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Top Gear returns with new hosts

Do Not UseDo Not Use 30/05/2016
Top Gear: Rory Reid, Sabine Schmitz, Matt LeBlanc, Chris Evans, Chris Harris, Eddie Jordan and The Stig make up the new team © BBC Rory Reid, Sabine Schmitz, Matt LeBlanc, Chris Evans, Chris Harris, Eddie Jordan and The Stig make up the new team

Motoring show Top Gear has returned to BBC Two with its new line-up of hosts.

Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans: The first episode featured Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans driving to Blackpool in Reliant Rialtos © BBC The first episode featured Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans driving to Blackpool in Reliant Rialtos

The relaunch featured Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc driving Reliant three-wheelers from London to Blackpool and actor Jesse Eisenberg and chef Gordon Ramsay tackling the Top Gear track.

Jesse Eisenberg and The Stig: Actor Jesse Eisenberg was one of the first "stars in a rally cross car" © BBC Actor Jesse Eisenberg was one of the first "stars in a rally cross car"

The new hosts were signed up after the old team left after an infamous fracas between lead presenter Jeremy Clarkson and a producer.

Matt LeBlanc: Viewers praised Matt LeBlanc on Twitter, with some saying his segments were the best part of the programme © BBC Viewers praised Matt LeBlanc on Twitter, with some saying his segments were the best part of the programme

Initial ratings for the episode will not be known until Monday morning.

However, Evans said earlier in the week he would be "disappointed" with anything fewer than five million viewers for the show's first episode.

The presenter opened the show saying: "Welcome to Top Gear with our all-new, improved audience."

'It is identical'

Clarkson was fired from Top Gear in March last year after he punched a producer following a row about the provision of food late at night while filming on location.

Evans made a jibe about the incident at the start of the episode, adding: "We don't make jokes about catering on this show any more."

Another joke referencing Clarkson's departure was made when Evans bragged he had "won custody" of masked driver The Stig.

The revamp featured many of the same elements the show is best known for including a profile of a supercar and a head-to-head challenge between the presenters.

The Guardian's Stuart Heritage commented on the similarities during a film profiling the new Dodge Viper ACR saying: "It's well shot. It's got the same unearned swagger. It's presented by a man in a car comparing stuff to stuff, then leaving a pause, then accelerating, then shouting. It is identical."

Unlike previous series, the "star in a reasonably priced car" segment was updated to feature two "stars in a rally cross car" compete on a new Top Gear track including an off-road dirt track, water section and a jump.

Eisenberg and Ramsay were the first to tackle the course, with Ramsay scoring the faster time of the two.

Alex Robbins, the Telegraph's motoring journalist, said he was not sure if the format should have been changed: "One of the best bits about this section was the juxtaposition of celebs in something deeply forgettable. The Mini doesn't work for that remit, because it's just a bit too cool.

"I mean, you could imagine Eisenberg in a Mini in LA. The entertainment value of seeing him in something dreary has been lost," he said.

He concluded the show was "a solid first effort", but added "it could have done with less of the gimmickry and more space to show off the cars themselves".

In his commentary, the Independent's Christopher Hooton said: "The budget and production values were pretty much the same/as high [as previous series] and the show felt very similar, but the original trio were its heart and it needed to take more of a departure without them, not trade off past glories."

Meanwhile the Huffington Post's Caroline Frost said: "Matt LeBlanc's laid-back style when left on his own gives a glimmer of hope."

The Daily Mail's Quentin Letts said LeBlanc was "a success" and the show was "reasonably entertaining". But he added: "It has lost its spark of genius. It all felt a little middle-lane and underwhelming."

Top Gear became a top trending term on Twitter during the show's broadcast, with users generally negative of the show's return without Clarkson.

"Chris Evans was the wrong choice to present the new Top Gear. Very awkward and over excited," Matt Tapley wrote.

Tom Williams added: "Top Gear was never about the cars, the cars were the background. The presenters were what made that show. BBC should have realised that."

Steve Grant said: "Essentially, if you're a fan of Clarkson, you're probably hating this. If you're a bit more open-minded, it's alright."

And Benjamin Cook said: "Quite enjoying the new Top Gear. About as good - but with the same amount of naff - as last series. Evans and LeBlanc are both great."

There was some praise for LeBlanc however, with some commenting his segments were the best part of the programme.

"Thought the new Top Gear was good, enjoyed it and Matt LeBlanc is the man. Seems a lot of people had already made their mind up," Mark Biggs wrote.

Although a team of six new presenters were announced for the revamp, only Evans, LeBlanc and Sabine Schmitz were featured in the first episode.

Fellow hosts Rory Reid and Chris Harris presented Top Gear spin-off show, Extra Gear, shown on BBC Three after the main broadcast.

Reaction was positive from the Telegraph, which described Reid as having "oodles of charisma" and praised Harris for having "a natural, relaxed charm".

Analysis - David Sillito, arts correspondent

Chris Evans said he wasn't going to mess with a winning formula and he was right. Shows are normally relaunched in an attempt to revive a flagging format - but this was all about trying to hang on to the magic with different people.

Everyone knows the only reason there were two new faces in the Top Gear studio was because of an incident at a Yorkshire hotel in which Jeremy Clarkson gave a producer a swollen bleeding lip and a torrent of abuse.

The question is how much the success was down to the formula developed by Clarkson and producer Andy Wilman, and how much it was the personal chemistry of the team who are now creating a motoring programme for Amazon.

I think Top Gear fans can now hazard a guess.

Read the full analysis.

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