The BBC is advertising for a new series producer at Top Gear and says they will need to be able to ‘manage their own emotions in the face of pressure’. The programme, one of the corporation’s biggest earners under Jeremy Clarkson, has slipped to just 1.9million viewers during the disastrous Chris Evans era. Evans quit the show following a ratings slump.
Chris Evans’ departure from the Top Gear cast will lead to fundamental changes at the beloved motoring program, The Telegraph is reporting, and the BBC is starting by looking for a new series producer.
The BBC’s listing for the position says it wants a candidate that can “maintain personal effectiveness by managing own emotions in the face of pressure, setbacks, or when dealing with provocative situations” and “pro-actively offers constructive feedback to others.” Both of those seem like direct digs at Evans, who made headlines for his behaviour on the show, allegedly getting flustered during studio filming, chastising the audience when jokes fell flat, and berating at least one behind-the-scenes person to the point of tears.
Along with the new producer, the BBC is handing creative control to Alex Renton, the old series editor. Renton has been a fixture at Top Gear for over ten years, which means he was on hand during the show’s late 2000s golden era. This is a good thing.
Script changes are coming, too. Evans only brought in one script writer when he took over. The result was writing that the show’s presenters – Evans aside, we’re guessing – weren’t happy with. The show’s former lead host added long-time collaborator Danny Baker to help out, which could explain why the studio links improved as season 23 went on, but the writing still lacked the punch and fluidity that came from former host Jeremy Clarkson and script editor Richard Porter’s hand during the previous Top Gear era. Clarkson was notorious for massaging the script to near perfection – we strongly suggest reading Porter’s And On That Bombshell… for background on Jezza’s fanatical work on the scripts.
“Jeremy Clarkson used to hone, and hone, and hone the script. He was obsessive about it,” an unnamed “senior figure” on the show told The Telegraph. “[New Top Gear] over-resourced the technology side, and under-resourced the parts that add finesse.”
In a more controversial move, the show is scrapping the popular Christmas specials, which usually involved a massive road trip to a far-flung location. The new cast’s fragile chemistry could be the cause of this change – perhaps the BBC just isn’t confident the new hosts can carry that kind of show yet – but as our friends at Jalopnik point out, the move could be in response to Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond’s new show, The Grand Tour, which is almost nothing but globe-trotting.
Finally, TG will adjust its air date. Behind-the-scenes problems forced producers to push season 23 back from early May to later in the month, where the motoring show had to compete with the Euro 2016 soccer tournament for views. Pulling things back into the spring could help recover from last season’s disappointing ratings. Based on that plan, we could be seeing how TG’s changes work out sooner than expected.