By Martel Maxwell
LET’s get one thing straight.
Chris Evans – Top Gear flop or not – is a brilliant broadcaster.
His Radio 2 breakfast show is the best on offer, One Show guest hosting endearingly energised and chat show TFI – then and now – top tv.
But something went badly wrong with Top Gear.
As an avid fan I’ve thought – probably too much – about what that is.
Firstly, he looked too good.
A slim man with trendy hair and jeans tucked into his boots is not relatable in the same way Clarkson was with his paunch, unruly middle-aged hair and ‘Christ, did he just say that?’ gaffs.
Zip-ah-dee-doo-dah energy works a treat on morning radio when we need a boost; it fits short sharp bursts of hosting on TFI.
But for an evening show on cars, with voice overs and pieces to camera lasting several minutes, we want laid back conversation – and Evans was too excited, a kid in a vroom-vroom candy shop, to be calm.
On paper, he was perfect – a car nut with a huge following.
But the Top Gear format remained the same as it was under Clarkson, May and Hammond – and the problem with that is it played to their strengths.
Evans seemed brash from the start, shouting, not talking. A kids tv presenter with ants in his pants, when all we wanted was a chat.
And a little cynicism. We craved a presenter we could imagine sinking beers, who’d make us laugh and be quiet long enough to listen. In other words, Clarkson.
Evans was too annoying on that first show to tolerate for more than a half pint.
I know it’s not easy driving and talking (a while ago I co-hosted a car show for stv in Scotland. My fee was a little less than Evans. Come to think of it, there wasn’t one) and Evans did it with aplomb.
But there was a disconnect with the audience because he was just trying too hard in what, after all, was his dream job.
And yet, he and the show got better. The first episode was so poorly judged it’s a wonder anyone signed it off. The second and subsequent were immeasurably better, yet we’d switched off.
Evans is a superstar. Going in to work at his Radio 2 show every morning, knowing everyone is talking about you must be hellish and require balls of steel while you’re heart is breaking.
Yet he’s as perky, fresh and the most relevant-feeling breakfast host on the airwaves.
This will be the best thing that ever happened to him. If rumours are true that his ego is out of control, it will give him perspective and focus for the amazing gigs he still has.