8.00pm tomorrow evening (Sunday) will see me eagerly watching BBC2, for the first of the new series of Top Gear. Brand new. For Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond won't be in it. We will see instead nervous new presenters Chris Evans, Matt LeBlanc and Sabine Schmitz. They will however be assisted by The Stig, who has crossed over into the new programme. Presumably he hasn't yet realised that anything has changed. Hibernating in a sealed pod buried deep in the ground tends to keep you blissfully unaware.
Actually, I don't think Mr Evans has much to worry about. He has a winning formula to follow: he can (and must) tinker with it a bit, to put his own stamp on the proceedings, but the viewing public will basically want to hear the old familiar theme tune, see stylish, glitzy photography, and enjoy delicious swanky cars driven to extremes. If Mr Evans and his team can deliver that, plus a witty and entertaining dialogue, then all will be well.
In fact I really do hope that none of the main presenters try to emulate the Terrible Trio - especially not Clarkson. They should 'be themselves'. If they can manage that, it will be a most refreshing change. There are six programmes in this first series - six weeks in which to establish the new Top Gear as a must-see show. Let's say that's eighteen to twenty cars to showcase, and six celebrity guests to chat to. There's no need to rehash silly stunts with caravans and Reliant Robins. No need to make offensive remarks about Latin Americans, Roumanian cars and transgender folk. Certainly no need to behave like mysogynistic Neanderthals.
And look, they begin with the goodwill of millions of viewers to draw on, myself included. What can go wrong, even if they try too hard?
Meanwhile, over on Amazon, the Terrible Trio are preparing their rival show The Grand Tour. So far as I can see, this will be a series of programmes on the lines of their old Christmas Specials, i.e. Which is 'better' at crossing the African desert - a Bentley Continental GT Speed, an Aston Martin DB11, or a Bugatti Veyron? Well, this too is a winning formula. But I'm not signing up to Amazon simply to watch it. There's no need. I wouldn't be surprised if the BBC soon make plans to buy screening rights from Amazon, so that ordinary TV licence payers end up with two versions of Top Gear to watch. Well, why not?
After all, the BBC's new remit to provide 'distinctive output' surely encompasses British-humoured motor shows hosted by outrageously quirky individuals. So two distinctly different takes on the old Top Gear will be a neat fulfillment of that remit.
Not everyone will be pleased. The Mexicans and the Argentines won't be. I understand that they are bracing themselves to complain in the strongest terms possible, should the BBC appear to give new hope and succour to the hated Trio. Let's hope that Mr Evans can soothe their wounded feelings, and demonstrate that neither he, nor the BBC, regards those fine countries as natural targets for ridicule.