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Friends, Episodes actor Matt LeBlanc joins Top Gear hosting team

Former Friends star Matt LeBlanc will be joining the BBC’s popular Top Gear program, presenting the revamped car show with Chris Evans, the British broadcaster said Thursday.

LeBlanc, who starred as Joey Tribbiani on the NBC sitcom Friends and plays a version of himself on the BBC-Showtime comedy Episodes, is the first non-British actor to host the BBC show in its 39-year history.

One of the globe’s most popular programs, Top Gear has won a huge following with its mix of car tips, driving stunts and jokey banter.

“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,” LeBlanc said.

“What a thrill!”

LeBlanc has appeared on the program twice before and holds a record for fastest ever celebrity lap, according to BBC. He also hosted the spin-off standalone program Top Gear: The Races, which was made for the British public broadcaster’s digital download service.

The actor joins Evans and a trio of previously announced co-hosts:

  • Motorsport commentator and former British Formula One driver David Coulthard.
  • ?German BMW and Porsche race car driver Sabine Schmitz, who previously participated in Top Gear driving challenges.
  • British motoring journalist and popular YouTube video blogger Chris Harris, who has earned a devoted online following for his no-holds-barred reviewing.

Revamp after Clarkson departure

The show’s revamp became necessary after former host Jeremy Clarkson left the program amid a scandal. Clarkson was fired after he punched a producer during an off-set altercation. His fellow hosts James May and Richard Hammond also left.

James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond

Former Top Gear hosts (from left) James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond are working on a new car series for Amazon. (Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters)

The altercation threatened the show itself, as Clarkson’s brash persona was a large part of the program’s appeal to fans. A self-styled enemy of political correctness, Clarkson had repeatedly found himself in trouble with the BBC after a series of incidents, including one in which he used a racist word during the filming of a show.

LeBlanc’s addition to the show was announced as Evans tweeted an image of them together beside with the helmeted character in the program known as “The Stig.”

“Acting out our craziest car notions on screen is a dream job and I know we’ll both be debating some epic road trip ideas,” Evans said.

The current series appears in more than 50 countries and the BBC has sold the format for locally-produced versions in the U.S., China, Russia, Australia and South Korea.

CBC | Arts News