Steve Coogan and Stephen Fry Among U.K. Bookies' Favorites to Host 'Top Gear'
Betting shops also have odds on Zayn Malik and Matt LeBlanc replacing the ousted Jeremy Clarkson.
With Jeremy Clarkson's Top Gear fate now sealed following Wednesday's decision by the BBC not to renew his contract, talk in the U.K. has swiftly moved to possible replacements at the helm of the hit motoring show.
Although many have argued that Top Gear could not possibly survive without the controversial host, who is now reportedly facing a police investigation over his "unprovoked physical and verbal attack" on a producer, as the BBC characterized the BBC's own investigation report, the broadcaster is clearly intent on keeping the engine of its $75 million franchise purring. As part of the statement on Wednesday, director general Tony Hall said the broadcaster "must now look to renew Top Gear for 2016."
But who can fill Clarkson's gas-splattered shoes?
The bookies' current favorite would be a considerable departure: British model Jodie Kidd. The 36-year-old has already appeared on Top Gear before, once holding the record for the fastest time in its "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" competition, and hosts a car show on Channel 5. Her odds range from 3-1 to 5-1 across U.K. betting outlets, who clearly think that the BBC is eyeing a move away from the show's perceived chauvinistic attitude.
A favorite since Clarkson's reported "fracas," radio host Chris Evans (not the actor) has since ruled himself out, telling listeners on his BBC Radio 2 show that he hadn't been approached and that it was "never going to happen."
Further down the bookies' lists, Steven Fry and Steve Coogan are both in the race, with odds ranging from 6-1 to 10-1 for each. Like Kidd, they are huge motoring fanatics and have appeared on Top Gear before.
Fry has boasted that he once owned 11 classic cars, although he reportedly traded them in for a London black cab to better skirt around the city's congestion. Coogan, however, has been an outspoken critic of the show's presenters, despite three Top Gear appearances. In 2011, he slammed the "casual racism" of Clarkson and his co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond.
"[Hammond] reminds you of the squirt at school as he hangs round Clarkson the bully as if to say 'I'm with him.' Meanwhile, James May stands at the back holding their coats as they beat up the boy with the stutter," Coogan wrote.
Such words would likely rule him out working with May and Hammond. While many expect the duo to leave and the BBC to completely refresh the show, the odds of them staying on without a third replacement host being named are still relatively good, ranging from 6-1 to 9-1.
As is so often the case with U.K. betting companies, going farther down the list brings up more dubious contenders. Jerry Seinfeld currently has 25-1 odds of replacing Clarkson, while a $1 bet would pay back $66 in the unlikely event Matt LeBlanc was named host.
But even with impressive odds of 200-1, perhaps only the most reckless gambler would place a bet on former One Directioner Zayn Malik taking the Top Gear driving seat.