Last year saw the debut of a brand-new Top Gear, with Chris Harris and Matt LeBlanc (plus a rotating roster of extra presenters) taking over from longstanding figureheads Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond.
Unfortunately, the reception was mixed, with ratings falling over the course of the series and critics remaining unconvinced by the new line-up, culminating in Evans’s resignation.
However, one of the show’s new main presenters believes this chain of events was “inevitable,” with the bad feeling over the reboot doomed to poison the series even if it had been a perfect piece of television.
“I think we’d gone through the really difficult reboot last year, which was always going to be impossible,” Chris Harris, who has been promoted from guest spots to a main presenting role this year with Matt LeBlanc and Rory Reid, told RadioTimes.com.
“You’re following three geniuses, and you’re new to it. It was inevitable that it was gonna be tough.
“We could’ve made the single greatest TV show on the planet ever, and it still would’ve been eviscerated because it was not what people expected it to be, because it didn’t contain the three amigos. And I understood that completely.”
Still, Harris has a more positive outlook for the future of the series, which he feels is under less pressure this time around.
“In that respect I think this is now easier for us, because we’ve been through that big reboot, and now we can just express ourselves and make the TV show we want to make,” he said.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press on set, Harris’s co-host Rory Reid expressed a similar sentiment, saying that now that the kinks in the Top Gear format have been worked out it’s been easier to create a great piece of television.
“I think that the position we’re in now is better than last season,” Reid said.
“Not necessarily because we’re not going up against the heritage or [Clarkson and co’s new show] The Grand Tour but because we’ve figured out the things that worked last season or worked less last season, we’re able to fine tune and distill it into this new series and create a much better programme based on our past experience as a team.
“And I think the things we’ve learned from what we did in season 23 will ultimately make this a much better show, regardless of who you stand us alongside or what came before.”
Rory Reid, Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris
“All I can say is, I hope they enjoy watching them as much as I did making them!” Harris continued.
“The baseline is, if you have fun making something, that fun will then radiate to the person that consumes it. So, as long as we make sure we’re having fun making the films, some of that joy will come out in the viewing experience.”
Hopefully he’s right – but what if he’s not, and the new series also attracts more flack from viewers?
“People are going to throw rocks at whatever they want to throw rocks at,” Friends star Matt LeBlanc told us bluntly on set. “All I can do is hope they don’t hit me in the head.”
Not to worry Matt – we’re sure The Stig can lend you a spare helmet…
Top Gear returns to BBC2 at 8:00pm on Sunday 5th March