In Brief

Has Top Gear returned to its former glory?

Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris head to Oman in what critics call 'one of the season's best' road trips

Chris Evans 'will not be replaced' after quitting as Top Gear host

4 July

Chris Evans has stepped down from Top Gear after just one season, following record low viewings for the show's final episode which was screened last night.

The presenter had signed a three-year deal with the BBC, but viewing figures for Top Gear have plummeted. Last week it was announced that the US version of the motoring show would be scrapped.

Evans tweeted this afternoon: "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."

The presenter said he would continue with his other commitments, including his BBC Radio 2 breakfast show and Children In Need.

In a statement, he said: "I have never worked with a more committed and driven team than the team I have worked with over the last twelve months.

"I feel like my standing aside is the single best thing I can now do to help the cause. I remain a huge fan of the show, always have been, always will be.

"I will continue to focus on my radio show and the allied events that it encompasses."

Radio Times says it "understands that no one will be brought in to replace Evans" and that, while "contracts aren't signed, we are expecting the rest of the presenting line-up including Matt LeBlanc and Sabine Schmitz to stay the same for the next series".

Evans took over as host after Jeremy Clarkson was fired for punching a colleague, but the new version of the show was not well received by critics and fans. The final episode of the first series, which aired last night, sank to record-low viewing levels.

"It must be all over for Chris Evans," tweeted The Sun's TV editor Andy Halls this morning. "Final episode of Top Gear gets an average of just 1.92m. Antiques Roadshow managed 3.86m..."

But some were sympathetic. Rebooting the hugely popular show was always going to be a tough ask, said the Radio Times.

"Change too much and people miss the old show," the magazine says. "Follow the Clarkson era completely and you get accused of being a second-rate copy. It was basically a no-win situation, so not tanking completely should be considered a success of sorts."

Chris Evans 'to be quizzed by police' over sex abuse claims

4 July

Chris Evans is to be questioned by police in connection with historic sexual assault allegations, it has been claimed.

The Top Gear and BBC Radio 2 presenter, who strongly denies the claims, will be quizzed by Metropolitan Police officers in the coming days, according to The Sun on Sunday.

The allegations come after a former female co-worker accused Evans of groping her, exposing his genitalia and bullying her in the 1990s. These allegations first emerged in May.

"She claimed her complaints were ignored and the ordeal left her traumatised," says the newspaper.

Evans has previously said the allegations amounted to a "witch hunt" and were "ridiculous". The BBC has stood by him, with a spokesperson saying on Sunday night that "Chris will be on the breakfast show tomorrow as normal."

BBC director-general Lord Hall of Birkenhead has also previously said there was "no truth" to rumours that Evans had been “unprofessional”.

Insiders have told The Times that "no one, including the police" had been in contact with the broadcaster about the allegations against the Top Gear host.

Evans has accused the press of being openly hostile towards him and, earlier this year, the BBC took "the unusual step" of accusing The Sun newspaper of printing "unfounded nonsense about Chris on a weekly, sometimes daily basis", The Guardian says.

Top Gear USA scrapped - bad news for Chris Evans?

1 July

It seems troubles are mounting for the Top Gear franchise after the announcement that its US version has been cancelled by the History channel.

Host Rutledge Wood posted the news on Facebook, saying: "I'm not saying Top Gear is done, but it's done for the immediate future on History".

BBC Worldwide North America confirmed the announcement, adding that it was not necessarily the end for the show. "We are fully committed to the hugely successful Top Gear brand - known all over the world - and have begun exploring new opportunities for the series in the US," it said.

The cancellation comes as the revamped UK Top Gear suffers from patchy ratings, lukewarm reviews and rumours of discontent among the hosts, Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc.

The Sun on Sunday reported rumours that LeBlanc has threatened to quit if Evans stays for the second season and quoted sources saying the former Friends star had grown "increasingly frustrated with his co-star's rudeness and frosty attitude towards the team".

The Daily Express added fuel to the fire, reporting that the BBC is advertising for a new producer to take control from Evans. It claims programmers have been forced to act to help save the motoring show amid falling viewing figures and quotes an unnamed source as saying: "Chris was in complete creative control for a long time and it hasn't worked."

Top Gear has struggled in the ratings since it returned to BBC Two at the end of May. Last Sunday's episode, however, bounced back with 2.7 million viewers tuning in.

Still, another article in the Daily Express claims many fans are less than impressed with Evans, with some starting a social media campaign for a "Chrexit" and calling for a Top Gear referendum.

Perhaps getting the right presenters is just as important as the format. Other overseas versions have failed, including an attempt in Australia in 2011. So what is it exactly that makes Top Gear work? Former presenter Jeremy Clarkson may have been controversial, but he was popular with viewers and many commentators wondered if the show would survive without him. 

But was he really the key to its success? 

Zoe Williams in The Guardian says the appeal of the old Top Gear was more about the "puckish, delinquent" chemistry between Clarkson and his co-presenters, Richard Hammond and James May.

"It was no longer really about cars, any more than a war movie is about guns – it wouldn't be fun without the guns, but it's really about comradeship," she writes.

But what really ignited Top Gear's popularity, adds Williams, was Hammond's near-death crash in 2006, which brought millions of extra viewers and turned the presenters into untouchable national treasures.

Meanwhile things appear to be going from bad to worse for Evans. According to The Sun, the presenter has been summoned for crisis talks with BBC head of entertainment Kate Phillips about his behaviour on set and the show's spluttering ratings.

"Chris has annoyed a lot of the crew with his behaviour and by being a control freak," a Top Gear source told the paper. "He's now going to be told there will be changes and if he doesn't like it then he should go."

The source added: "Kate's background at the BBC is taking Strictly [Come Dancing] to the US and she knows what makes shows successful around the world.

"Matt is more well-known and popular with audiences, so Chris will take a back seat like he did towards the end of the series.

"The other presenters will have a more prominent role and it will be seen as an ensemble rather than Chris and his team."

Phillips is now reportedly trying to secure LeBlanc for another season. The former Friends star has been one of the few popular aspects of the motoring programme's makeover.

Top Gear: Who will take over if Chris Evans or Matt LeBlanc leave?

28 June

One of the lesser-known members of the new Top Gear line-up could take the reins if either Matt LeBlanc or Chris Evans quits at the end of the season, the Daily Telegraph says.

According to a report in The Sun, former Friends star LeBlanc has vowed to leave unless the BBC drops Evans.

"Sources on the crisis-hit programme say Matt has grown increasingly frustrated with his co-star's rudeness and frosty attitude towards the team," the paper says.

The actor delivered "a crushing ultimatum by announcing he will have no part in any future series that features Chris", it adds.

If one or the other of the two leads does quit, new host Chris Harris is in "pole position" to step up, the Telegraph says.

"He knows what he's talking about, he presents it to laymen and experts (including this writer - can't you tell?) accessibly and entertainingly, and is a commanding screen presence throughout. Like fellow new presenters [Rory] Reid and [Sabine] Schmitz, he's also hugely popular with viewers."

While Harris may not yet have the star power to lead the show, something has to change given the show's poor viewing figures, the paper says.

Top Gear gained hundreds of thousands of viewers on Sunday night, reversing the trend for falling ratings, but was still beaten by the Great British Sewing Bee.

The show was watched by 2.68 million people, a 12.5 per cent share of the time-slot's audience. The figure represents an increase of 300,000 viewers on the previous week, when just 2.34 million people tuned in – Top Gear's smallest audience since it was reinvented by Jeremy Clarkson in 2002, The Guardian says.

Top Gear has "suffered a difficult reboot under Evans and his new team", the paper says, with reports of tensions not only between the show's lead presenters, Evans and Matt LeBlanc, but also between the host and members of the crew, leading to the departure of production executives.

Evans has insisted that overnight audience is less important than consolidated ratings, which take into account viewers who watch on iPlayer. However, in another blow for the show, Top Gear's consolidated audience fell to 3.22 million and was beaten by BBC2's Great British Sewing Bee.

Top Gear continues this Sunday on BBC2.

Top Gear: Is the BBC considering axing the show?

20 June

Bookmakers are offering revised odds on the prospect of Top Gear being axed after the latest episode received its lowest audience in ten years.Betway quotes newly-lowered odds of 5/4 for the BBC pulling the plug on the show once this series ends. It also offers 2/1 odds on the chances of co-host Matt LeBlanc returning, suggesting that his involvement in Top Gear may be "in the balance," the Daily Mirror says.

The show's audience has shrunk significantly since Jeremy Clarkson was dropped as host last year for punching a colleague in the face in a dispute over catering. The appointment of Chris Evans as his replacement has not been well received by fans and ratings have slid to a ten-year low.

Co-presenter Eddie Jordan has offered his support for the new host and says he believes the show will gradually become more popular under its current team than it was with Clarkson and co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond.

"Chris has done a brilliant job in difficult circumstances," Jordan said. "He has got to find something inside, like we used to urge our racing drivers. We used to want them to become more arrogant.

"That is what Chris needs to find - he has got to arrogantly believe this programme will be better, will be better run, will be more diverse and different... It will be a must-watch show."

Top Gear continues on Sunday on BBC Two at 8pm.

Top Gear: The real reason Matt LeBlanc took the BBC job

16 June

Matt LeBlanc has revealed the real reason he took up his new gig as host of Top Gear – he needed work.

Speaking to James Corden on The Late, Late Show, the actor said His comedy series Episodes was "coming to an end and I needed a job.

"So I said, 'Ok, why not?'" joked the presenter. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"96221","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]

LeBlanc also told the audience that US drivers were better than Brits.

"The roads here are so much wider and bigger, but in the UK and London the roads are so narrow because they were built for horses and carts," he said.

"So in the US, if you make a mistake and get a bit wide, you maybe hit a tree or some bushes. Over in the UK, you go offline? You hit a thousand-year-old church".

British star Corden appeared on Top Gear in 2008, as part of the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment. "I did not do well," he told LeBlanc.

"Come back and do it again," said the actor. "It's a new track and now it's a rally car."

LeBlanc has won praise for Top Gear, but it's been reported that he and co-host Chris Evans will be taking a diminished role in the rest of the series. Instead, motoring journalists Rory Reid and Chris Harris, who usually host the online spin-off show, Extra Gear, will be taking bigger roles, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Both men received good reviews for their presenting in the most recent episode of the main show. Reid, who won his slot on the show via a public audition, was shown testing the new Ford Focus RS, while Harris, who has a cult following on YouTube, featured in a film involving Ferrari’s F12 TDF.

Evans and Matt LeBlanc will continue to anchor the studio recording, the paper adds, but it is understood that pre-recorded material featuring the two lesser-known presenters will feature more prominently in the rest of the series.

Reid seemed to confirm this on Twitter in a conversation with a viewer.

Top Gear: Chris Evans will get another season, bookmakers say

14 June

Chris Evans's rebooted Top Gear may have slipped to a new ratings low on Sunday, but according to bookmakers, it is more than likely that the show will be renewed by the BBC.

Odds have shifted in favour of a second season, the Daily Mirror reports. It is now 1/2 that there will be another series and 6/4 that it will be cancelled.

"Top Gear punters have been won over and there could be a complete turnaround on the cards," Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes said.

"They are now banking on the new set-up lasting longer than one series."

Ratings continued their slide over the weekend, with the third episode attracting just 2.4 million viewers, a 10.4 per cent share of the overall viewing public. The first episode had been watched by 4.3 million viewers, while the second slipped to 2.8 million.

Despite the shrinking audience, the episode garnered much more positive reviews than the first two outings. 

"The inclusion of presenter Chris Evans being sick after being driven around at high speed by co-presenter Sabine Schmitz and Matt LeBlanc's high-speed tour of the capital appears to have won over those who watched the show," the Daily Telegraph said.

The response on Twitter was "generally more favourable," The Guardian said, but it was still not enough to "turn around its overnight ratings slide."

Top Gear continues on Sunday night on BBC2.

Chris Evans photographed drinking alone after huge Top Gear ratings drop

10 June

Following months of negative newspaper coverage followed by falling ratings for his new-look Top Gear, Chris Evans has been photographed sitting alone in the street drinking wine.

"The 50-year-old was pictured necking a glass of wine as he sat slumped against a wall near his London home," reports the Daily Mail, which has been responsible for some of the most hostile articles about the presenter's takeover of the show.

Apparently oblivious to the fact he was being photographed, Evans "took a call on his mobile phone before parking himself against the crumbling white wall of what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse just feet from overflowing rubbish bins."

The first episode of Top Gear achieved an average audience of 4.3 million viewers, just shy of Evans's ambition for the show, but the second episode saw its audience decline massively, with 2.8 million watching.

Evans has defended the statistics on Twitter and argued that viewing patterns have changed with the advent of on-demand television, which allows people to watch shows later rather than tuning in live.

Fans of the former Top Gear presenting line-up have been particularly vitriolic about the new host. This week, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond put out videos of themselves opening and folding boxes in a tie-up with logistics company DHL, which many fans declared were "better than the new Top Gear".

In an interview with Buzzfeed this week, Evans insisted that nothing was wrong with the revamped show and that its critics simply didn't understand television.

"I find it hilarious that people who have never made a show in their lives then presume what is wrong with the making of a television programme," he said. "Everyone is entitled to their opinions, of course they are… those people have a loudhailer and that's fine - and by the way, bring it on. That's what I expected."

He added that he has received plenty of positive feedback and "that enough people like it and love it, actually".

He also urged fans to be patient, The Independent says, as "a single hour slot every week means it takes time for audiences to get used to change within its structure".

"In the first week of a radio show changing, there's 15 hours of the new bloke," Evans said. "In a TV show, there's one show every seven days, so it takes a lot more getting used to."

Top Gear continues on BBC Two on Sunday at 8pm.

Top Gear: Could Chris Evans be replaced?

6 June

Another episode of Top Gear, another evening of stinging criticism.

Following complaints that he had shouted too much in the first episode, new host Chris Evans promised last night that he would get "even more shouty".

The move prompted some fans to call for the presenter to be sacked in favour of F1 racing driver Jenson Button, who made an appearance on the show putting a McLaren 675LT supercar through its paces.

Despite the enthusiasm for Button, some fans said it is unlikely the BBC would be able to afford him.

While Evans's hosting style has had a generally poor reception, Top Gear fans have begun to warm to fellow presenter Matt LeBlanc, the Daily Mail says, "with many taking to Twitter to praise his presenting style and comment on how likeable he was".

The Daily Telegraph suggests that rapper Tinie Tempah, who also appeared in last night's show, could be lined up as a possible co-host.

"Who would have thought that a Hollywood star and a Brixton rapper would have such a great rapport?" the paper says. "Maybe he's ready to swap professions and join Matt on the presenting team? The pair certainly seem to have more chemistry than Matt and Evans do at the moment."

Leaked audience data reveals the BBC received 370 complaints about the first episode of the new show, making it the "worst programme on terrestrial television" in its opening weekend.

The data showed the programme had an appreciation index of 60, which is considered poor given that the average rating for BBC Two programmes over the same weekend was 82.

So far, the BBC has stuck by the show's new host, with a spokesperson saying the first episode had good ratings when iPlayer views were taken into account.

"Chris and Matt kicked off in style and viewing figures have been growing steadily since broadcast," the spokesperson said.

Top Gear continues on BBC Two on Sunday.

 

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