In a career move no one saw coming -- perhaps most of all the guy making the move -- Matt LeBlanc has joined British hit reality show, “Top Gear,” as a host.
He replaces Jeremy Clarkson, the brawling wild man of “Top Gear,” who was fired last year (for brawling). LeBlanc -- the first non-British host in the show’s long history, per reports from London -- will bring a different style.
His news release comment: “As a car nut and a massive fan of ‘Top Gear,’ I’m honored and excited to be a part of this iconic show’s new chapter.”
Make no mistake -- host of gearhead series “Top Gear” is one of the most visible and coveted on-air positions in the world, and instantly submits he who holds this particular crown under the steady and white-hot scrutiny of the British press. “Gear” has a big audience here, too, and has for years, although perhaps not necessarily credit due to Clarkson who -- if you believe the reports -- was both a lightning rod and lightning bolt thrower, and tossed a few our way on occasion, too. His firing was huge news in the U.K., which had already exhaustively covered his many other controversies, including -- reportedly -- homophobic and racist remarks. He was suspended last March after what was described as a “fracas” with a producer, although the details suggested more of a food fight -- Clarkson was unhappy when he didn’t get the steak he had ordered, and took his displeasure out on the staffer. He was dropped and an uproar ensued -- Clarkson, politically far-right, has a significant following in the U.K., and still does, and will host a show for Amazon later this year.
LeBlanc, of course, brings -- presumably -- an extreme, opposite style: Congenial, lighthearted and apolitical, he won’t be Joey Tribbiani of course, but won’t be Matt LeBlanc of “Episodes” either.
Chris Evans remains -- in the terminology of U.K. TV -- the “lead presenter.” The show returns in May with a very familiar face at the helm, too.