LONDON — "Top Gear" is back on the BBC this Sunday, and next to nobody knows about it. Gone are Chris Evans, Jeremy Clarkson, and — it would seem — much of the car show's pre-premiere publicity.
But worry not. A quieter launch will suit the BBC as it bids to bed in a new central cast of presenters away from the bluster of the newspaper front pages in Britain.
Centre stage will be Matt LeBlanc, the "Friends" star who often played second fiddle to Evans last year, but scooped up far more plaudits from the critics. He is joined by Rory Reid and Chris Harris, who were also introduced to audiences last season, but now make up a Clarkson/Hammond/May-style trio.
Their chemistry — that elusive, unquantifiable quality that makes TV magic — is not just a test-tube pipedream either, according to LeBlanc. "We are now getting to a point where we are really starting to click. We are having so much fun together," he told the BBC.
With new blood comes new ideas, and the "Top Gear" team has a fresh gimmick that will aim to spice up test runs around the show's famous Dunsfold Aerodrome track. Taking more than a little inspiration from BBC bedfellow "Doctor Who," producers are introducing a "mysterious" teleportation portal for the drivers.
The "left-at-Hammerhead" feature will give drivers the chance to turn left at the Hammerhead corner and go straight into a parallel dimension. So, when LeBlanc is road testing an Aston Martin DB11, he takes a left at Hammerhead and is transported from dreary Dunsfold to Montenegro. Waiting on the other side is Harris in a Mercedes.
It alone won't be enough to salvage "Top Gear's" plummeting ratings (the programme's audience was down 40% last year), but that's not a bad thing. If last year's series was all about Evans' fiery revolution, this year there needs to be a much steadier turn of the wheel.
Getting back to the basics of a core team of likeable presenters talking about something they love will be enough to keep "Top Gear" on track. There are no gimmicks in that.
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SEE ALSO: Chris Evans has quit 'Top Gear'