Top Gear: James May says format needs a rethink

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May left Top Gear in 2015 after his co-host Jeremy Clarkson punched a producer
By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter

Former Top Gear presenter James May has said the show’s format “needs a rethink” following the BBC’s decision to rest the series.

Production was paused after host Freddie Flintoff was badly injured in an accident while filming last year.

May, who hosted the show alongside Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, said a new approach was needed.

“My honest view is – I can say this now – it does need a bit of a rethink,” May told the BBC’s Today Podcast.

“It’s time for a new format and a new approach to the subject because the subject has not been this interesting, I suspect, since the car has been invented.”

The interview aired on Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday. It will also feature on the Today podcast when it’s released on Thursday.

Clarkson was fired from the series after he punched a producer in 2015. Hammond and May left with him and the trio were immediately hired for a new motoring series, The Grand Tour, on Amazon Prime Video.

Since then, May said Top Gear “has followed a very similar format and framework to the way we left it”.

“But, I mean, we’re getting quite old and we already do that,” he continued. “There’s another way. I’m not saying I know what it is, but there must one. There must be another way of doing a show about cars.

“I’d be really surprised if it is gone forever… It or something like it.”

May, Hammond and Clarkson developed the Top Gear format which lasted for two decades. It relied on the chemistry between its three presenters and saw car reviews combined with celebrity guests and other features.

Freddie Flintoff (right) has presented Top Gear alongside Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris since 2019

Speaking about Flintoff, May said: “I’ve only met Freddie once or twice but it’s obviously more serious than we all thought.”

May added that he was irritated by suggestions that he, Hammond and Clarkson could return to the series.

“It did annoy me a bit because there were a lot of people saying ‘they’ve done that wrong and now you can come back and rescue it’.

“The bloke’s hurt himself very badly in a life-changing way, obviously. And you could perhaps not use it as an opportunity to be partisan. You could perhaps just say ‘rotten bit of luck, hope you get well soon’.”

Flintoff recently reached a settlement with the BBC, reportedly worth £9m. The payout will not be funded by the TV licence fee, as BBC Studios is a commercial arm of the broadcaster.

Last month, Flintoff’s legal team told the Sun newspaper the former cricketer was still recovering from “life-altering significant” injuries.

On Tuesday the BBC said it had “decided to rest the UK show”, adding: “We know resting the show will be disappointing news for fans, but it is the right thing to do.”

The corporation added it “remains committed to Freddie, Chris and Paddy who have been at the heart of the show’s renaissance since 2019, and we’re excited about new projects being developed with each of them”.

Since leaving Top Gear, May has hosted his own travel and cookery programmes for Amazon in addition to The Grand Tour.

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