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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
Top Gear finds a new home
The 5th Gear team
The new series is much the same as the original
test hello test
By the BBC's William Gallagher

All sides deny it, but Channel 5 would probably be very happy if you came to the radical conclusion that its new series 5th Gear is really the BBC's old Top Gear.

It has the same format, topic and all the same presenters. In fact, the only things 5th Gear lacks from its predecessor is the theme tune and about five minutes.

The first programme in the series on Monday 8 April ran for 23 minutes, inclusive of the ads, while Top Gear would come close to filling half an hour.

As much as Jeremy Clarkson's departure from Top Gear hurt that show, Willson was always the better presenter

Otherwise, if you were familiar with Top Gear you will instantly settle into this show - and Channel 5 wants it that way.

Officially the BBC has not cancelled Top Gear. It has just stopped making it while an overhaul is considered.

It remains to be seen what the BBC will do, but for the moment Channel 5 ought to be praised for effectively saving what was a good motoring series.


However, the channel is ignoring a truism: cancelled series tend to be cancelled for a reason.

By slavishly reviving the Top Gear format, the station has won short-term success from the publicity.

5th Gear on Channel 5
The new show mixes serious and fun topics

But it could be heading for long-term failure with a comparatively expensive show.

What 5th Gear does well is take motoring seriously. But it is out also to make it fun.

The opening programme was a mix of boys' toys, with fabulous new sports cars, a Watchdog-like report on how to buy cars cheaply and a good, sober piece about speed cameras.

Status quo

It is a fine enough selection of topics, although with four presenters in 23 minutes it felt hurried.

Quentin Willson's comedic moments felt less enjoyably wry than they used to and at times were even irritating.

Quentin Willson
Willson: Holds the show together

Willson is the star of the show and he ought to be.

As much as Jeremy Clarkson's departure from Top Gear hurt the show, Willson was always the better presenter.

He is good, the show is fine, this ought to be a hit for Channel 5 but it does not improve on the old Top Gear whatsoever.

So the result is a good enough show that is not going to be any better at competing with Channel 4's similar series Driven than Top Gear was.

5th Gear is broadcast on Channel 5 at 2000 on Mondays.

See also:

15 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
Top Gear team switch lanes
22 Mar 02 | TV and Radio
Clarkson back in Top Gear
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