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The new Top Gear

By raccars Published

top gear

After the first two episodes of the new Top Gear, can the show live up to earlier glories?

The revamped Top Gear was always going to be controversial. New host Chris Evans apparently has a kind of Marmite effect upon the general public, who tend to love or loathe him, while his co-host Matt LeBlanc is better known for playing a dumb but loveable character in popular American sitcom 'Friends'.

Episode one of the new Top Gear

The first episode aired on 29 May to disappointing reactions. While 4.4 million watched, many of them took to social media the following day to complain about the "bombastic" Evans, with a general feeling that the show was trying too hard - and failing - to emulate the style of the previous hosting team rather than forging a new identity of its own.

Since then viewing figures have been consolidated to take into account those who record and watch later, resulting in nearly six and a half million viewers. That's actually a higher number than the first episode of each of the last three series featuring Clarkson, Hammond and May.

The second episode

Episode two went out on 5 June and its audience had already fallen by about a third to 2.8 million viewers. Some tuned in a little later for peak viewing figures of 3.3 million, but this still left the show trailing behind Soccer Aid and Antiques Roadshow in the ratings. Alarm bells must have been ringing at the BBC, which is hoping that the new Top Gear will continue the £50 million per year earned by the show in the past.

The BBC, however, is standing by the show, claiming it as a success and suggesting that immediate viewing statistics don't show the full picture. Evans too has been quick to take to social media to proclaim his show a hit, pointing out that it held the number one slot on BBC iPlayer and the first episode achieved an audience share of 23 per cent. Top Gear is also a huge international show and the new episode will have aired in at least 80 countries worldwide within 72 hours of making its UK debut.

Certainly TV viewing has changed since the earlier days of Top Gear and on-demand and catch-up viewing figures have yet to be taken into account for the second episode of the revamped show. However the fact that the second part of six in the new series recorded BBC2's lowest figures for overnight viewing for years must be a concern to producers.

The new team

Evans is not only the public face of Top Gear but is a driving force behind the creation of the show. Along with LeBlanc, he leads a team of six including female racing driver Sabine Schmitz from Germany and Eddie Jordan, former owner of the Formula One team. The show was pounded by adverse publicity during filming, with reports including criticism of Evans' inability to both drive and talk to camera at the same time and rumours that he and fellow host Matt LeBlanc had fallen out.

One high point of the second episode of the show was F1 driver Jenson Button, who so impressed viewers during his slot on the show that some fans called for him to take over from Chris Evans as host. It seems viewers are also warming to Matt LeBlanc, who received praise on social media while the show was on air, but Evans remained the target of criticism.

Meanwhile the former Top Gear team, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are busy working on the Amazon Prime show 'The Grand Tour', which will be available through internet streaming only from the autumn.

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