British television lacks car shows. Top Gear is massively successful, is sold worldwide by the BBC, and has spawned a live show, a profitable sideline in DVDs and merchandise and a magazine. But Top Gear is less and less about cars and more about the personalities. There is no mainstream car show on terrestrial TV, and I reckon there's space for one.
The only true car shows on UK TV are now on Discovery. Fifth Gear fell off Five's radar and onto Discovery, partially due to divisive presenters (although I like them all) and a format that has changed over the years but that's never really hit on the magic formula.
Wheeler Dealers is successful in its own right but will always be an enthusiast's show. Same for the myriad US imports such as Fast n'Loud. All of the above are on Discovery, none will break through to a mainstream channel and none are consumer shows.
Car sales are on the up, car culture has never been so popular and, with social media, car enthusiasts talk to each other more than they ever have.
Television serves up a never ending diet of soap operas, reality shows, panel shows and talent competitions because all are cheap, people watch them and advertisers like them. New drama and programmes like Top Gear are expensive but a new car TV show can be cheap to make, populist and fill the schedule of a commercial channel with shiny new product which would attract new and more advertisers to the commercial breaks.
How I would make a new car show for TV
For me the best consumer programme on TV is The Gadget Show. It's popular, has a feel-good format, presenters who gel, is relatively cheap and has mainstream appeal but a narrow focus. I'd copy a lot of what the Gadget Show does.
Therefore my new car show would be called simply The Car Show. It would feature four presenters who'd inhabit a small studio, all sitting on a pair of sofas, with bright colours and with large screens behind them.
The presenters would consist of new and established talent devoid of ego and chock full of professionalism and enthusiasm. All would need to be car people. The anchor would be someone interested in cars and an experienced journalist.
Alongside the anchor would be a new face (maybe drawn from the new pool of motoring bloggers), one race driver (Paul O'Neill would be good) and I'd poach Jonny Smith from Fifth Gear. Jonny has a unique blend of being able to present to a wide audience as well as being a total petrol-head.
As a minimum one of the presenters would have to be female. An all-male programme would be too blokey and restrictive for the audience.
The studio would start and end the show and anchor all features. What those features are would need to be carefully selected as they'd make or break the programme. They would need to consist of challenges, car reviews, car tech reviews and other items. Some could be regular and some could be one-off. Here are some suggestions.
New car review - each week a new car would be reviewed by at least two of the team, on road and track. These cars could easily be sourced by any of the team, producers or even me.
Tech review - focus on new car tech and its practicality. For example testing out manufacturer satnavs against each other as well as aftermarket products, such as TomToms or Garmins.
Group tests - several cars against each other at somewhere like Millbrook.
Fun stuff - drifting at Mercedes Benz World, skid plates at the Porsche Experience Centre etc
Challenges - economy challenges (two cars with two presenters each choose a car from a class driving from A to B using the least fuel possible),
Guest slots - Honest John answering consumer queries, PopBangColour live painting in the studio etc
The green car section - looking at the world of hybrids and innovative and new drivetrains
Icons - each week a classic automotive icon would be featured with a test drive by one or more of the team.
How to feature - How to negotiate the best deal on a new car, how to buy a used car, how to get the best mileage from your car, how to service your car, how to deal with a skid etc
I'm sure you could come up with more ideas.
And to top it off the show would need another feature I'd take from The Gadget Show - a huge competition. That programme gives away £30k worth of tech each week, which it pays for by premium rate phone lines. Ten minutes of the programme is dedicated to the competition. We could do the same for The Car Show.
That's my idea for a new car show. Our TV schedules are crying out for a new motoring programme. There are plenty of places for a new show but the best would be ITV4, E4 or Channel Five.
If you think my ideas are good, bad or indifferent then leave a comment below, share this to forums and social media; get people talking about it and then maybe the networks will listen.
By Matt Hubbard