Switching Gears: Chris Evans on revamped “Top Gear”

BBC Top Gear host Chris Evans sat down during a Q&A roundtable session with assorted international journalists during the Cannes MIPCOM market in October to discuss the relaunch of the world's most watched factual program.
December 4, 2015

Following one of the more infamous “fracases” in recent television history, BBC Productions’ latest incarnation of automotive format Top Gear will revolve around BBC Radio 2′s Chris Evans (pictured) as primary host, with the British pubcaster inking him to a three-year exclusive deal beginning January 2016. The world’s most widely watched factual program, with an estimated global audience of 350 million in 212 territories, is slated to return to the UK pubcaster on May 8.

“It’s not about 54 shows and three Christmas specials; it’s about May and June next year.”

The host of The Chris Evans Breakfast Show and the self-professed “human alarm clock for the UK” since 2010, Evans has become accustomed to having a full plate. On top of producing a daily radio show with an audience of more than 10 million listeners per week, Evans previously served as the face of the BBC’s The One Show from 2010-2015; celebrated the 20th anniversary of the popular entertainment series TFI Friday with a one-off special for Channel 4, which resulted in a full series commission for late 2015; and recently finished a memoir, Call the Midlife, while on the flight to Cannes for a short Top Gear promotional stint during the 31st annual MIPCOM market.

Sitting down during a Q&A roundtable session with assorted international journalists, Evans declined to speculate on his as-yet unnamed co-presenters, or whether a much-rumored female co-host would be appointed. “We’re very close to telling you some things about who will be on the show,” he said with a grin. “I wish I could totally say, but I can’t because the contracts aren’t signed.”

What was your first reaction when you were approached for Top Gear?
Disbelief. It was a question I never thought I’d be asked, to be honest. I thought James [May] and Richard [Hammond, former Top Gear co-hosts to ousted host Jeremy Clarkson] would carry on. That’s what I thought was going to happen – that’s what I wanted to happen as a fan of the show.

Are you at all concerned that fans will flock to Clarkson’s new Amazon motoring series instead of the BBC Top Gear format?
There’s no fear of that at all – some will because they’ve let me know quite clearly on social media. But as a fan of the program I know what I want to see, and what I want to see is exciting cars, amazing films, brilliant locations, clever twists – if you make a quality product, people will come to it, so that’s what I’ve got to do. I’ve had a lot of people who loved Top Gear [say they] slightly started to fall out of love with it over the last few years because cars seemed to almost be second. I think that we can move cars back to being the stars of the show, which is what they should be.

Will Top Gear and Amazon’s series be sufficiently different?
Who knows? They’ve got a brilliant act. They’re very funny and their chemistry is amazing – it takes you years to develop it. I’ve got a contract for three years, so it’s hopefully got to last for three years. It’s not about 54 shows and three Christmas specials; it’s about May and June next year, which is still seven months from now. I’ve been working on the show since I got the job, literally. I wrote the first running order 24 hours after I got that phone call.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.