the curtain down on Clarkson, May and Hammond's career on the landmark motoring show.
But then of course it was hard to miss: it measured 10ft tall, was entirely made of plastic, and was called - you guessed it - Jeremy.
Despite the awkwardness surrounding the finale, which also saw Clarkson Tweet "So sad and sorry it's ended like this" to his followers, some thunder stealing was afoot as news emerged that ITV was not only gearing up to steal the trio for themselves but also pit their new motoring show directly against Top Gear in the exact same Sunday evening time slot, promising one of the most fiercely contested ratings wars in years.
But would crossing the great terrestrial divide be a gamble likely to pay off?
Surely a much more sensible choice for the threesome would be to strike a deal with a streaming giant like Netflix, joining the new 'digital' revolution and ensuring that they enjoy a similar global reach to what they once had, without the fuss of adverts either; the other obvious drawback of moving to a commercial TV broadcaster. After all, who can forget the general reception to ITV’s ill-fated Premiership highlights show. We'll remind you: it went something like this: “Match of the Day with adverts? No thanks.”
Regardless of good intentions we all know the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Even your mum will tell you that much. So too Jonathan Ross, once the UK’s undisputed chat show king over on the Beeb and now stuck in a grinding weekly battle with Graham Norton for ratings and guests alike. A saturated market helps nobody. Besides, with the BBC sure to be fitting their Top Gear engine room with a turbocharged new presenting team of their own, any competitor will be second on the podium from the off. And lest we forget Adrian Chiles and Daybreak? RIP.
And what about the Top Gear fans? Sure, we've all heard from the die-hard ones. The guys littering our Facebook feeds with vitriolic indignation following Clarkson’s exit to lament how Top Gear and indeed this floating rock we call Earth will never quite be the same again. But what about the millions of others who enjoy it for what it fundamentally is? A car show.
For all the bells, whistles and oversized exhaust pipes, the BBC has served us well on that front, consistently delivering a show tailored for obsessed petrol-heads and teenage boyracers as much as grown-up dreamers. Not once has it left us wanting for visual spectacle. Indeed, Top Gear is about so much more than the laddish patter of the ‘foppish one’, the ‘rodent one’, the ‘polemic one’, it’s about pure vehicular entertainment, whether that's Tom Cruise putting his foot down in a hatchback or some Michael Bay-esque supercar shots from overhead.
Seriously, if the film crew can make grey, drizzly racetracks in Hampshire - or whatever part of the south east they use - look a million dollars, just imagine what they’ll do to it now they've a point to prove. Could ITV genuinely get close to that? And, more crucially, would they even risk footing the expense bill to even attempt it?
Of course no one’s to know exactly what will happen to the BBC's landmark driving show or indeed its former presenters, in the coming weeks or months. But any move to front a rival show on ITV might very well just provoke the following response: “Top Gear with adverts? No thanks."