In the kind of steady television gig that struggling actor Joey Tribbiani might literally have killed for, small screen mainstay Matt LeBlanc has now strengthened his hold over Top Gear, the staggeringly popular British show about all things automotive. The BBC has announced that the erstwhile Friends star has signed a two-series contract to continue presenting Top Gear.
LeBlanc had been awkwardly co-hosting or co-presenting the show with (the non-Captain America) Chris Evans, but Evans recently left the show because he says he felt like “a square peg in a round hole.” This was hardly Top Gear’s first casting controversy. Divisive but attention-grabbing host Jeremy Clarkson was dismissed from the show after getting into a violent, racially charged “fracas” with producer Oisin Tymon back in March 2015. After the negative publicity surrounding the events, the BBC had few options other than dismissing Clarkson. Bringing in American sitcom star LeBlanc and radio host Evans was the channel’s way of keeping the popular Top Gear franchise alive. There was a lot at stake: Top Gear claims to be the highest-rated fact-based TV show in the world.
The BBC’s efforts seem to have been at least partially successful, even if the on-air relationship between LeBlanc and Evans never gelled. In a statement about the contract renewal, BBC Studios director Mark Linsey says, “Matt was hugely popular with Top Gear viewers last series with his humor, 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.” In a surprisingly gracious move, Evans said pretty much the same thing in a Daily Mail editorial: “For me, [LeBlanc] is the man. He is the captain Top Gear truly needs going forward, the perfect torso for the rest of TG’s limbs. Not only does he eat, sleep, breathe and dream engines, propshafts and trail-braking, but the overwhelming quality that struck me about him is that he’s just such a pro.” So now, Top Gear is basically all his.