The list of past Top Gear controversies is long. There have been allegations of homophobia and criticism of the mockery of Argentines, Mexicans, Germans and Romanians.
I have great respect for Jeremy Clarkson as a motoring and general writer. But he presents a persona to the public which teeters on the brink of controversy and often falls over the edge.
I have always enjoyed Top Gear – even since Angela Rippon and Noel Edmonds presented it – but particularly with the “famous three” of Clarkson/Hammond and May – when it basically became a comedy programme with some wheels thrown in.
I did, however, feel that they had “jumped the shark” with their antics. Firing a body into a hospital was their selachimorpha hurdling moment.
The announcement that Matt Le Blanc will join the Top Gear team is an interesting one. One feels the other presenters, still to be announced, will have to have a more professional background in motoring. But Le Blanc’s comedy acting skills should ensure that the comedy side of the programme is well nourished. He knows how to do the right sideways look at the camera, that’s for sure. I also feel that Matt le Blanc is hardly likely to enter into any Clarkson-like controversies. As Nick Grimshaw said on Radio One (yes,I occasionally git dan wiv da kids), nobody has ever said the words “I hate that Joey off of Friends”.
Having followed the career of Chris Evans relatively closely (two of his auto-biographical books, which I have read, are very good reads) I can say this. He is occasionally as nutty as a fruitcake. He occasionally goes off on an egotistical tangent. He is mostly breezily entertaining, and he certainly knows how to produce entertaining TV. He is never offensive.
So, the signs are encouraging for an entertaining and inoffensive new series of Top Gear. One lives in hope that you can have those two things together.
But, then again, the new series has the huge resources and expertise of the BBC behind it, and it is their biggest franchise. They can’t really muck this one up.