New 'Top Gear' Co-Host Matt LeBlanc Says Show "Wasn't Broken"

Matt LeBlanc
Joe Pugliese

"They've been very trusting in the writing of our show. A lot of networks note you to death...I take it as a compliment that they've given us a long leash," Matt LeBlanc says of Showtime's hands-off approach to his comedy, Episodes.

'Top Gear' was the main attraction at BBC Worldwide's annual Showcase in Liverpool, where the former 'Friends' star and fellow host Chris Evans pushed the revamped show to international buyers.

Just a month after being named co-host of Top Gear and a year after Jeremy Clarkson left amid a cloud of controversy, Friends star Matt LeBlanc on Monday touted the BBC's revamped motoring show ahead of its launch in May.

Speaking at the BBC Worldwide Showcase in Liverpool, the 40th edition of the annual sales forum that attracts world buyers for the BBC’s commercial arm, LeBlanc said he thought there was ample space in the market for both Top Gear and the new show from Clarkson due to start later this year on Amazon Prime.

“I think there’s enough room on TV, there’s more than one cooking show,” he told reporters. “So there’s enough room for two or more car shows.”

Co-host Chris Evans highlighted that hiring LeBlanc was a nod to the show’s increased global nature — it’s estimated to be worth some $75 million as a brand to BBC Worldwide — and that his appointment had already been worthwhile. “We got so much comms coming back from all over the world, immediately Matt had earned his money on day one,” he said.

Both Evans and LeBlanc also shrugged off rumors that they would be totally changing the format of Top Gear.

“The last show wasn’t broken, there’s no need to fix it,” said LeBlanc.  

Added Evans: “If you buy a great old house, you’d be really stupid to knock it down. You take what’s there, you take the best bits and then you may give it an initial slight modification.”

But Evans did say that he didn’t want to “Xerox” the previous incarnation of the show, which is why he and the show team went for five presenters instead of the previous two, with Rory Reid, Sabine Schmitz and Chris Harris added to the lineup earlier this month.

“We’d be really stupid to try to imitate what they do, because they’re really good at it," he said about Clarkson and his team. "It’s like being asked to reform the Beatles overnight without any of their hits or their ability and be as popular as them.”

Top Gear was by far the main attraction at the BBC Worldwide Showcase, which on Monday culminated in a huge event in which the presenters drove super cars —including an Aston Martin DB10, featured in Spectre —around an arena while 700 international buyers looked on. A teaser for the new show included a race with a fighter jet at the "Top Gun" training base in Nevada, and Evans asking his host Schmitz to pull over after a high-speed drive so he could be sick.