So after months of hype, the first Top Gear of the Chris Evans / Matt Le Blanc era drew a not hugely impressive 4.4million viewers.
This is below the 5m mark which Evans foolishly set as the benchmark for disappointment and, given ratings tend to decline as the weeks go on, it’s possible the series could end up falling well below the 4m mark by the time its final episode airs.
No wonder then that the show’s new leading man took to Twitter on Monday to challenge those claiming the show was a failure.
But what Evans, and the BBC, can’t dispute is that his hideously dated SHOUTING ALL THE THINGS approach to TV presenting grated with some viewers, many of whom may not bother coming back in future weeks.
Last year I suggested the BBC needed to rest the series for a while and, when they were ready to bring it back, radically overhaul the format so that the show and its new presenters weren’t trapped in Jeremy Clarkson’s shadow.
Instead, in what looks to have been a terrible misjudgement, Evans spent the evening gurning his way through Clarkson’s old lines, including ‘Some say…’ and ‘On that bombshell…’.
By simply slotting the new team into the Clarkson era format, someone at the BBC seems to have hoped the show was embarked on a quick route to success and viewers, feeling a warm sense of familiarity, would quickly wonder why they’d ever liked old Jezza and his gang in the first place.
But what they ended up doing was highlighting how important Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May’s interplay and chemistry was to the show’s success and appeal.
Le Blanc and Evans looked like a pair of guys who’ve never met one another before – coming to the show without having read the extensive media coverage you’d have no idea that they’d been filming together for months.
Matt was to be fair pretty decent as a presenter, a role he clearly has a natural feel for, but Evans never stopped looking out of his depth and well past his prime.
That running around SHOUTING thing means he’d never get put on the show’s Cool Wall and vindicates those of us who’ve always regarded him as a one-trick pony.
You can easily imagine that, elevated to the role of Newnight presenter, Evans would insist on helming the show from the centre of a standing audience which he whipped up into a whooping frenzy as he ran around the studio SHOUTING updates about the latest Middle East crisis.
Evans was the wrong choice for lead presenter – not because he’s not Jeremy Clarkson but because he’s a dated, single-note act who lacks the international recognition and presence to host a global franchise.
The BBC would be sensible to drop the SHOUTING one and for the second season of the post-Clarkson era put Le Blanc at the centre of a new format crafted around his strengths and obvious natural warmth.
Sadly that’s not likely to happen but it’s hard to see how they build the show’s audience while Evans remains at the helm.