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Blog: Why I don't like Top Gear

Motoring writer Maria McCarthy should like Top Gear - but doesn't. Is her lack of interest down to her gender? A male writer also shares his views.

Top Gear logo and presenters

When I tell people I'm a motoring journalist, they instantly assume they know what my favourite TV show must be. "Oh, I bet you love Top Gear," they say.

And then I have to admit to not loving it. Or liking it even.

I've certainly tried to like it: after all, it represents an opportunity to combine "watching telly" with being able to tell myself, "I'm working because actually, this counts as research."

But it's still a no.

Why I don't like Top Gear

My driving life, and my journalism is all about everyday motoring - how to get the best deal on car insurance, for example, and keep fuel costs down.

So I find it hard to get interested in items on unaffordable supercars, and the various pranks and challenges engaged in by the laddish presenters Clarkson, Hammond and May.

Is it because I'm not the target audience?

Top Gear producer Andy Wilman recently said: "Top Gear is just an hour of escapism fronted by three badly dressed middle-aged men".

Top Gear for 'people with mental age of nine'

He added that most of the show "is aimed at people with a mental age of nine".

Well, I'm a woman and my mental age is considerably older than nine, but I know lots of women both older and younger than me who enjoy the programme.

However Top Gear certainly doesn't need me to boost its viewing figures.

It's a hugely popular programme worldwide, having aired in 170 different countries. And when the show returned for its 21st series it netted more than 5 million viewers.

I don't think that Top Gear should be changed - it's very successful on its own terms.

BBC Four's A303: Highway to the Sun

But I'd like to see motoring shows with reviews of cars I might actually buy, Supernanny giving advice on how to get kids to behave in the car, and fun items on scenic drives.

StonehengeThe motoring programme I enjoyed the most in recent years was BBC Four's A303: Highway to the Sun.

It was a documentary about the road that passes Stonehenge, pictured right, and through Dorset and Devon.

It featured writer Tom Fort driving the 92-mile length of the A303 in a Morris Traveller.

It was full of fascinating information about the route and its history and there wasn't a laddish joke or anyone driving ridiculously fast around a test circuit to be seen. Bliss.

Tim Barnes-Clay,'s car reviewer, says it's not just women who tune out when Top Gear comes on…

They say you should never meet your heroes and in my case it's true. In the late 1980s/early 1990s I loved Top Gear and was a huge fan of Jeremy Clarkson.

But then our paths crossed in 1996 when I was working in TV and filmed him at the Car Show in Birmingham.

He was being his usual controversial self and, though it was tongue-in-cheek, I felt he was deliberately playing a character and that he wasn't as passionate about cars as I'd thought.

'My four-year-old son loves Top Gear'

I stopped watching around that time and I've only got back into it because my four-year-old son is a huge fan.

We watch old episodes together and he loves the fast cars and the loud screeching noises.

But I find the modern show a bit too scripted and contrived - it's like it's become a parody of itself.

What do you think?

Are you a fan of Top Gear? What sort of motoring programmes would you like to watch?

We want to hear from you! You can share your views on the message board below.

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Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

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