The announcement of Matt LeBlanc joining the ranks of Top Gear is a headline you would never expect to see - clearly not, as bookmakers William Hill revealed with odds at 500/1, not a single person bet on him being the new host. It didn't quite break the internet, but it did send Twitter into a bit of a melt down; a seemingly strange turn of events like the resurrection of his character Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of Our Lives. So what about the man behind the motor?
For a brief time it appeared as the BBC's golden goose was on the rocks. As if Jeremy Clarkson's exits hadn't hit Top Gear enough head on, the tyres came to a screeching halt when co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond also jumped ship. Hammond, presenting from series 1-22 alongside Clarkson, and May joining as of series two. The Top Gear brand which they had developed over their 13 year tenure was shipped off to Amazon for their (as of yet) unnamed show, with the BBC show left in limbo.
The idea of a revamped, Clarkson-less, Top Gear got off to a rocky start when Chris Evans was revealed as the first presenter. Mocked for his inability to drive and talk to the camera, rumours of motion sickness and a less than enthusiastic handover from Jeremy Clarkson quickly drew storm clouds over the show's future. However, with Matt LeBlanc on board, it appears the tide is turning. Something of a Generation X's George Clooney, the now 48 year old silver fox is sure to set hearts racing on and off the track. Embodying the car knowledge of May, the presenting skills of Clarkson and the cheekiness of Hammond, he ticks all the boxes of a Top Gear presenter.
With Top Gear generating over £50 million a year in overseas sales it is only natural that the BBC will want to protect its biggest asset. Being a 'world service' provider, and with an ever growing BBC America, it actually makes sense to recruit from across the pond. Whilst Chris Evans will pull in the Radio Two crowd, LeBlanc will not only hit the tricky female demographic, also the USA and those who remember him from his time on Friends.
Anyone still questioning "Why Matt LeBlanc?", he isn't even new to the show! His previous appearance on Top Gear came in 2012 when he was the 'Star in a Reasonably Priced Car.'
Just don't use the break as much, that's all
A nippy lap at just 01:42:01, gave him the fastest lap ever (a title he still retains), despite Clarkson critiquing the driving as "very boring indeed" and "drama-less". LeBlanc looked at ease in the studio and behind the wheel, but barely got to flap his impressive acting chops in the brief appearance. Now given the opportunity to tour the world, host segments and interview celebrity chums, LeBlanc is sure to flourish.
Let's go back to his impressive catalogue of celebrity friends, who couldn't wait for a mini Friends reunion if the likes of David Schwimmer or Matthew Perry hopped in the driving seat? He is already lining up Episodes star Stephen Mangan to be his first guest over Twitter. Then there are the anecdotes- the previous Top Gear team were on best form when regaling you with tales from their lives, and boy does Mr LeBlanc have some of those from his A-list parties.
Whilst he may be remembered as the 'stupid' one from Friends, his maligned spin-off Joey or that dude from Lost In Space, it may appear that he isn't quite qualified for the job. For those looking for a more serious approach to Matt LeBlanc, turn to his performance alongside Mangan in Showtime's Episodes; playing a fictionalised version of himself for four seasons, he frequently receives praise:
[LeBlanc] handles the big laughs and the broader humour, and does it so well, it serves as a reminder that he was under-appreciated during his years on Friends- USA Today
Finally how does the man himself feel? Well by the looks of it, pretty happy. Quoted as being overwhelmed by the response, LeBlanc states:
As a car nut and a massive fan of Top Gear, I'm honoured and excited to be a part of this iconic show's new chapter
Even in the unlikely event that Top Gear does tank, it is sure to pack a wallop of ratings to start with. At its peak in 2006 the BBC could expect viewing figures of eight million- the biggest ever ratings for BBC Two in over a decade. This looks set to continue given the recent media hype surrounding the show; dubbed 'The Magnificent Seven of Motoring Heaven', the lineup includes a YouTuber, pro driver Sabine Schmitz and F1 legend Eddie Jordan. The BBC's only mistake was not saving the best until last and revealing Matt LeBlanc as the final host. He promises to be everything that Clarkson wasn't, a suave American eyebrow raise to Clarkson's bullish gusto. Whether this is a positive or a negative remains to be seen, but the engine is revving and we are taking it up a gear.
N.B. At least he knows how to fly a spaceship!