With the audience for the second episode of the newly-revamped ‘Top Gear’ having dropped by a third – that’s a sturdy 1.6 million fewer viewers than the debut show – things haven’t kicked off the way new host Chris Evans might have hoped. Not at all.
Defending the drop, he tweeted that overnight viewing figures have 'never been less relevant’, given that people now watch TV in various different ways. But whichever way you decide to slice it 1.6 million people all switching off in unison must still be a pretty bitter pill to swallow after many months of hard slog making the show.
He also later shouted on Twitter:
And while there are many factors at play, and it’s tough to isolate precisely what’s going wrong with the show, maybe that shouting might be half the problem.
Viewers and critics have noted that Evans’ 'shouty’ style of presenting has already started to grate, and even ex-host Jeremy Clarkson seemed to be taking a pop, tweeting about his new show:
It was perhaps a return barb after Evans, on the first show, told the studio audience “By the way, we don’t talk about catering on this show any more”, a sly reference to Clarkson being sacked for having a fight with a producer over a steak and consequently being sacked.
Followers of Clarkson replied accordingly, saying 'No noisy Ginger bloke shouting all over them? I’ll enjoy them’, and 'I can’t wait. You guys know how to tell a story − and you don’t need to shout about it #Fact’.
The show has also garnered more than 300 complaints from viewers, accusing programme makers of using canned laughter, one guest claiming to The Sun that ‘there were so many long, awkward silences’ during filming, not the guffawing that can be heard on the episode.
“The episode made it sound as though we were in fits of hysterics throughout the recording but that is far from the truth,” they added.
“After seeing Chris [Evans] and Matt [LeBlanc] do hundreds of takes and spiel out horrendous jokes for four hours straight we were all bored out of our minds – not in stitches like they made it seem in Sunday’s show.”
A spokesperson for the show has refuted this, telling the Evening Standard: “There were no awkward silences during filming as reported by The Sun newspaper which clearly has an agenda against the show.
“It’s well known that Top Gear isn’t a live programme and that the show is edited after filming, but last week’s episode was edited in exactly the same way as previous series.”
Whatever the thoughts of the general watching public (or audience members), they pale compared to the vitriol Evans has received from the professional critical fraternity of the first show.
Some clearly had their knives out and sharpened, Sean O'Grady in The Independent calling it pointless, hackneyed and tired’, while Ally Ross in The Sun added that 'We have seen all this stuff done before and done better’.
Others were slightly kinder, Sam Wollaston in The Guardian saying 'It’s not a disaster… It’s just new people doing same old same old’, while Quentin Letts in The Daily Mail called it 'reasonably entertaining’ but surmised that it had 'lost its spark of genius’. “Pass the jump leads someone,” he implored in his sign off.
The chemistry between Evans and his co-host Matt Le Blanc is also not really there yet, though to be fair neither is the rumoured animosity between the pair, widely reported on prior to the new show launching. And critics seem to enjoying what the former 'Friends’ star is bringing.
Gerard O'Donovan said in The Daily Telegraph: “There was no sign of the reported lack of chemistry between Evans and LeBlanc, and while the former worked the crowd like the polished media pro he is, the Friends star added some much needed sardonic grunt, instantly justifying his choice as co-host. It’s a partnership that should improve with time.”
However, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.
Some viewers, perhaps those more open to change, have voiced their support following episode two.
Indeed, Button appeared to wildly impress viewers, many more calling for his appointment to either replace Evans (as if the BBC were perhaps able to match his F1 salary), or at least become a regular guest.
In an odd shift in tone, Evans was seen crying (twice!) in last week’s iPlayer spin-off show 'Extra Gear’, while driving a McLaren F1, in doing so fulfilling a lifelong dream which he later compared – with extraordinary candour in front of the studio audience – to the feeling he got when his mum bought him his first car, despite her being barely able to afford it.
You get the feeling there might be more tears ahead before things get better…
Image credits: BBC