Top Gear Christmas Specials axed
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Top Gear will return early next year
BBC chiefs will scrap the popular Top Gear Christmas specials as they look to revamp the troubled show and boost its flailing ratings.
The new-look motoring show, which received mixed reviews when it hit the screens this year, had originally planned to continue with the festive one-offs.
But following Chris Evans' departure after a disastrous single series, the plans have been shelved in favour of filming for a new series it hopes will air next spring.
A BBC spokesman said: "Planning for Top Gear series 24 is currently underway and the team will be working towards bringing the show back sometime in the early part of 2017."
The Beeb had originally hoped to produce eight episodes for the 23rd series but that was cut to six following filming difficulties and spiralling costs.
It has not yet revealed how many episodes will be made for the next series, which is expected to see former Friends star Matt LeBlanc as the face of the show.
In their rush to air the 24th series for next spring, sources have said the Christmas specials - which saw former presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May drive across countries such as India and Vietnam - will be shelved.
The presenters were forced to flee from Argentina during filming for last year's festive special after Clarkson drove through the South American country in a Porsche bearing a provocative H982 FKL number plate, in an apparent reference to the Falklands War.
The programme, one of the corporation's biggest earners under Clarkson, slipped to a lowly 1.9million viewers during Evans' troubled spell as Top Gear host.
Elsewhere it was reported that the show was advertising for a new series producer who must be able to "manage their own emotions in the face of pressure".
The document, seen by the Daily Telegraph, also said the successful candidate must be able to "proactively offer constructive feedback to others".
This appeared to be a thinly-veiled attack on Evans (below) who has faced accusations of bullying staff in the past.
The newspaper also claimed BBC executives are planning a low-key overhaul of the production team, in which Evans's responsibilities as 'creative lead' will pass to Alex Renton, the series editor, who has worked on Top Gear for more than a decade.
Evans announced on Twitter last week that he was stepping down from hosting the show after just one series.
He said he felt he 'gave it my best shot but sometimes that's not enough', adding 'the team are beyond brilliant, I wish them all the best'.
Following his departure Evans praised his co-host LeBlanc calling him the 'captain' the show needs.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he said: 'For me, he is the man. He is the captain Top Gear truly needs going forward, the perfect torso for the rest of TG's limbs.
'Not only does he eat, sleep, breathe and dream engines, propshafts and trail-braking, but the overwhelming quality that struck me about him is that he's just such a pro.'
Most of the Top Gear presenting line-up is expected to return for a new series, apart from Chris Evans. Picture/BBC
Evans added: 'The whole time I worked with him, he never once looked at the clock, was never late on set, knew his lines inside out and back to front and, most importantly on such an intense production, he always had time for everyone, especially the crew.'
BBC boss Lord Hall said he was grateful to Evans for all the 'work he put in' to the show.
He said: 'He decided to resign, he said he gave the programme his very best, I completely agree he absolutely did.
'It's no easy task to be launching a programme as important as Top Gear and I am really grateful to him, as is the whole of the BBC, for all the work he put in and his energy into that.'
Attention now turns to Clarkson, Hammond and May, whose new venture with Amazon - the Grand Tour - is expected to be released in the Autumn.