Top Gear Australia has been yanked off the airwaves after just three episodes of its latest series had been aired, all but confirming speculation that the show is set for the scrapheap.
The Nine Network confirmed the news today, finally seeming to admit that its two-year project to create a local iteration of the classic BBC hit has been a failure.
Having originally attracted around 1.5 million viewers domestically for its first season on the network since the franchise was bought from SBS, the show has suffered a steady decline in viewership, losing roughly two-thirds of its audience base despite the latest series attracting positive reviews from TV critics.
The show’s co-host Steve Pizzati – the only original host left in the franchise – confirmed the news via his Twitter feed.
“It’s true – as of next week, TGA will be on at the special time of not at all,” he wrote. “Sorry to the open-minded people that gave it a go and enjoyed!
“We’re told the last three episodes will make an appearance in the summer. Or try Blockbuster Video in the BetaMax section,” he quipped.
Top Gear Australia has had a rough gestation since it began on SBS (which had broadcast the UK version of the show with a huge audience for some years) in 2008 with hosts Pizzati, Charlie Cox and Warren Brown.
Manufacturers complained about cars being damaged during tests and critics slammed the show for not being distinct enough from its parent UK show, but it attracted a solid audience base.
A second season was produced, with Cox being replaced in favour of musician and car junkie James Morrison.
But Nine effectively threw a blank chequebook at the BBC to buy the rights to the UK and Australian versions of the show in 2010, setting itself the task of producing Top Gear Australia once more.
Its first move was to dump Morrison and Brown from their hosting slots, bringing in comedian/actor Shane Jacobson and motoring journalist Ewen Page – the show’s third combination of hosts in as many years.
Almost immediately, audience ratings for the UK and Australian versions suffered, as Nine rammed in the adverts, changed schedules at will, and showed most of both series’ episodes completely out of sequence. The demise of the Australian version – despite the generally solid production and enthusiasm of the hosts – is sadly not unexpected for a network that has a reputation for squeezing the life out of its shows.
Even Nine seemed to be showing some doubts. It failed to broadcast the final episode of last year’s series (perhaps our attending the taping had something to do with it!), and it only commissioned four episodes of this new season. With three already aired – each in a different timeslot, hardly an act that builds viewer loyalty – it’s not known the final episode will be broadcast, if at all.
A spokesperson for the network refused to confirm if the show would continue next year
[Image via Fairfax Media]