Monday 8th February 2016
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Chris Evans Top Gear

Will the new Top Gear show work with Chris Evans at the helm?  Signs are looking ominous at the moment.   Evans personally brought in Lisa Clark as Executive Producer as he’s worked with her before but she’s left after only a few months.  The reason for her departure was given as leaving to “pursue new projects” – a fairly open and bland phrase.   Apparently, Clark’s replacement – a BBC preference – has been vetoed by Evans.  Which makes me wonder if the BBC had something to do with her leaving.

Rumours recently abounded on the internet that Evans was being sick while driving cars for filming for the new series. The Daily Mirror published photos of Evans as the passenger in an Audi R8 V10 with co-star Sabine Schmitz driving.  The car came to an abrupt stop and Evans got out and was seen hunched over and appeared to be retching. According to several newspapers a source is claimed to have said: “It would be unfair to expect him to be perfect right from the word ‘go’. But how can someone who gets car sick possibly host Top Gear?”  Nothing like solidarity is there, right?

This latest report came hot on the heels of another media report which said that Evans was struggling to drive and talk to the camera at the same time and was regularly fluffing his lines. On that occasion a source (the same one?) was reported as saying: “Chris is really struggling to master the art of driving and talking to camera, which is crucial.  It’s a skill. Jeremy [Clarkson], Richard [Hammond] and James [May] could do it no problem, in one or two takes.”

A spokesman for the show responded: “This is all gossip and speculation and we don’t comment on such nonsense.”  Is someone trying to undermine Evans on purpose and is this ‘source’  a fly in the ointment trying to pull the rug out from under the new Top Gear show?  If so, why?  Surely, Clarkson and co took all their loyal minions with them when they left?  Or is there some truth to the rumours?

What are Evans credentials to front a motoring show?  First off, he has a wealth of experience and success as main presenter on hit shows TFI, Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush and the Big Breakfast. Tick one off the list of Top Gear presenter requirements.  The other main requirement is to have a passion and deep knowledge of cars.  Evans would appear to qualify on this front as he is a well known petrolhead, his garage has housed several Ferraris, including a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder, a Hesketh 308 F1 car and a VW Beetle.  He certainly has a passion for cars although his actual knowledge of motoring isn’t widely reported.  Also, on the plus side he is a very popular TV presenter.

Could the problem actually be a case of bad nerves? Love him or loathe him Clarkson is certainly a hard act to hard to follow.  Also, the chemistry between Clarkson, May and Hammond was genius and their escapades created good TV.  Who can forget their crazy time in Alabama when they each drove vehicles with offensive slogans on and were abused by the local rednecks?  Half the fun with these three is their mickey taking out of each other and their obvious affection for each other is admirable.  Can Evans, Schmitz and their co-host little known motoring journalist Chris Harris recreate a chemistry of their own that appeals to viewers?  Schmitz is a well respected German professional motoring racing driver for  BMW and Porsche.  She famously gave Clarkson a run for his money racing him around the infamous  Nürburgring race track.  Schmitz certainly has motoring credibility and has done a lot of motoring shows in her native country.  Harris has been a racing driver as well as a motoring journalist so he also has some good credibility.  Back in 2014 he struck a controversial note when he wrote an article called “Lamborghinis are the perfect cars for people who can’t drive” resulting in him being banned by Lamborghini from reviewing their cars.   His response on Twitter was unrepentant!  His views are pretty forthright; for instance he doesn’t like the Detroit Motor Show and thinks the Audi SQ5 looks good but he “might be ill in the head”.  He might just be the juicy spark that will replace the blunt and brutal Clarkson.

Although the pressure is on Evans to be the star Harris could eclipse him.  The critical question is whether or not these three can create a chemistry that will rival Clarkson, May and the Hamster, especially when their show goes out and comparisons can be made.  Evans’ nerves seem to be evident in his recent comments that he felt like a “lone warrior” when key staff in the Top Gear office departed.  He also said that the office felt like “Armageddon” and he’s reported to have said : “I can only give them the best show that I can produce about cars.”

Now, in the last few days Friends actor and petrolhead Matt Le Blanc and founder and owner of Jordan Grand Prix Eddie Jordan have been announced as presenters on Top Gear as well.  Five presenters sounds a bit much but perhaps Schmitz and Harris will be relegated to doing regular small segments while their starrier co-presenters hog the limelight more.  Clarkson’s shoes will be very big to  fill but are FIVE presenters necessary? Sounds like one of two things could be happening.  There is a whole new vision which enables good use of five presenters.  Or, the BBC is desperate and throwing everything (including the kitchen sink) at the new programme.

Only a few weeks are left and the show is meant to be back on screen on 8th May.   I guess we will have to wait and see if Evans, Schmitz, Jordan and Le Blanc, Jordan and Harris can pull it off.  I hope they don’t try to mimic Clarkson and his gang but create their own chemistry and make the show their own.  Let’s just hope the media give Evans a chance.