Top Gear to return on Sunday 5th March
James R | On 27, Feb 2017
Top Gear’s second season will race onto our screens this March.
Yes, the Beeb’s reboot of the motoring series has wasted no time in getting back into gear, after a decidedly mixed reception for its first lap last year. Now, with Amazon’s The Grand Tour also parked quietly off the track until later this year, Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid are back in the driving seat and ready for a second run.
The new season will begin with the Ferrari FXX K, tested to the max by Chris Harris at the Daytona circuit in Florida. Matt, Chris and Rory will then race across Kazakhstan in three high-mileage cars: a Mercedes saloon, a Volvo estate and a London taxi, all of which have done at least 480,000 miles, the equivalent distance of going to the moon and back. In the studio, actor James McAvoy will appear, and also drive around the Top Gear test track.
The show will air at 8pm on BBC Two – directly after the return of Robot Wars, the second season of which will premiere at 7pm. Just in case you had anything else planned on your Sunday evenings for the next two months.
Here’s a full trailer for the new season:
— Top Gear (@BBC_TopGear) February 23, 2017
First trailer for Top Gear reboot Season 2 races onto screens
4th February 2017
With the smoke from The Grand Tour’s tyres still in the air, BBC Top Gear’s is wasting no time in getting back on the track with its first trailer for Season 2.
The first run of the Beeb’s reboot was an uneven journey, with Chris Evans departing shortly after its finale, but there was promise in the later episodes and in the show’s other presenters, Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid, who all brought something new to the table. With The Grand Tour’s first season also proving a somewhat bumpy ride, there’s no reason for the BBC’s motoring franchise not to be feeling confident in its ability to go toe-to-toe with its rival.
It’s telling that the show is already racing back to our screens this spring, keeping the two programmes in separate halves of the broadcast year, but it’s also telling that the new trailer isn’t shying away from its own big budget hijinks, after The Grand Tour’s striking opener drew lots of attention last year – we see a tuxedoed LeBlanc in the Aston Martin DB11 being cornered by police in Montenegro, Harris drifting the new Ferrari FXX K in Daytona, Reid crashing his Taxi in Kazakhstan, and LeBlanc and his Russian-built Avtoros Shaman coming to the rescue of a group of naked ramblers on the Isle of Man.
The promo, which aired before Let It Shine, sees the hosts squirm through a set of uncomfortable questions from a BBC risk assessor who is keen to know whether the trio have any prior motoring convictions, speeding offences, or whether they will be participating in any competitive driving in the new season. The brief cameo of a flaming Stig may seem a little tired, but compared to The Grand Tour’s replacement, The American? Top Gear’s never looked so intriguing.
The show returns to BBC Two this Spring. In the meantime, head this way to read our reviews of The Grand Tour.
Matt LeBlanc will return to host Top Gear
26th September 2016
Matt LeBlanc has negotiated a deal to host Top Gear for another two seasons, the BBC announced today.
The actor was part of the team that presented the Beeb’s reboot of the motoring series, which was met by a mixed reception, most of it relating to its main host, Chris Evans. Evans has since departed, leaving LeBlanc as the most likely contender to host the show as the central lead.
Sure enough, the Friends and Episodes star has renewed his contract after the initial one-season deal. The show will return next year, with LeBlanc joined by returning co-presenters Chris Harris and Rory Reid, who frequently stole the show with their BBC Three series Extra Gear, and regular appearances from Eddie Jordan, Sabine Schmitz and The Stig.
Patrick Holland, Channel Editor, BBC Two, says: “I am thrilled that Matt LeBlanc is returning to Top Gear. He’s a huge talent whose love of cars is infectious. I can’t wait for the series to return to BBC Two next year.”
Mark Linsey, Director, BBC Studios, adds: “Matt was hugely popular with Top Gear viewers last series with his humour, warmth and obvious passion for cars and for the show, so I couldn’t be more delighted that he’s agreed to come back and do more for us.”
Clare Pizey is executive producer and Alex Renton is series editor.
The news arrives as the Beeb bid farewell to another of its highest profile series, The Great British Bake Off, which was poached by rival Channel 4 in a surprising deal. While Paul Hollywood will move with the show to Channel 4 in 2017, presenters Mel and Sue and fellow judge Mary Berry have all elected to stick with the Beeb.
All of this is happening in the shadow of the BBC’s renewal of its Royal Charter, with the government’s proposed White Paper introducing a rule to make more of the Beeb’s top talent salaries public. The Sun reports that LeBlanc’s Top Gear salary will be £2 million – an amount supposedly agreed upon due to fears of finding another BBC star property in turmoil, post GBBO – but will be paid through the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, which would make him part of a loophole that prevents his pay packet from being made public.
The newspaper adds that Top Gear will organise filming of the new season around the actor’s filming schedule for his new US sitcom, Man with a Plan.
In the meantime, the former Top Gear trio of Clarkson, Hammond and May will be riding onto Amazon Prime Video this November with their new series, The Grand Tour.
Top Gear ratings crash on BBC iPlayer, but audiences embrace exclusives
27th June 2016
Top Gear’s ratings skidded off course on BBC iPlayer this summer, as the rebooted car show saw its audience slide.
The show, which proved divisive among fans when it returned to BBC One, saw its live viewing figures decline throughout the programme, although host Chris Evans insisted that catch-up figures would redress the balance, as people are changing the way they watch TV.
People certainly are doing that, as BBC iPlayer enjoyed a surge of activity last month, thanks to the start of a packed summer of sport. Where people once huddled around the living room set to catch sporting events, today, phones, tablets and computers are just as central to following major tournaments: between Wimbledon and the UEFA Euro 2016 football, BBC iPlayer saw a total of 290 million requests across TV and radio, up 6 per cent on May. TV requests alone jumped 39 million from June 2015 and 9 per cent from May 2016 to 229 million, BBC iPlayer’s highest-ever performance for that month.
Crucially, live viewing grew to 11 per cent of all TV requests, the highest level since mid-2014. And BBC iPlayer (TV and BBC iPlayer Radio combined) saw its highest reach on record, with an average of 19.9 million unique browsers weekly across June. England v Wales, in particular, proved popular among those streaming during office hours, with 2.8 million requests making the match June’s most-watched programme on iPlayer.
All that meant June bucked the usual seasonal trend, with viewing traditionally falling in hot months. Helping June, though, were two exclusive iPlayer releases: the first three episodes of Anthony Horowitz’s New Blood and the full box set of Colin Morgan’s The Living and the Dead.
The crime drama and the spooky period piece racked up 1.245m and 958k views respectively, ranking them as the fifth and eighth most popular programmes on iPlayer respectively for the month – impressive going for The Living and the Dead, as it only arrived at the end of June. In May, BBC iPlayer exclusive Peggy Mitchell: Last Orders also received 594k requests.
The figures follow strong months for BBC Three, with Drugs Map of Britain Manchester: Heroin Haters proving May’s 16th most popular programme, with 535k views, and Murdered by My Father becoming April’s second most-streamed show, with 1.374m views. (Drugs Map of Britain – Wolverhampton received 671k requests).
Whether live-streaming or catching up with an online TV channel, audiences were embracing BBC iPlayer this spring and summer. What, then, of Top Gear? It stuttered as much online as it did on linear TV.
In May, Episode 1 raced to 1.443m views, making it the most popular programme and episode on the site. In June, though, Episode 2 dropped to 1.426m, while Episode 3 notched up 1.2m views and Episode 4 901k – a drop of over 30 per cent before the series had finished. Extra Gear, BBC Three’s companion show, which featured presenters Chris Harrison and Rory Reid, which we praised and other viewers also enjoyed, sadly didn’t make the top 20 finishing grid for June. Whether it rises into the main ranks for July remains to be seen, but the Beeb’s official figures confirm that even in an on-demand age, a show that doesn’t run smoothly on air isn’t guaranteed to do any better on the web.
Photo: Mark Yeoman