The first season of the revamped Top Gear has come to a close on the BBC in the U.K., and it’s safe to say it was not the success that many had hoped. Following the public dismissal of former host Jeremy Clarkson, and the departure of his co-hosts, Richard Hammond James May, the BBC appointed popular Radio 2 host and TV presenter, Chris Evans, to host the show alongside former Friends star, Matt LeBlanc. The team was further expanded with the addition of racing driver Sabine Schmitz, YouTube star Chris Harris, F1 pundit Eddie Jordan and motoring journalist Rory Reid, though they do not all appear in each episode.
Though the efforts of the BBC to relaunch Top Gear as an almost brand-new show was admirable, the resulting show was not what viewers or critics wanted to see. Viewing figures have been well down, even against the lowest figures pulled in by Clarkson and co in previous seasons. While 6.42 million watched the first show of the new season, this has since trailed off to a dismal 2.4 million regular viewers in the U.K.. It’s fair to say the show has improved over the course of its run, with the presenters (particularly LeBlanc) really finding their stride. However, that hasn’t stopped Evans from quitting after just one season.
Announcing his decision via Twitter, Evans said he had given the show his best shot but that ultimately it wasn’t enough. The presenter added that it was time for him to concentrate on other existing projects, such as his radio and charity work.
Stepping down from Top Gear. Gave it my best shot but sometimes that's not enough. The team are beyond brilliant, I wish them all the best.— Chris Evans (@achrisevans) July 4, 2016
Full steam ahead then with Radio 2, CarFest, Children In Need, 500 Words and whatever else we can dream up in the future.— Chris Evans (@achrisevans) July 4, 2016
For Evans, the decision to leave will have been a tough call. A self-confessed petrol head, Evans was always a fan of the show and appeared in previous seasons in the ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ segment of the show. He made no secret of his excitement at being appointed host – but though nothing has been confirmed, it seems as though his quitting could be as a result of Le Blanc’s threats to leave unless he did first.
The BBC clearly have confidence in LeBlanc’s abilities, since they signed him to host two further seasons of the show. Following reports that suggested he and Evans did not get along, it was rumored that LeBlanc gave the BBC an ultimatum, saying he would quit if Evans wasn’t told to leave. While Evans has oftentimes irritated viewers, and has failed to win over the sizable American audience, LeBlanc has ingratiated himself with the Brits by showcasing a dry wit and humor and of course, his nationality has helped him with the BBC America audience, too. Out of the two, LeBlanc has consistently proven himself to be the stronger, more competent and more knowledgeable host, despite not having anywhere near the amount of experience Evans has as a presenter.
The BBC has not yet confirmed who will be returning for the second season of the show, but it seems likely that another co-host will be drafted in to replace Evans, while LeBlanc will remain. In a statement issued to the BBC, Evans reiterated his Twitter post, and added that he will continue to support the show.
“I have never worked with a more committed and driven team than the team I have worked with over the last 12 months. I remain a huge fan of the show, always have been, always will be.”
Last night’s season finale hit a new ratings low, with an average of just 1.9 million viewers, and BBC Studios Director, Mark Linsey, hinted at the figures in his statement, when he talked about turning Top Gear into a hit:
“Chris is stepping down from his duties on Top Gear. He says he gave it his best shot doing everything he could to make the show a success. He firmly believes that the right people remain, on both the production team and presenting team, to take the show forward and make it the hit we want it to be.”
It remains to be seen whether LeBlanc, or any future presenting team, can manage to turn Top Gear around for the BBC and return it to being one of the jewels in its crown. With Clarkson, Hammond and May launching their own motoring show on Amazon Prime, it could well be that the Top Gear audience of old decide to follow them.
There is no word yet on when the new season of Top Gear will air, or whom its presenters will be. Will will keep you updated.