Chris Evans failed to listen to Top Gear's audience

Following a legend is tough. David Moyes found this out the hard way when he stepped into Sir Alex Ferguson's shoes at Manchester United, and, let's face it; Adam Rickitt will always be Nick Tilsley in Corrie, despite that new bloke (whatever he's called).

Top Gear: Chris Evans and The Stig pose to promote the new series (pic credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Top Gear: Chris Evans and The Stig pose to promote the new series (pic credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Spare a thought, then, for Chris Evans. His role in fronting up Top Gear followed not one, but four, legends of the show. 

For while Top Gear was Jeremy Clarkson’s in everything but legal ownership; it was his chemistry and camaraderie with Richard Hammond and James May that propelled it to international super-success.
That’s not forgetting the contribution of its former executive producer, Andy Wilman, who followed the other three to Amazon Prime in the wake of Clarkson’s dismissal.

Now, with the curtain coming down on Evans’ tenure after just one series, BBC bosses and Evans himself may ask where it all went wrong.

The recent reports of a sexual assault case against Evans – allegations he strenuously denies – certainly won’t have helped. But, even before those stories emerged, his time on Top Gear looked doomed. 

The new series got off to a poor start with many criticising Evans’ shouting and imitation of the Clarkson/Hammond/May formula. 

This was the first mistake the new team made.

In some ways, Evans was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t, replicate the old approach. 

But his "Tonight…" introductions in familiar Clarkson drawl sounded like a poor impression of the jacket and jeans-wearing, curly-haired one. 

Die-hard Top Gear fans felt like they were watching watered-down reruns of their biggest love with no new sparkle added.

Next came head-in-the-sand syndrome. Evans has a tremendous TV track record (Big Breakfast, TFI Friday, Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush), so should absolutely back his own judgement. 

But when your audience has a voice as loud as the Top Gear community, listening and learning is so important.

Evans didn’t do either. 

He explained falling ratings with talk about how Top Gear is "changing the way" people consume television.

And no major reworking of the format – the road tests and challenges will have all been pre-filmed over a period of months, but surely the studio sections could have been changed? 

Finally, the mainstream media cranked up their reporting and broke stories of infighting between Evans and Matt Le Blanc. 

With Evans’ pig-headedness and self-belief, it was a popularity contest he could never win.

So in the same period that we’ve lost a Prime Minister, an England manager, a UKIP leader and *almost* a Labour leader, the BBC’s biggest export is now boss-less. 

Who’d want to be in charge, eh?

Sam Holl is client service director at Kindred

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