After enduring months of claims that he has bullied staff and become “out of control”, new Top Gear host Chris Evans has finally managed to get one back on his critics in the press, by blacklisting most national newspapers from the show’s launch event, and telling the hand-picked journalists who did attend that the bullying claims were “facile and fictitious”. Evans also said that allegations that the pressure of revamping the series had led to him bullying staff were so untrue, they were “funny”.
Newspapers that had printed articles deemed hostile to the new series, including The Telegraph, were blacklisted from the event, at which media from across the world saw a preview of the new show. Asked by The Guardian what he made of the criticism, Evans said: “I thought it was ultimately funny. Some of, almost all of, the observations from certain aspects of the press have been so nonsensical and so facile and fictitious … all the people they were talking about in lots of the stories know the truth.”
Evans said he had warned his team that the controversy would get worse as transmission of the new series came closer. “We are a big target so we are easy to hit. But it’s our job to step out of the way, so you don’t throw a punch and they fall over. I think they were looking for a bite and the one thing you do is don’t bite. You never defend yourself because that’s always going to be misconstrued. You hope maybe that other people defend you perhaps, but the best way to respond to it all is to know you’ve done nothing wrong.”
Evans added that he would be disappointed if the first episode did not attract more than five million viewers.
The last series featuring Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, had an average audience of just over six million. Eddie Jordan, the motor-racing mogul and a fellow presenter, along with Matt LeBlanc the former Friends star, was more confident. “I think this will be a different show. I think you’ll find this show will be more successful to a wider audience,”he said.
He added: “I believe there is a better teamwork here. Certainly when you see Chris and Matt together, I was hugely impressed. I had no idea what to expect and this was just sensational. If they can capture a fraction of this on the screen, it will be the best show that’s been on TV.”