Matt LeBlanc has been named the new co-host of BBC’s reboot of its flagship motoring show, Top Gear, according to Deadline.
The former Friends star will join longtime British radio and TV presenter Chris Evans, who was announced as the new host of the show last June. LeBlanc and Evans are set to replace the trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, who exited the show in 2015, after Clarkson was involved in a headline-making physical altercation with one of the Top Gear’s producers, Oisin Tymon, in March last year.
According to the Hollywood Reporter,Matt LeBlanc will become the first non-Brit to take the wheel of the show in its 39-year history when it returns to BBC Two later in May this year. The deal is expected to benefit both parties, with Top Gear commanding a massive viewership of an estimated 350 million people globally, while Matt LeBlanc is already a universally-recognized face, thanks to his work in Friends.
In a statement released by the BBC on Wednesday, LeBlanc expressed his delight at becoming the new co-host of Top Gear, saying it was a huge honor for him to be given the opportunity to host one of the most-watched motoring shows in the world.
“As a car nut and a massive fan of Top Gear, I’m honored and excited to be a part of this iconic show’s new chapter. What a thrill!”
Of course, this is not the first time that LeBlanc will be seen in the show, having already made two appearances in the past. In fact, the actor holds a record as the fastest celebrity ever around the track in Top Gear’s “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” segment, which features celebrities driving around a race track, while he also presented the show’s spin-off Top Gear: The Races, according to NBC News.
Chris Evans said he was thrilled that Matt LeBlanc was joining the show with him. According to reports, the former Friends star will join the production immediately, with Top Gear expected to announce additional cast members shortly.
“Matt’s a lifelong fellow petrolhead and I’m thrilled he’s joining Top Gear,” said Evans of his new co-host. “Acting out our craziest car notions on screen is a dream job and I know we’ll both be debating some epic road trip ideas.”
But while Top Gear is estimated to be a brand worth $75 million for the BBC, Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans are expected to face tough competition when the show airs later this year. The show’s previous three hosts — Clarkson, Hammond and May — are also set to make a comeback in a motoring show of their own, after Amazon swooped in for the three hosts in a deal that Amazon boss Jeff Bezos described as being “very, very, very expensive.”
Yet untitled, the Amazon Prime show is also set to air later this year.
However, new show host Chris Evans does not think Clarkson’s show will be too much of a competition for Top Gear. Speaking at TCA last month, he said the BBC show commands a following which is difficult to acquire, and he does not expect the viewership to shrink because, as he says, Top Gear is not going to change that much.
“We have a huge audience. I don’t want to see the next incarnation of Top Gear, I want the next show. Top Gear is not a single bespoke show, it’s many bespoke shows each year,” Evans said.
Matt LeBlanc’s entry as Top Gear’s new co-host is set to attract a strong North American viewership, and if LeBlanc still remains as popular as he was during his time at Friends, well, then Clarkson and Amazon might not be in too much luck.
[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]