Twenty-five seasons. 41 years. And lots and lots of cars. If there has been a singular show on television that has single-handedly divided and united a group of enthusiasts, it would be Top Gear. One of the most insane television series in the world, Top Gear is back with the polarising trio that is Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid.
Who can forget Jeremy Clarkson trying to outrun an Apache helicopter in a Lotus Exige, just after calling it a “Saturn 5 rocket in a food blender”? This particular episode kickstarted the Top Gear concept of pitting a car with a flying machine.
We speak to Chris Harris about what we can expect from Series 25 of Top Gear.
Are you pleased with how Series 25 of Top Gear has turned out?
Definitely. I’m really proud of the films. I think there are some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, and we’ve had great fun making it. I’ve always stated that the editorial process is not opaque; it’s entirely transparent. If you have fun making something, it’ll seep out of the end product when people watch it on telly. If you don’t have fun making it, you can’t really hide it, and the lack of joy will come out in the show.
After 41 years on our screens, why does Top Gear continue to thrive?
Top Gear has the ultimate ingredients for television, doesn’t it? Just being close to outrageous machinery and in exciting places – I can’t think of a better way to make television.
Why does the relationship between the three of you work so well on screen?
Because we’ve had time to get to know each other. People often use the C word – and by that, I mean “chemistry”. But you don’t just sit in a room and instantly have chemistry – that’s not possible. You have to get to know each other. You need to get to know where the other person’s funny bone is and what annoys them. And that’s what we’ve done.
Is there a sense of competition between you and Matt?
Matt is very uncompetitive. But underneath that very, very relaxed exterior, he likes to be good at things and he’s good at most things. He’s got a coordination and a mechanical sympathy that really makes him a very good driver and a very good rider of motorcycles. Matt’s competition is often with himself as he tries to prove he can use the machine, whereas I want to do that, but I also want to beat the other person. He does like winning; he just doesn’t let it get in the way of having fun like I do sometimes!
Top Gear is always beautifully shot, isn’t it?
Absolutely. In this series, we have a race across the Wild West of America, and there are some stunning landscapes, there really are. I mean, some of the shots are just absolutely wonderful, and there’s some high speed there – over 200 miles an hour at one point.
Do you get a lot of people coming up to you wanting to chat?
It depends where you are. If I turn up to a North Somerset Agricultural Show, I can remain fairly anonymous. But if I’m in a more urban location in a car, then yes, I get a lot more people coming to talk to me. I have a few things on my side, though. Number one is that I spend an awful lot of time with Matt LeBlanc, and if I’m in a room with Matt LeBlanc, no one talks to me.
What’s the other thing working in your favour?
Number two is that I’m very short with bad posture and I often have facial hair. So if you see a short, bearded bloke looking at the ground, it’s probably me, but by the time you’ve spotted me, I’ve walked off. I’ve become an expert at that.
Finally, what is it that you love about cars so much?
I was just always fascinated by them as objects. I just loved the way they looked, I loved the way there were differentiated from each other, and I loved the way they went and sounded. I just thought they were fascinating and I find them much easier than human beings. They don’t answer back, and they provide me with a huge amount of joy.
Top Gear Series 25 premieres Monday morning, 26 February, express from the UK exclusively on BBC Brit, on BBC Player. BBC Player is available online at www.bbcplayer.com, and as an app that can be downloaded from Apple and Google Play stores.