A Top Gear Community
Sunday 8:00 PM on BBC Two
Normally people talk about a 4 episode test for new shows - but I feel the truncated length of Top Gear series, ( usually 8 episodes ), means making you're mind up quickly could be important.

When Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May left Top Gear, there were campaigns, petitions and protests to get them back.

But that didn't happen.

Instead, the trio, ( along with long term Top Gear producer Andy Wilman ), are headed to Amazon with The Grand Tour


THE NEW PRESENTERS

The BBC had decided to go ahead with Top Gear with some new presenters - naming Chris Evans as the first one.

His appointment was met with a mixed reaction.

If you're not from the UK, you may be unfamiliar with Evans, but during the 90's he was very popular for few years - breaking out on breakfast TV with The Big Breakfast, moving on to even bigger popularity with quiz shows, chat shows and radio work ( at one point he was the most listened to DJ in the UK ).
His production company was hugely successful - when he sold it in 2000, its estimated that he earned around £35m from the sale

But he self imploded.

Complaints about his behavior began leaking to the press.
Apparently success was going to his head.

He was getting more attention for his partying, and the ego he was displaying, than for the quality of shows.

The public began to switch channels, and his career stalled for a few years.

After some time out of the limelight, he went back to radio - building up a decent audience on Radio2, - before popping up on various TV shows as a guest.

One of which was Top Gear.

He's been the star in a reasonably priced car a few times, revealing himself as a serious car collector - particularly Ferrari's.

He seemed like a petrol head.

So when it was announced that he was going to be presenting Top Gear, it seemed like a reasonable choice.

When the BBC announced Matt LeBlanc as another presenter, and reactions seemed to be more pleasantly mixed.

LeBlanc had been one of the worlds biggest TV stars, the faded away for a while, before getting a career resurgence by playing a twisted version of himself on Episodes
But like Evans, LeBlanc was the "Star in a reasonably priced car" - and recorded the fastest ever lap time :



He was also a self confessed petrol head.

But some people raised concerns about his lack of presenting experience, and the fact that he was American might change the tone of the show.

Additionally there would be some guest presenters - Eddie Jordan and Sabine Schmitz have appeared in the first 2 episodes.


SO WHATS THE "NEW" TOP GEAR LIKE?

Wellll......its not awful.

But it has a big problem.....and that's Chris Evans.

Before the first episode even aired, trouble was brewing, with stories about Evans making headlines

( There are a few more articles but you get the idea. )

Then May 29th arrived, and I checked it out for myself.

And I was left with concerns.

Evans is painful to watch - and listen to - when he is doing links to various segments.

It took a couple of minutes for me to figure it out - the complaints about his being shouty are valid, but that wasn't it.

Eventually it struck me - his "enthusiasm" just seemed fake.
I initially brushed it aside as nerves on his part.

But he didn't improve as the episode progressed.

His chemistry with LeBlanc - and the live audience - is very mechanical, as was his delivery of the technical specs during a review. There was no enthusiasm, or engagement with the script.

Then the "star in a reasonably priced car" section came up - and it turned into a low point of the episode for me.

This season they've decided to change the format of the section - with 2 guests and adding an off road section to the lap.

But that wasn't the problem.

They still talk about cars before the race - and this was the highlight of the episode for Evans, he seemed a lot more comfortable just having a chat with his guests about their automotive history.

Then the lap started, and it went to shit.

Evans commentary during the lap made me feel like my ears were bleeding.
He talks WAY too much, about stuff he seemingly knows little about - and does it in a very smug manner.

Like I said earlier....Evans is painful to watch, and listen to.

The episode long segment involving Robin Reliants was very stilted - again highlighting the co-hosts lack of chemistry - and not particularly funny.

Evans segment with Sabine Schmitz was equally bland.

But there was a bright side - and that was Matt LeBlanc.

And concerns about LeBlanc's inexperience presenting faded away very quickly.

He seemed very at ease doing the links, but more than that - he seemed to know what he was talking about.
Clarkson, Hammond and May had the same quality - they seemed to know what they were talking about.

When LeBlanc had his own segment about an off road vehicle, his confidence when talking about technical specs, manufacturing history and how the car actually handled was a stark contrast to Evans.

Matt LeBlanc seems knowledgeable able cars, while Chris Evans does not.

In the Robin Reliant segment, LeBlanc was at ease griping to the camera, while Evans had a smile plastered on his face most of the time - and that, to me, just highlighted the differences between them.

Evans seems like he is in "presenter" mode for most of the show, but LeBlanc comes across as real person.

IS THE 2ND EPISODE ANY BETTER?

Yeah....but that wouldn't be difficult.

Evans seemed less nervous, but still had problems.

The first segment was uneven.
Evans is test driving a McLaren, and when he is caught up in the moment of speeding around a disused airfield he is fine - but once again, when he starts talking technical he becomes stilted.
Jenson Button joins him in the McLaren, and the segment becomes interesting again - mainly because Evans is terrified while Button lets loose with the car.

The South African episode long challenge segments - which included Eddie Jordan, three singers and took up the majority of the episode - were a lot better than the Robin Reliant ones in the first episode, and the overall vibe during the challenge segments seemed a lot less forced.

The "star in a reasonably priced car" segment followed the same formula as the first episode - Evans is fine when interviewing, but awful on commentary.


OVERALL:

I know its only 2 episodes in, but I'll be sticking with it for this series at least because it has shown improvement.
They may need to add a third host to take some of the pressure away from Evans.

But most importantly, the BBC need LeBlanc to stay - I know he has a new sitcom coming up, but right now Top Gear really needs him!
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