Fifth Gear was everyone’s second favourite car show on TV. And that second favourite label seemed to be its undoing when FIVE decided last year to ditch the show after it failed to make any impact on the ratings against everyone’s favourite car show on TV – Top Gear.
But FIVE (channel five if we ditch the trendy CAPITALS) have had a change of heart, done a syndication deal or two for Fifth Gear and are putting together a new series (they’ve actually commissioned two of them) which should hit TV screens at the end of next month.
The plan is for a slimmed-down, test-focused format without a studio centrepiece and a clearer focus on getting down and dirty with cars rather than being an ‘Entertainment’ show that happens to feature cars. Which is of course the criticism levelled – often with justification – at Top Gear.
As well as cutting out the studio stuff, FIVE have also whittled down the ‘Talent’ and have dispensed with Tom Ford and Tim Shaw. Which leaves Vicki Butler-Henderson, Tiff Needell, Jason Plato and Jonny Smith – more than enough to go play on the road and track.
Familiar faces could help Fifth Gear establish itself in the new format, and the new format is the best way to go. The old Fifth Gear averaged audiences around 20% of those of Top Gear whilst trying to be Top Gear. Dumping any pretence at being an ‘Entertainment’ show and focusing on being a car testing TV magazine show is a sensible solution. Fifth Gear is never going to succeed by being Top Gear’s poor relation. Much better to plough its own furrow.
The first episode will air on FIVE at the end of April, and the Discovery Channel will be taking syndication rights for the new Fifth Gear for Europe – and probably further afield as well.