As we continue to await the unveiling of The Grand Tour - Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May's new, erm, vehicle - the BBC is left to pick over the bones of the bruising experience that was the first series of Top Gear without the presenters that were synonymous with it.
After former director-general Mark Thompson suggested that the BBC should have fought harder to keep Clarkson on board instead of sacking him for punching a producer in 2015, now Mark Linsey, head of the BBC's newly-created production arm BBC Studios, has outlined what the future may hold for the show following the disappointment of the last series which was headed up by the now-departed Chris Evans.
Talking to The Guardian, Linsey explained, “Top Gear was a phenomenon, but it certainly didn’t start as a phenomenon. It grew over time. When you are trying something new, albeit with a well-known format, but certainly with a new cast, it is going to take time.
“If you look at the first series of the Clarkson era it didn’t even have James May in it. It took 10 years to grow and the new Top Gear needs time to grow. It certainly didn’t surprise me it didn’t do the audience figures of the previous series.”
When questioned whether they were looking for another 'frontman' for the series, he answered definitively: “No we are not at the moment. [The new Top Gear] was built around an ensemble. Matt LeBlanc was an important part of that ensemble. Clearly the viewers enjoyed Matt LeBlanc, and we want him to come back. Clearly they enjoyed the other Chris [Harris], and Rory [Reid] – they have told us that. All the elements were there of an ensemble rather than just focusing it on Chris [Evans], and I think that is evident in the way that we produced it. There will be change, but we will be building on the characters that worked, ie Rory, Chris and Matt LeBlanc.”
So in the words of Tony Hayers, it looks like the future direction of the show will be 'evolution not revolution'. In fact, it seems that once again, Partridge predicted the future back in 1997 once again:
Alan: I loved that phrase you used, it was very clever – ‘Revolution not evolution'.
Tony: No, it was the opposite. ‘Evolution not revolution'.
Alan: Well whatever. Because that is me. I ‘evolve', but I don't… ‘revolve'... Or vice-versa. I suppose what you're trying to say is, you don't want another Chris Evans on your hands.
Tony: No, that is what we want.
Alan: I'm your man.