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Top Gear just won't be the same without all my madcap men behaving badly

By Fionola Meredith

Published 18/06/2015

Star attraction: Jeremy Clarkson
Star attraction: Jeremy Clarkson

Top Gear is my guilty pleasure. It's idiotic, laddish, puerile - and I love it.

So does my teenage daughter, and there's nothing we like better than kicking back on the sofa for an hour of mindless fun.

I know we're not alone in this: Top Gear may be seen as a men's programme, but there are plenty of women who enjoy it too, perhaps for slightly different reasons.

We're less likely to be salivating over the supermodels, sorry, supercars, for a start. But there's just something intrinsically hilarious about seeing three middle-aged blokes careering around in fast cars, setting fire to caravans and squabbling pointlessly among themselves.

I can honestly say that the Friday night I spent watching the recent Clarkson, Hammond and May show at the Odyssey in Belfast - hastily renamed, of course, after Clarkson's "fracas" with his producer led to the end of his career at Top Gear - made me feel intensely and irrationally happy.

The car football, the handbrake turns, the flaming Porches: it was all so gloriously, deliriously stupid. Forget theatre and cinema and well-written fiction. Sometimes you just need to give your brain a rest, and these guys were the men for the job.

So I approach the news that Chris Evans is to be the new host of Top Gear with some trepidation. I know Evans is a car expert, but I don't really care about the cars. It's the cheerful idiocy that I want. And Evans is a man who often appears a little bit too pleased with himself.

He has a cheeky-chappie vibe that disturbs me. For all that Clarkson, and to a lesser extent his two wing-men, Hammond and May, could be loud-mouthed, crass and bombastic, they were also endearingly self-deprecating at times.

Yes, really. "We're old, and I'm fat, and we're all unemployed," said Clarkson ruefully at the Odyssey. It was actually a finely-balanced dynamic, and one that will be incredibly difficult for the BBC to recreate.

Who knows who Evans will bring in as his own sidekicks, but it's rumoured that a woman will be one of the team. Please no!

I want to see men behaving badly in time-honoured ways and taking the mickey out of each other mercilessly. I want stupid stunts and silly arguments. I want macho revving and camaraderie and man love.

It just wouldn't be the same with a lass among the lads.

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