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

Top Gear: Spin-off 'Extra Gear' show set for BBC Three

27 April

The BBC is pulling out all the stops ahead of new-look Top Gear's debut next month, with a spin-off show all set to accompany the reboot.

Extra Gear, hosted by relatively unknown presenter Rory Reid, will feature behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, unused films and content created especially for the show. It will be broadcast on digital channel BBC Three straight after the BBC Two show finishes.

"The Top Gear fans are some of the keenest in the world and with this show I’m giving them a chance to really get a peek behind the curtain, said Reid.

"I'm looking forward to showing them how the show is made and what goes on behind the scenes, giving viewers a different perspective on some of the coolest cars on the planet."

The half-hour show will be filmed straight after Top Gear presenters Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc have wrapped up shooting for the week, so it should still be studio-based and presented in a similar format.

Fans may be waiting a little longer for Top Gear to arrive, though, as another alteration to the premiere date has been mooted. The Daily Telegraph reports the show is likely to be delayed until 29 May to avoid clashing with the live semi-finals of ITV's Britain's Got Talent.

"Many in the television industry believe that the BBC is unlikely to risk putting up one of its flagship shows against the ITV juggernaut," says the paper.

Top Gear: Chris Evans 'behaving worse than Jeremy Clarkson'

26 April

Chris Evans is "out of control" and more volatile than Jeremy Clarkson, according to reports.

The new Top Gear host, who replaced Clarkson after he was dropped for punching a colleague in the face, has reportedly been finding it difficult to juggle the role with his breakfast radio commitments.

He even reduced one staff member to tears, according to an "insider" who spoke to The Sun.

"He's behaving far worse than Clarkson ever did — which is the opposite of what the Top Gear change was meant to create," the source said. "The Radio 2 show is the country's most popular, but Chris is turning up exhausted and miserable and his staff have noticed a huge difference."

The BBC has denied that the pressure is getting to Evans. Last night, director of studios Mark Linsey and Radio 2 boss Bob Shennan issued a statement in support of the beleaguered host.

"Since taking on Top Gear alongside his Radio 2 breakfast show, Chris has displayed even greater commitment and professionalism," the statement said.

The reports come after "a number of breakdowns and an embarrassing gaffe in which it was revealed that a Morris Minor Chris Evans was seen driving had not been properly taxed," the Daily Mail says.

The team is under added pressure from Top Gear's former stars, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, who are working on a show of their own that is set to launch some time in autumn.

Evans's rebooted Top Gear will begin broadcasting on 22 May.

Top Gear: Matt LeBlanc struggles to get into car in new trailer

25 April

Top Gear host Matt LeBlanc struggled to get into an off-road car in a new trailer for the BBC's revamped motoring show, which begins broadcasting in less than a month.

The former Friends star is taking an Ariel Nomad for a spin in Morocco, but appears to have some trouble getting into the car, at one point ending up with his leg sticking out of the side.

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"A door would be nice," he says, when finally in the driving seat.

LeBlanc is then seen racing around the Moroccan desert – with a motorcyclist jumping over the car in one impressive slow-motion sequence. "This is too fun," says the presenter.

He ends the 40-second clip covered in dirt, pronouncing: "It's fairly dusty".

LeBlanc joined Chris Evans for Top Gear after former presenter Jeremy Clarkson was dropped by the BBC after punching a production worker in the face.

However, the revamped car show has been dogged by difficulties, including staff quitting, widespread criticism of a stunt near the Cenotaph in London and rumours that the two lead hosts do not get along.

Top Gear's first trailer received more than 70,000 thumbs downs on YouTube and only 15,000 thumbs ups.

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The new teaser has seen an equally mixed reaction, with more negative reactions than positive.

Top Gear begins broadcasting on 22 May.

Top Gear: Evans will not be as successful as Clarkson

21 April

Former Top Gear presenter Tiff Needell says that the revamped motoring programme will not be as successful as it was under Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

Needell made the comments during a panel session at Advertising Week Europe yesterday, telling the audience that the new show "won't sustain the same audience as the old Top Gear."

The British racing driver and television presenter said that Top Gear would lose its audience due to its new hosts being too "bubbly".

"It will be like [BBC's] The One Show on wheels," Needell said. "All bubbly jubbly… they won't get the same numbers."

The genius of the "three egos" was that they had very broad appeal, he added.

"The whole thing the three egos did was manage to get the family watching," he said. "It was for the family, kids loved it, they appealed to everyone."

Needell, who co-presented Top Gear from 1987 until 2001, said that the show would struggle to get figures of 6 million viewers or more, as it regularly did when Clarkson was in charge.

The creative chemistry between Clarkson, Hammond and May is often credited as being the reason for the show's enormous success. At its peak, Top Gear was the most watched factual program in the world, with a global audience of around 350 million people a year.

The revamped show is scheduled to be broadcast on 22 May.

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