TG season 2 certainly prevailed over season 1. Some of the changes made for S2 prove that the team is indeed listening to the audience and critics. CHM seemed more comfortable in their roles, and thus were more entertaining. I look forward to S3.
Yes, the team is listening to the audience, but like petulant children it seams. The whole "Unscripted" episode comes to mind. Don't get me wrong. The overall cinematography is beyond fantastic. But some times it seams as though they stretch out the characters they want to prevail just to be that character.
We know James is Captain Slow, but even in the live shows he isn't the cartoon character they make him out to be. Richard, the American, is getting old. Even Jeremy has gotten to the point that I believe he is lampooning a caricature of what he thinks people think he actually is.
I still prefer the original 3 over even the Foust set or the LeBlanc set, but the LeBlanc set is gaining.
Talk about threads that don't age well. Series 3 has thoroughly railroaded anything Auntie Beeb has put out to cash-in on a once-lucrative brand name, and only contrarians obsessed with staying in the present would disagree.
I'm honestly amazed so many people thought the show would be immediately on-point from the get-go. Holy Trinity was great because of the hype, and also because it was a rewritten TG episode which had already been thoroughly planned out in advance. The only major changes were the length (which would have been limited to 60 minutes), the cinematography which rose to 4K, and the stipulation of Clarkson legally changing his name to Jennifer becoming the pair blowing up his house. They took what would have already been a very good episode and made it better in every conceivable factor.
The first problem was that the trio and the format itself had undergone severe seasonal rot after my personal 4-season peak of S11 - S14. By Series 21 the show had become a parody of itself. The opening "Tonight!" sequence had degraded into a joke that told you little about the episode in question, and the scripting was more prevalent than ever. In a world where bleeding-heart snowflakes like the OP (who liked the Mozambique Filler Episode, talk about hypocrisy) start city-wide riots if someone mentions a fact that disagrees with their feelings, Clarkson had started to tread around eggshells. Some conspiracy theorists even think Clarkson deliberately sabotaged the success of the last two seasons so that he could break free from the company.
The next problem were the demands foisted upon them by both the BBC and Amazon. It couldn't be exclusively a "car show", and wasn't referred to as such until this year, hence you got "Operation Desert Stumble" (which I actually liked, compared to some of the other episodes that aired in S1, though I do acknowledge it is a low point in the show's history). As Amazon were a global company, they enticed the trio to have some American influence, hence we got The American. They also couldn't have a celebrity segment, so they made a joke which went on for far too long, and cut out valuable time that could have been spent elsewhere.
Before the show had even started, I predicted it would take until S3 for them to really get going, much like Top Gear did. And lo and behold, my predictions came true. The only bad episode of the bunch is "Pick Up Put Downs", which was scraped from the cutting room floor and was filmed much earlier than the rest of that season's episodes. They've cut out celebrities entirely, replaced the test driver with a borderline fourth host who is not only female but homosexual, thus maddening the rags looking to accuse the show of some horrible thoughtcrime each week, lessened the silliness and have started to hide the scripting like it was in the good old days of New Top Gear. They also clearly have more creative control than they did in S1 and S2.
In closing, anyone describing the later TG series/early TGT series as a "fall" is being melodramatic, since at best it was a fatigue wherein the trio had done everything they could have done by the time S14 finished, yet stuck around for the next 5 and a half years anyway. Only this year are they really making up for lost time and are evolving it beyond our wildest imaginations.
I second Alex's post above. Having been out of the loop, what does CHM stands for? I assume the trio, but the C doesn't match up.
Third season was impossibly amazing from start to end. Maybe there was one or two episodes (the truck challenge one) that I didn't enjoy as much, but still but I never touch the fast forward button once the whole season. I nominate this season to be the best the trio had done. I'm going to missed the chats and the audience thing. Jeremy caught me by surprise how important it meant to him. Never though the was the teary one.
Since, the show is just going to be specials now, I think they should just move to a Just-In-Time release schedule instead of seasonal release. I don't mind a special every month or so. On the sideline perhaps they could do video podcasts. DriveTribe is there for a reason right? Perhaps they should have more video presence on there for chats and stuff. I remember Mays did a live stream there once. It was pretty cool.