BBC show off the new Top Gear hosts, and possibly a new direction for the show
After months of deliberation, the BBC has announced the new Top Gear hosts. All seven of them.
Top Gear has seen a few different iterations over the years, but most fans will recognize its format as having three hosts, with the occasional appearance from the Stig. This new lineup, however, seems to mark a fundamental shift in the nature and maybe even tone of the show.
The new lineup includes six hosts, all new to the show, and the Stig. It seems to be built around British radio host and presenter Chris Evans, who was first introduced bay in June 2015. He was recently joined by actor Matt LeBlanc.
The rest of the cast includes: Formula 1 commentator Eddie Jordan; German racing driver Sabine Schmitz; automotive journalist and YouTube host, Chris Harris; TV presenter Rory Reid.
Following the hiring of Evans and LeBlanc, the show appeared to be moving away from its automotive analysis roots in favor of a more entertainment approach. Both hosts are well informed motorheads, but they aren’t professionally involved in the auto industry. The new presenters, however, seem to make up for that.
Jordan is well known in the Formula 1 circles. Along with acting as a commenter, he was at one time the owner of the Jordan Grand Prix team, which gave famed racer Michael Schumacher his F1 start.
Schmitz is informally known as the “Queen of the Nurburgring,” at least according to the BBC. By her own estimates, she has driven around the track over 30,000 times, which in some ways would make her the antithesis of James May, who has frequently and loudly voiced his distaste for the track.
She appeared on Top Gear once in 2002, where she took Jeremy Clakson around the track in a “Ring Taxi.” She returned during the sixth season to help Clarkson record a lap in a Jaguar S-Type, and then proceeded to mock his lap time, claiming she could do better in a van. To prove it, she beat his time in the Jaguar by 47 seconds, then almost beat him in an actual van, coming in just eight seconds slower. In a van. Against a Jaguar.
Yeah, she’s legit.
Harris brings some journalistic credibility back to the show. He has worked as an automotive journalist for years, and runs his own, popular YouTube channel focusing on automobiles. His experience with new forms of media may also be a boon.
And finally, Reid comes to the show through an unusual route. During the summer 2015, the BBC and Top Gear began accepting public auditions, which Reid won. He is far from an amateur though. Reid is an award-winning journalist, he launched CNET’s Car Tech channel, and appeared on Sky 1’s Gadget Geeks series.
And then there’s the Stig.
Having six hosts (seven counting the Stig), should significantly change the way the show is filmed. For years it was the trio of Clarkson, May, and Richard Hammond. They would switch off on assignments, but with a few exceptions, all three appeared in the majority of shows. The new format may alter that.
With six presenters, it seems likely that there will be a rotation of sorts. Evans seems to be established as the primary host, so he will likely serve as anchor and appear in ever episode. LeBlanc has the most name recognition globally though, which will likely be important for the show given that it is one of the most watched programs in the world. The BBC will likely put a lot of focus on him in the marketing.
One minor problem with that, however, is that it was recently confirmed that CBS is actively pursuing LeBlanc to appear in a new sitcom pilot. That could make his time scarce.
With so many hosts, that likely means the show will have a slightly different look and feel to each episode based on who is featured. While it may be tough for some fans to accept a significant shift in format, you have to give the BBC credit for making changes.
Top Gear rose to become one of the most watched shows in the world in no small part to the personalities and chemistry between the three hosts. Simply replacing them with three new people would feel like a pale imitation of what the show once was. Besides, it would put the BBC in direct competition with its former employees, who are now unrestrained and playing with a huge budget thanks to Amazon.
Competing against what is essentially a better funded version of its former self would be a tough spot for Top Gear to appear in. The best way for it to move forward is to slightly reinvent itself, and that’s what the BBC seems to be doing.
The newly revamped Top Gear will return this May.