It's back. BBC Top Gear. Now Evans-less and with a trio of presenters rather than just the two mains with helpers. Sound familiar?
To some viewers, the day that the BBC sacked Jeremy Clarkson, effectively ending Top Gear as they knew and loved it, was a day of national mourning. And,as I said in a blog article back in July, they never gave the new series a chance, and probably won't to this series.
But having watched the first episode of the new 7-part series, they are wrong. Because, despite the obvious connections with the past (3 presenters, celebrity guest challenges, the Stig, and challenges), this is a new stand-alone show, and should be judged as such.
And certainly not judged against the 'pay-to-view' Grand Tour, or the OLD Top Gears being continually run on 'gold' channels.
In my opinion, nothing was bad - and in the opinion of my car-loving seven-year old grandson Ted (who watched it with me on BBC iPlayer) too - and the car washer section and film continuity bit was average. But the Kazakhstan race and Ferrari section were exceptionally good and interesting, with the shortened celebrity interview and track section better than previous years.
The trio worked well together, although Rory Reid seemed underused (hopefully not so in the future), and although chemistry is in its infancy, it wasn't as strained as last year. Some bits seemed a bit too scripted (usually involving Le Blanc) but on the whole it needs to be seen as a work in progress rather than the finished article. After all, it took the last lot of presenters a good while to get the right blend.
According to the BBC, "an average of 2.8 million viewers tuned in to the first episode on Sunday evening - with a peak of 3.1 million as the show reached its climax." Take this into context with the last series 4.4 million viewers on opening night but considerable drop as the series went on. And the fact that it wasn't until Series Three of the original series that an average of 4 million viewers was reached.
Again according to the BBC, the general opinion of the national press and other media was a 'room for improvement vibe' with The Daily Telegraph, Digital Spy and Huffington Post liking it, and The Radio Times and The Guardian bemoaning a lack of chemistry between the presenters. But in their defence, that will come over time.
Oh, and The Sun, for whom Jeremy Clarkson used to write (and now writes for stablemate The Sunday Times), managed to namecheck Chris Evans before slagging him off, and making sly digs about the new presenters in comparing them to the old ones.
And on Twitter, whereas last time the launch episode created a storm of protest from keyboard warriors, this time it was generally positive. Maybe the Clarkson Clique were too busy watching reruns of old shows or Amazon Prime pampering?
Me? I am looking forward to the next 6 episodes - and Ted is too - but a note to the producers. More Rory please.