Was Top Gear Doomed from the Start?


The much anticipated new series of Top Gear returned last month with millions tuning in and over 100k tweets circulated the Twittersphere, the majority criticising the rebooted TV show. Matt Le Blanc escaped most of the blame and it seems many feel he saved the programme from being a total disaster. It was however, Chris Evans’ shouting, general hosting style and Jeremy Clarkson-esque jokes that received the greatest disapproval from viewers.

But, was the show doomed before it even aired? In amongst the plethora of anti-new-top-gear tweets were admissions of ‘not wanting to like the show’ and people who claimed they ‘knew not to watch it’. It’s possible that for many, no matter what Chris Evans in particular did or did not do, his fate was sealed and it would take ample convincing for the public to change their minds. Changing your mind once it is ‘made up’ is a difficult task especially when the consensus of those around you are strongly rooted in negativity. Many psychological studies have supported the view that we have an attentional bias when it comes to processing information, specifically we tend to concentrate more on negative information over positive information. Social media tends to follow negative standpoints due to this bias for negative news, and since the new series was announced many social media outlets have favoured pessimistic views.

The previous hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May appear to remain irreplaceable for many fans of the show. Aside from the fast cars, a main highlight of each episode was often the delivery and rapport built between the three hosts. Therefore, great expectations for the new show resulted in the wake of its longstanding prototype. As is true with great expectations the likelihood of failure increases as more attention is paid and scrutiny is more probable – previous experience can therefore cloud judgement. On the contrary those with a low expectation could rejoice upon reinforcement of their opinion having noted the predominantly negative backlash towards the show.

In addition, within a group setting we often avoid making unpopular decisions or expressing opinions that are not held by our group members. Instead we form an opinion based on what the majority of the group believes, this is referred to as ‘groupthink’ and is especially significant where creativity and open-mindedness are concerned. This can also be applied in the context of social media, Twitter in particular makes it harder for people to form independent ideas when some 140 character opinions are readily available to engrain. In relation to Top Gear, those who expressed positive feelings via Twitter on the show’s opening night formed these admissions with apprehensive evaluations as they were stepping outside of the popular opinion that the show was a bust and therefore going against the dominant views expressed by others.

Sixteen episodes are scheduled to air over the coming weeks and since the first episode support for the new series has grown. Chris Evans may not be able to replace Jeremy Clarkson, however the more Top Gear is seen as a separate commodity to the original show and perhaps with a little less ear deafening from the main host and a little more Le Blanc – the better the reviews may be.

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