Top Gear (BBC One, 8pm)

Sarah Morgan

What do Peaky Blinders, Have I Got News For You, Line of Duty and Top Gear have in common?

You might think very little, but all of them were broadcast on BBC Two before moving to its more illustrious sister channel, BBC One.

“The time is right to move the world’s best motor show to the nation’s most popular channel and bring it to an even broader audience on BBC One,” says Charlotte Moore, director of BBC content.

“Freddie, Paddy and Chris have revitalised the hit series with their escapades and banter; and we couldn’t have asked for a better response to their series so far and the impact it’s had with young audiences.”

Recent figures suggest it’s among the top four shows on British TV for those aged between 16 and 34; its previous run attracted an average of 3.8 million viewers.

“Revitalising Top Gear was one of my biggest priorities when I took over BBC Two and seeing Paddy, Fred and Chris make the show their own has been an utter joy,” explains Patrick Holland, the channel’s controller. “From Peaky Blinders to Line Of Duty and now Top Gear, BBC Two is a place where unique shows can evolve and thrive before moving to even broader audiences on BBC One, it’s a vital part of the BBC portfolio.”

Ralph Lee, director of content at BBC Studios Production, adds: “This is a huge compliment to the entire team behind Top Gear who continually deliver some of the most jaw-dropping TV in the world. Paddy, Freddie and Chris’s effortless chemistry and humour has struck a chord with audiences of every age and taken the show somewhere special - so I suspect things will get bigger, better, and crazier when we arrive on BBC One.”

Unfortunately, filming of the new run was somewhat curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic. Shooting had already begun when the world went into lockdown, forcing hosts Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris to change their plans. Although some of the show’s trademark stunts had already been filmed overseas, the rest had to be redesigned and carried out in the UK; one segment to look forward to involves the trio chasing around a disused Alton Towers.

“I’ve always dreamed of having a theme park to myself for the day although these aren’t necessarily the circumstances I’d have chosen,” laughs McGuinness. “Mustn’t grumble though, it’s great to get the gang back together after lockdown and we’re raring to go - two-metres apart at all times of course!”

The opening episode sees Flintoff and Harris join McGuinness in his home town of Bolton, where they spend 24 hours testing three new company cars - without ever getting out of them. Why is anybody’s guess, but it’s an amusing diversion nevertheless.

Harris is also off on his travels - in one of the series’ rare foreign forays, he puts the Ferrari SF90 supercar through its paces in Italy.