One of my favourite cast member of Friends was, like the Biblical definition of truth, a fountain whose waters were in perpetual motion; it was only Matt LeBlanc sometimes, but when it was, it really was. The broad stupidity of his character sometimes threw one off the scent, and it was only over time that the sophistication of his comic sense became apparent. He had a gold-plated, King of the Swingers talent, which makes it sort of baffling that anyone British can afford him.
Obviously, it helped that his career didn’t really take off after his bubble, Joey (so far as I know, I was one of only 45 viewers. It was like having a terminally lazy child; I loved it, but I could see it wasn’t working).
Matt LeBlanc takes the reasonably priced car round the Top Gear track Video
The reason I applaud the Top Gear choice is that it seals the new direction already established by Chris Evans: a different kind of humour, puckish rather than aggressive; surreal, victimless, self-deprecating, sweet, now handsome. If they were hinting at mission statement before, now they’ve come out and said it: this is going to be everything Jeremy Clarkson wasn’t. You think we’re just going to rehash the same jokes, minus the racist slurs? Pal, you’re wrong: we’ve got a new car hegemony. We’re not going to atone for the old one. We’re going to make you forget you ever watched it.
Although LeBlanc had appeared on Top Gear before, those who have his Friends identity confused with his real one will mainly remember him piling up cardboard boxes under a car cover, to pick up women by pretending he had a Porsche. Even at the time, it was a dated storyline; I’m sure by the 90s women didn’t have to have their desire mediated through materialism. Joey would have got laid anyway, with or without Porsche, is what I’m saying. But I’m taking that moment as synecdoche for Matt LeBlanc’s entire persona, that he is more interested in people than in things, as is Chris Evans.
Top Gear is entering its anthropocene age.