Unpredictable Chris Evans makes prospect of new Top Gear “scary” admits BBC2 boss

Kim Shillinglaw reveals at Edinburgh Television Festival that Evans will surprise viewers in the new look show

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The new era of Top Gear promises to be “scary” according to the BBC2 boss because she doesn’t know what incoming presenter Chris Evans will do.

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“He has that quality of surprise that only a handful of presenters have which is you don’t quite know what they are going to do next,” BBC2 controller Kim Shillinglaw said at the Edinburgh Television Festival on Friday.

She added that while viewers would still recognise certain elements of the show, the Top Gear track at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey would be revamped.

“It’s going to be different, but there will be some continuity. But the new track at Dunsfold will look quite different…”

Shillinglaw said that the loss of Jeremy Clarkson and his fellow presenters following Clarkson’s well-publicised ‘fracas‘ with a Top Gear producer was “sad” but proved that the “human issues” trumped broadcasting concerns.

“It was a very sad episode. At the end of the day this is about human beings. It was just a very, very human situation. I will always be fond of Jeremy and James [May] and Richard [Hammond]. I have great respect for their craft and skills and I was very, very sad the way in which every human frailty… became part of the story.

“Everybody knows what happened… it was unacceptable. For me the biggest story is that human beings are bigger than telly.”

Shillinglaw also revealed a number of commissions today, including a film about the making of BBC comedy Dad’s Army and a new show called Ultimate Gladiator which assembles a group of 21st-century volunteers to live, train and go into combat in the manner of ancient Roman fighters.

Meanwhile, Shillinglaw has recruited Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas writer Tony Grisoni to adapt China Mieville’s fantasy book The City in the City for her channel.

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The drama, to be made by Podark producers Mammoth Screen, starts when the body of a mutilated foreign student is discovered in the streets of the crumbling European city of Besźel.