New Top Gear host Matt LeBlanc has threatened to quit if Chris Evans is not sacked.
Britain’s The Sun newspaper has reported that Le Blanc has had enough of Evans’ rude treatment of staff, and reportedly told producers that they can no longer work together.
The ultimatum has reportedly sent shockwaves through the BBC which was already reeling from a slump in ratings since the departure of former host Jeremy Clarkson and his team of Richard Hammond and James May, along with executive producer Andy Wilman.
The stand-off leaves the network a tough choice of who goes, meaning the second series of the show, due to start filming in September, may be shelved while it decides.
The paper reported that spokesmen for both the BBC and for Evans, 50, declined to comment on the reports, while a spokeswoman for LeBlanc reportedly denied the claims.
The fourth episode of the motoring show which was formerly wildly popular under Clarkson saw ratings slump to a record low of just 2.3 million, down from the previous week of 2.4 million. But the most telling ratings came in the first two shows where the show shed nearly half of its audience. The first episode attracted 4.1 million, but then slumped to 2.8 million in the next, as viewers switched off in droves from Evans and Le Blanc.
Top Gear under Clarkson would attract more then 350 million weekly viewers worldwide and set the Guinness World Record as the most watched factual TV program in the world.
Bookmakers have taken odds on whether both the show and Evans will survive, with Betway recently quoting odds of 5/4 for the BBC axing the show at the end of the first series and odds of 2/1 on the chances of co-host Matt LeBlanc returning.
One poll found Evans’s debut episode was rated by viewers as the “worst quality show on terrestrial TV” when it aired.
Evans, a presenter on BBC Radio 2’s breakfast show, has defended revamped show even calling it “a hit”, but viewers found him variously “too shouty” and behaving like an embarrassing
The controversial radio host was appointed last year after the departure of controversial frontman Clarkson after what was described as a ‘fracas’ with producer Oisin Tymon.
It was revealed that the row, which happened in a North Yorkshire hotel, took place because no hot food was provided following a day’s filming.
His dismissal prompted a mass walkout as Richard Hammond, James May and Andy Wilman, the executive producer and old school friend of Clarkson, all resigned.