Former star of the 1990s US hit comedy Friends, Matt LeBlanc, has been revealed as one of the new presenters of BBC motoring show Top Gear when it returns in May.
LeBlanc’s appointment marks the first time the show has ever had a non-British host in its 39-year history. The American actor was also known worldwide for his role as Joey Tribbiani in the NBC sitcom. LeBlanc starred in short-lived Friends spin-off titled as ‘Joey’ when the show wrapped up in 2004.
LeBlanc commented: “As a car nut and a massive fan of Top Gear, I’m honoured and excited to be a part of this iconic show’s new chapter. What a thrill!”
Considered as one of BBC’s most successful and profitable shows, Top Gear was taken off air last year after its host Jeremy Clarkson physically attacked a member of production staff while he was drunk. The show’s producers confirmed that LeBlanc will join British presenter, Chris Evans, whose hiring was announced earlier last summer. Evans said of his new Top Gear presenter: “Matt’s a lifelong fellow petrolhead and I’m thrilled he’s joining Top Gear. 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. We can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to on screen later this year.”
LeBlanc, being the first American to co-host the iconic 39-year old program, is no stranger to Top Gear. He was once featured in its segment, “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” during which he zipped around a racetrack in a Kia Cee’d, earning him the fastest time for that model over British actor Rowan Atkinson. “Just don’t use the brake as much, that’s all,” LeBlanc quipped while behind the wheel.
“Even with LeBlanc’s automotive chops, the previous cast could be a tough act to follow”, says Katie Rogers of TheAge.com. Top Gear fans aren’t sure how to feel about LeBlanc being the show’s new co-host. For some, such move heralds the death of the longest running car show on the face of the planet.
“Sorry, but Top Gear is dead. Everybody knows it,” one person wrote.
Another one said, “I’ll give it 5 episodes.”
Others took their ranting over Twitter. “Why would I want watch a yank present a British show?,” one British cab driver wrote tweeted.
The show had its share of controversies together with its previous cast led by Jeremy Clarkson. However, things became irreversibly sour when Clarkson was suspended last March after attacking a producer after a night of revelry and drinking. The contract for Clarkson, once among the BBC’s highest-earning employees, was eventually discontinued. After some time, Clarkson and co-host Richard Hammond announced that they have joined Amazon to film a new motoring show.
Looking forward, BBC confirmed that more cast members will be joining LeBlanc and Evans, and likely candidates will include Sabine Schmitz, a German racing driver, and Chris Harris, a British journalist.