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Series 23

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SERIES 23

Rory Reid, Sabine Schmitz, Matt LeBlanc, Chris Evans, Chris Harris, Eddie Jordan, and the Stig

Series 23 was the twenty-third series of the BBC motoring show Top Gear. The series marked the first appearance of a new presenting line-up, following Jeremy Clarkson's dismissal from the BBC in March, 2015 and Richard Hammond and James May's subsequent departure from the show. Clarkson, Hammond, and May were replaced by new lead presenter Chris Evans alongside Matt LeBlanc, Eddie Jordan, Chris Harris, Sabine Schmitz, and Rory Reid, with the Stig also returning. It marks the first and only series in which Chris Evans was a presenter.

Originally slated to air in early May, the series was hit with numerous production delays after behind-the-scenes difficulties, including the loss of the show's new executive presenter. The series premiered on the 29th of May, 2016 with taping of the studio segments of the first show beginning on the 19th of May, 2016.

Episodes

Episode Film(s) Track Test SIARC
1 Matt LeBlanc tests the Ariel Nomad in the deserts of Morocco, Chris Evans and Sabine Schmitz do battle in two American muscle cars in Nevada, and Evans and LeBlanc compete in a series of UK vs. USA themed challenges None Jesse Eisenberg, Gordon Ramsay
2 Chris Evans, Matt LeBlanc, and Eddie Jordan head to South Africa to test a trio of brand new SUVs. Their co-drivers will be musicians Seasick Steve, Sharleen Spiteri, and Tinie Tempah with the journey culminating in a race to the top of the Sani Pass McLaren 675LT (Evans) Damian Lewis
3 Sabine Schmitz and Chris Evans blast around Laguna Seca in the new Audi R8, Rory Reid drives the Ford Focus RS, and Chris Harris tackles the Ferrari F12 TDF. Elsewhere, LeBlanc takes a tour of London with Ken Block None Kevin Hart, Anthony Joshua
4 Evans, Matt, and Sabine each buy a second-hand car and drive to Venice to prove that the road can be as luxurious as taking the train. Elsewhere, Chris Harris tests the Aston Martin Vulcan and Rory Reid tackles the Tesla Model X. None Brian Cox, Bear Grylls
5 Evans and LeBlanc head to Ireland to test a pair of Rolls Royces. Chris Harris takes the BMW M2 for a spin and Rory Reid races to the Geneva Motor Show in the new Jaguar F-type SVR. BMW M2 (Harris) Jennifer Saunders, Paul Hollywood
6 Rory Reid drives the all new Ford Mustang, Chris Harris takes on the Honda NSX, LeBlanc tests the all new Porsche 911 R, and Evans hits the track in the MGB Roadster None Patrick Dempsey, Greg Davies

Production

Evans has given small glimpses into the pre-production process behind the new series of Top Gear; Evans has publicly said that he will alter the format of the show slightly but has not given exact details on what changes this will entail. Top Gear's twenty-third series began production at the end of October, 2015. Since then, Evans has been photographed filming at the Top Gear test track with Jenson Button and the Stig. At the time, Evans appeared to be filming a power test of the McLaren 650S. Evans was also seen filming in California with Sabine Schmitz. Matt LeBlanc, Eddie Jordan, and Chris Evans have more recently been filming in South Africa and neighbouring Lesotho, with musician co-drivers. There have also been various reports of locations in which the Top Gear team will shoot, including Cuba, Norway, and Morocco. Rory Reid was also spotted filming with a collection of old and new American muscle cars in Scotland. Elsewhere, Chris Harris filmed at a rally in the UK, and LeBlanc was seen filming in Morocco and with Ken Block in London. LeBlanc, Evans, and Schmitz have also been seen filming a road trip from the UK to Venice. LeBlanc is currently filming in Killarney, Ireland with a Rolls Royce convertible.

In March, 2016, while filming with Ken Block in London, Matt LeBlanc and the Top Gear team courted controversy after filming around the Cenotaph. Chris Evans apologised for the incident on his breakfast radio show on the 14th of March, 2016.  

Eddie Jordan, Rory Reid, and Sabine Schmitz had planned to film in Southern Kazakhstan with a Mercedes G500, Dacia Duster, and an Avtoros Shaman, though the shoot was abandoned after their flights from Moscow to Almaty were cancelled. Reports suggest that the team will attempt to reschedule the shoot for April or May, before the end of the series. Recently, a new trailer promoting Extra Gear showed a clip of an Avtoros Shaman driving through the desert, indicating the team may have filmed their item in Kazakhstan at a later date.  

Presenters

Immediately after his firing, Radio DJ Chris Evans was widely touted as Clarkson's successor. Evans denied this suggestion for a couple of months before it was officially announced on the 17th of June, 2015. On the 4th of February, 2016 Evans announced the first of his co-presenters; Friends star Matt LeBlanc, who became the first non-British person to host the show. A week later, on the 11th of February, 2016 Evans announced the rest of co-presenting line-up, revealing that Eddie Jordan, Rory Reid, Sabine Schmitz, and Chris Harris would be joining the show.

Months prior to the announcement, there was much speculation over who would be joining Evans for the series. On the 23rd of December, 2015 it was widely reported that Evans would be joined by Chris Harris - a motoring journalist, YouTube content creator, Sabine Schmitz - a German racing driver, and David Coulthard - a Formula 1 driver. Though Harris and Schmitz were later officially announced as co-hosts, Coulthard announced that he would return to the BBC's F1 presenting team in early 2016, ending speculation of a presenting role on Top Gear.

Broadcast

Chris Evans announced at the end of November, 2015 that the first show in the new series would go to air on the 8th of May, 2016. Evans also claimed that the new series would contain 16 episodes, which would make it the longest series of the show to date. However, after many delays it was announced that the show would air from the 29th of May, 2016 and, instead, feature just six episodes.

Reception

Reaction from fans, following the show's first episode featuring the new line-up, was swift and harsh with a generally negative reception. Critics also panned the show, calling Evans' performance 'cagey'. LeBlanc was perhaps the only element of the show which received praise from critics. Fans, however, were more divided on his performance. Chris Harris received more universal praise from fans and critics alike with many citing his previous experience with motoring shows as the key to his success.

The fallout from the show's poor reception was immense. The show's viewership plummeted over the short six-episode run, falling from 5 million in the premiere to just 1 million by the series finale. Chris Evans, though initially defensive of the new series, eventually acknowledged that he had not managed to succeed as a host and quit the show. He did not return for the next series, quitting the show shortly after the final episode had aired.

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