A beloved show undergoing an overhaul is bound to get a bumpy ride when it returns, but a vocal segment of Top Gear fans are giving the revamped BBC motoring show a vehement thumbs down.
The internationally popular series debuted a rejigged version Sunday night after more than a year off and featuring a new cast, including central presenter Chris Evans and U.S. actor Matt LeBlanc among its fresh slate of co-hosts.
Since the dramatic exit of former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson (following an off-air altercation) and the subsequent departure of colleagues Richard Hammond, James May and others, the BBC’s decisions regarding the much-watched series have been intensely scrutinized by fans and TV observers — especially as Clarkson and crew quickly landed a brand new, big-budget motoring show set to air on Amazon (and recently revealed as The Grand Tour).
Evans earned the brunt of the backlash on Sunday, with fans largely lambasting the veteran British presenter for being too “shouty” and seemingly trying too hard.
Viewers were much kinder to LeBlanc, best known from TV’s Friends as well as more recent series such as Joey and Episodes, and German professional race car driver Sabine Schmitz, with some declaring the two the best part of the new Top Gear. Other new co-hosts include Rory Reid and Chris Harris.
Television writers and critics were less inflammatory, but many found the debut — which included a segment with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and actor Jesse Eisenberg — unimpressive and unremarkable, with the new, still-getting-their-feet-wet cast serving as the most significant change and producers eschewing any true innovation to the show’s existing format.
“Same shtick, different presenters,” read one review, while another proclaimed the revamp “reasonably slick and perfectly dull.”