Matt LeBlanc is going to front the next season of Top Gear when it returns in 2017, the BBC has confirmed.
The former Friends star has signed a two-series deal with the BBC, and will replace Chris Evans as the show’s lead host. Speaking at the announcement, Patrick Holland, Channel Editor for BBC Two, said: “I am thrilled that Matt LeBlanc is returning to Top Gear. He’s a huge talent whose love of cards is infectious. I can’t wait for the series to return to BBC Two next year.”
LeBlanc joined Top Gear for series 23, after the show was rebooted following the sacking of former presenter Jeremy Clarkson. He co-hosted the show alongside radio DJ Chris Evans, who announced he wouldn’t be returning for another season due to negative critical reception. But LeBlanc, along with co-hosts Chris Harris and Rory Reid, was well-received.
“Matt was hugely popular with Top Gear viewers last series with his humour, warmth, and obvious passion for cars and for the show, so I couldn’t be more delighted that he’s agreed to come back and do more for us,” said Mark Linsey, Director of BBC Studios.
The BBC also confirmed that Harris and Reid would return as co-hosts for the next series, along with “regular appearances from Eddie Jordan, Sabine Schmitz, and The Stig”. But Evans won’t be appearing.
The rebooted series was mired in controversy after Top Gear fans struggled to adapt to Evans as a new presenter. At the time of his departure back in July, he posted the following to Twitter: “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.”
In a statement, Evans added:
“I have never worked with a more committed and driven team than the team I have worked with over the last 12 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.”
Evans had originally signed a three-year deal to present the BBC show following the reboot, but ratings slumped after Clarkson’s deptarture, with most of the audience’s ire directed at the DJ-cum-presenter.
Before the new series launched, Evans had told the Guardian that he would be “disappointed” if the show had fewer than 5 million viewers, but the first episode of the series was viewed by just 4.3 million people. This revelation was shortly followed by a report from The Sun that claimed LeBlanc planned to quit the show if Evans stayed on for a second season. The Sun’s source was quoted as saying:
"The big question now is who goes and who stays. The team does not gel at all, and the atmosphere between the presenters is decidedly frosty. It's very much a picture of him – Chris – and them. Matt has already indicated that he won't continue on any further series of Chris remains part of it. And he is far from the only one who isn't happy."
The next series of Top Gear is due to air on BBC Two in 2017.
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