Car Culture

Matt LeBlanc returns to helm next season of 'Top Gear'

I won't lie, I'm not going to miss Chris Evans.

The first season of New New "Top Gear" -- which replaced Old New "Top Gear", helmed by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May -- got off to a rocky start. Lead presenter Chris Evans was not universally beloved, and viewers wished for more on-screen time from the show's other presenters. Well, the BBC listened, and the second season will be quite different.

Starting next year, Matt LeBlan will be chief "Top Gear" presenter, the BBC confirmed. He'll replace Evans, with the other two slots going to former CNET writer Rory Reid and Chris Harris, a motoring journalist who makes art that masquerades as car videos. LeBlanc's deal stretches for two seasons.

It's unclear whether Extra Gear, the show's behind-the-scenes companion, will continue on. However, the show's two other presenters, Eddie Jordan and Sabine Schmitz, will reappear in the second season.

Personally, I think this is a great move. Evans had radio chops, but his obsession with cars largely revolved around collecting them. LeBlanc had a more natural on-screen presence, and I felt that his bits were always more genuine. Plus, the man can drive, which is a helpful prerequisite for a car show.

Old New "Top Gear" didn't need A-list presenters to succeed. In fact, the first couple of seasons were straight-up bad. But the three stars had chemistry and a genuine love of all car. It was that relationship and the leads' escalating antics that turned the show into a hit. LeBlanc isn't an unknown, but I think his new lineup has a much better chance of building a rapport and bringing in viewers.

(In case you're wondering, Old Old "Top Gear" is the original incarnation that ran from 1977 to 2001, and featured a number of hosts, including Tiff Needell, Vicki Butler-Henderson and Angela Rippon.)