Chris Evans’ tumultuous run at the head of Top Gear is over. The radio host announced this morning, via Twitter, that he was stepping down less than 24 hours after the final episode of season 23 aired.
From the minute the BBC announced Evans as the replacement for ousted host Jeremy Clarkson, controversy swirled around Top Gear. It’s difficult to scrape together what went wrong first, but that’s only because nothing went right. From the word “go,” there were problems. Reports of diva-like behavior behind-the-scenes, stories about frosty relationships with co-hosts, and rampant rumors that Evans regularly berated coworkers. One source went as far as saying the new host was behaving worse than Jeremy Clarkson.
Even without the repeated controversies, Evans faced an uphill battle in the hearts and minds of Top Gear’s fans. Comparisons to Jeremy Clarkson were inevitable, and when the show hit the air, Evans didn’t stack up. Fans used to Clarkson’s mannerisms, love of hyperbole, and on-point driving impressions got a shouty and exuberant host for several episodes before Evans settled down on camera. But Evans made several cracks about the old Top Gear as early as his first episode. Not only was he not what fans wanted, he decided to mock a version of the show that was still near and dear to most of his audience. That’s no way to ingratiate yourself to fans.
Faced with plunging viewership figures, Evans was in a precarious position. He was expected to have a meeting later this month with BBC executives about his role on the show and behind-the-scenes behavior, but it looks like things didn’t even get that far. We don’t know if the BBC swung the axe, if Evans made the decision on his own, but despite the show’s many problems this season, the only emotion we have over this story is sadness.
Evans finally hit his stride in season 23’s final episode. Look for our review of episode six later today, but rest easy knowing that if you tune in tonight, you’ll see a more tolerable and controlled Chris Evans. We’d like to see what Evans could have pulled off given more time, but it’s worth noting the parallel here – when Jeremy Clarkson and Andy Wilman relaunched Top Gear in 2002, its original cast was Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and Jason Dawe. It wasn’t until season two that James May joined up. With that in mind, we’re even more excited about Top Gear’s 24th season.