Matt LeBlanc no longer stuck in second gear, joins BBC’s Top Gear as a host
In a move few could have seen coming, the BBC just announced that former Friends and current Episodes star Matt LeBlanc is joining Top Gear as a host.
Despite losing its longtime hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, Top Gear is far from dead. The BBC is in the process of rebuilding the show, starting with finding new hosts. Back in June, it announced that British host and celebrity Chris Evans will appear as the primary host, with promises of more announcements to come.
It is assumed (although not necessarily confirmed) that the show will continue to feature a trio of hosts, and the BBC did state that “Additional Top Gear cast members will be confirmed shortly.”
LeBlanc is a lifelong gearhead (or petrolhead as they say across the Pond), and he appeared on Top Gear twice as a guest, the first time setting the then track record for the “star in a reasonably priced car” segment. He returned once more and beat that record.
For the BBC, it is a huge get. Top Gear is one of – maybe even the – most popular show in the world. Losing Clarkson, Hammond, and May was a huge blow, and replacing them with Evans, who is mostly unknown outside of the UK, didn’t really generate much enthusiasm. Adding LeBlanc, however, gives the new Top Gear far more international appeal.
Having LeBlanc as a host will also add a new dimension to certain aspects of Top Gear, especially the road trips. The actor is known around the world, and having him travel with the BBC for the immensely popular motoring show should create some intriguing interactions.
LeBlanc’s hiring also seems to further confirm the direction of the new Top Gear. Prior to appearing as hosts Clarkson, Hammond, and May all had journalistic experience, specifically regarding automobiles and engineering. When they spoke about cars, bikes, hovercraft, etc., they spoke with professional authenticity.
Evans has journalistic experience, but neither he nor LeBlanc have any real training or authority when it comes to critiquing vehicles, which may signify that the BBC is going even further towards the entertainment side of things. The behind-the-scenes staff may be able to fill in some of the gaps and the third host could still be an expert, but it won’t be the same to hear them espouse on cars as it was from the experts.
The BBC went on to confirm that LeBlanc is joining the production immediately, although he is currently working on the fifth season of Episodes. The ninth and final episode of the new season is scheduled to complete filming in April, which means LeBlanc would likely immediately go to work on Top Gear, which is set to debut in May.
It’s unknown how many episodes of the 23rd season of Top Gear will air. The previous season consisted of 10 episodes, although that included one two-part special that aired months before. If the new season follows the old, it will be between six and eight. Given the changes though, the BBC may want to do something special for it. Details should come in the next few months.
As for the previous Top Gear hosts, they are currently filming their new, as yet unnamed auto show for Amazon Prime. A release date hasn’t been given yet, but it is expected in late 2016.