Top Gear (2002 TV series)
|Composer(s)||Dickey Betts (arr. by Christian Henson)|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||23|
|No. of episodes||184 (including 11 specials) (list of episodes)|
|Running time||50–65 minutes|
|Original release||20 October 2002– present|
|Preceded by||Top Gear (1977)|
Top Gear is a British television series about motor vehicles, primarily cars, and is a relaunched version of the original 1977 show of the same name, airing since 2002, and becoming the most widely watched factual television programme in the world. Since the relaunch, the conventional motoring magazine programme has developed a quirky, humorous and sometimes controversial style over time, and has become a significant show in British popular culture. During its first 22 series, the programme received acclaim for its visual style and presentation as well as criticism for its content and often politically incorrect commentary made by its former presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May. Columnist A. A. Gill, close friend of Clarkson and fellow Sunday Times columnist, described the programme as "a triumph of the craft of programme making, of the minute, obsessive, musical masonry of editing, the French polishing of colourwashing and grading".
The show's relaunched format was originally hosted by Clarkson, Hammond and Jason Dawe with Andy Wilman as executive producer. Following the first series, Dawe was replaced by May, and the hosting line-up remained unchanged from 2003 until 25 March 2015, when Clarkson was informed by the BBC that his contract would not be renewed following an incident between him and a producer. Following Clarkson's departure, his co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May, announced, along with Andy Wilman, that they would not return to the show without him, instead working alongside Clarkson to produce a new motoring series that would later be known as The Grand Tour. Hosts for the 23rd series were Chris Evans, Matt LeBlanc, Rory Reid, Sabine Schmitz, Chris Harris and Eddie Jordan. Chris Evans resigned after the series 23 finale. The format also features an anonymous test driver known as "The Stig"; although part of the line-up, "The Stig" has been played by numerous racing drivers over the course of the series.
First-run episodes are broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two and (from series 20) BBC Two HD. From series 14–19, prior to the launch of the dedicated BBC Two HD channel, new episodes were also simulcast on BBC HD. The series is also carried on cable television systems in the United States via BBC America, in Latin America via BBC Entertainment and in Europe and South-East Asia via BBC Knowledge.
- 1 History
- 2 Broadcasts
- 3 Segments
- 4 Episodes
- 5 Media releases
- 6 Awards and nominations
- 7 Criticism
- 8 International productions
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Jeremy Clarkson and producer Andy Wilman successfully pitched a new format for Top Gear to the BBC, reversing a previous decision to cancel the programme in 2001. The new series was first broadcast in 2002. Instead of using a conventional TV studio, Top Gear is located at Dunsfold Aerodrome, an airport and business park in Waverley, Surrey. The programme uses a temporary racing circuit which was designed for the programme by Lotus and is laid out on parts of Dunsfold's runways and taxiways. A large aircraft hangar is used for studio recording with a standing audience.
The new series format incorporates a number of major changes from the old series. The running time was extended to one hour and two new presenters were introduced: Richard Hammond and Jason Dawe, although Clarkson and Hammond typically appeared in most segments. Dawe was replaced by James May from the second series onwards. From the start of the new series The Stig, an anonymous, helmeted racing driver, was introduced as the test driver. New segments were also added, including "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car", "The Cool Wall", "The News", "Power Laps", and one-off features such as races, competitions, the regular destruction of caravans, and occasionally Morris Marinas, which cannot appear on the programme without being destroyed (most commonly by a piano landing on the roof).
In early 2006, the BBC had a plan to move the film site from Dunsfold to Enstone, Oxfordshire, for filming of the eighth series of Top Gear, but the move was rejected by West Oxfordshire council due to noise and pollution concerns. Filming of the series went ahead at Dunsfold in May that year despite not having a permit to do so, with a revamped studio set, a new car for the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment, and the inclusion of one of Hammond's dogs, named "Top Gear Dog" (now known as TeeGee), in some of the studio and film segments of that series.
On 20 September 2006, Richard Hammond was seriously injured while driving a Vampire turbojet drag racing car at up to 314 miles per hour (505 km/h) for a feature in the series. The BBC indefinitely postponed the broadcast of Best of Top Gear and announced that production of the series would be delayed until Hammond had recovered. Both the BBC and the Health and Safety Executive carried out inquiries into the accident. Filming resumed on 5 October 2006. The ninth series began on 28 January 2007 and included footage of Hammond's crash. The first episode of the ninth series attracted higher ratings than the finale of Celebrity Big Brother and the final episode of the series had 8 million viewers – BBC Two's two highest ratings for a decade.
A special programme, Top Gear: Polar Special, was broadcast in the UK on 25 July 2007 and was the first episode to be shown in high-definition. It involved a race to the North Magnetic Pole from Resolute, Nunavut, Canada, with Jeremy Clarkson and James May travelling in a "polar modified" Toyota Hilux, and Richard Hammond on a dog sled accompanied by driver Matty McNair. Clarkson and May became the first to reach the 1996 North Magnetic Pole by car, using the vehicle's satellite navigation. Since 1996, the North Magnetic Pole had moved approximately 100 miles (160 km). The recorded 1996 location is the target used by Polar Challenge and was used by the Top Gear team as their destination; the Geographic North Pole is approximately 800 miles (1,300 km) further north.
On 9 September 2007, Top Gear participated in the 2007 Britcar 24-hour race at Silverstone, where the hosts (including The Stig) drove a race-prepared, second-hand diesel BMW 330d and finished third in class and 39th overall. The car was fuelled using biodiesel refined from crops shown during a tractor review in the previous series.
By 2008, Top Gear had become so popular that the waiting list to get tickets for a recording included more than 300,000 names, or 21 years' worth of episodes.
In 2008, the series was adapted into a live format called Top Gear Live. The tour started on 30 October 2008 in Earls Court, London, moving on to Birmingham in November then at least 15 other countries worldwide. Produced by former Top Gear producer Rowland French the events were described as an attempt to "bring the TV show format to life... featuring breath-taking stunts, amazing special effects and blockbusting driving sequences featuring some of the world's best precision drivers".
On 17 June 2008, in an interview on BBC Radio 1's The Chris Moyles Show, Hammond and May confirmed that in Series 11 there would be a new "occasional regular host". This was revealed to be Top Gear Stunt Man. The series' executive producer, Andy Wilman, also revealed that future programmes would have less time devoted to big challenges:
We've looked back at the last two or three runs and noticed that a programme can get swallowed up by one monster film – a bit like one of those Yes albums from the 1970s where side one is just one track – so we're trying to calm down the prog-rock side. We'll inevitably still have big films, because it's the only way you can enjoy the three of them cocking about together, but they'll be shorter overall, and alongside we'll be inserting two- or three-minute punk songs.
Series 14, broadcast in late 2009, attracted criticism from some viewers, who perceived that the programme was becoming predictable with an over-reliance on stunts and forced humour at the expense of serious content. On the BBC's Points of View broadcast 13 December 2009, Janice Hadlow, the controller of BBC Two, rejected such comments, observing that she was still pleased with Top Gear's ratings and audience appreciation figures. However, on 20 December, Andy Wilman admitted that the three presenters were now "playing to their TV cartoon characters a bit too much". He added, "It's fair to say this incarnation of Top Gear is nearer the end than the beginning, and our job is to land this plane with its dignity still intact. But ironically, that does mean trying new things to the last, even if they screw up, because, well, it means you never stopped trying."
Nevertheless, a one-off special of the long-running US news programme 60 Minutes featuring Clarkson, Hammond, and May attracted 16 million viewers in October 2010 (which was the highest audience for the series in 2010), highlighting Top Gear's continuing popularity.
Hiatus and new hosts
The ten-part series 22 began airing from 25 January 2015, following the controversial Patagonia Special's airing over Christmas 2014. However, broadcast of the eighth and subsequent episodes was delayed and subsequently cancelled after host Clarkson was suspended by the BBC on 10 March 2015. On 25 March 2015, Director-General of the BBC Tony Hall announced Jeremy Clarkson's contract would not be renewed following allegations that he had verbally and physically abused Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon in a hotel after filming. In the Director General's statement he said that Top Gear would be "renewed for 2016" and that they would look into "putting out the remaining episodes of the current series". On 1 April 2015, it was announced that the Top Gear Live stage shows will continue under the Clarkson, Hammond and May Live banner. On 23 April 2015, James May announced that he would not be returning to the show without Clarkson; on the same day it was confirmed by the BBC that executive producer, Andy Wilman had also left the show following Clarkson's dismissal. Shortly afterwards, Richard Hammond also confirmed he would not be returning to the show. On 16 June 2015, the BBC confirmed that the trio's final films would air as a compilation on 28 June 2015, anchored by Hammond and May.
On 16 June 2015, Chris Evans was confirmed as one of the new hosts. Whilst it was previously announced that open auditions would be held to cast his co-presenters, on 6 October 2015 Evans announced that a new format could lead to him presenting the show alone; at the same time it was also confirmed that the new series was planned to be aired in May 2016. Despite Evan's claim, the BBC announced on 4 February 2016 that American actor Matt LeBlanc would be joining Evans as one of his co-presenters, while a week later, during his BBC Radio 2 breakfast show, Evans confirmed that there would be more Top Gear presenters joining himself, LeBlanc and The Stig, revealing that Eddie Jordan, motoring journalist Chris Harris, German motor racing driver Sabine Schmitz, and motoring journalist and Sky television presenter Rory Reid, had each won an open audition to be part of the show. Former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard had been widely reported to be joining the team, but this speculation was dismissed on 11 January 2016, after he was revealed as the host of Channel 4's coverage for the 2016 F1 season. In an interview with BBC News on 22 February, Evans revealed of the six new presenters coming to host Top Gear, only he and LeBlanc would front the show weekly, whilst "other people come and go as and when required". Later, on 27 April 2016, BBC Three announced it had commissioned a spin-off called Extra Gear which would be released online and will bring fans exclusive new footage, interviews, specially recorded films and behind-the-scenes access to Top Gear.
Series 23 of Top Gear received mixed feedback from critics and viewers. While LeBlanc, Harris and Reid were generally well liked, Evans was harshly criticised for being loud and for his lack of chemistry with LeBlanc. Criticism also focused on the show's sluggish pace, the lack of humor in the audience segments, and the overly long "Star in the Rallycross Car" segment. Newspaper articles also indicated that the show struggled with viewing figures partly because of its broadcast time opposite the UEFA Euro 2016 championships. On 4 July 2016, following the series finale, Evans announced that he would be leaving Top Gear after having hosted only six episodes. In a statement released via the BBC, he stated how he had done his best, adding: "I have never worked with a more committed and driven team than the team I have worked with over the last 12 months."
On 26 September 2016 it was announced by the BBC that - following Evans' resignation - all five remaining presenters would stay with the show, with LeBlanc, Harris and Reid becoming the three main hosts.
In addition to first run episodes broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two, and since Series 14, also on BBC HD, Top Gear is also shown on Dave, BBC America, BBC Canada, RTÉ Two and Setanta Ireland in Ireland, Veronica in The Netherlands, Canvas in Belgium, Kanal 9 in Sweden, TV3+ (Denmark), 6'eren, BBC Entertainment and on BBC Knowledge in Denmark, Malaysia's Media Prima's NTV7 and on HyppTV's channel BBC Knowledge (international). B Channel in Indonesia, Nine Network and GO! in Australia (previously on SBS One which showed the programme until the end of the 13th series aired in 2009), Prima COOL in the Czech Republic, Viasat3, Viasat6 and M2 in Hungary, Prime TV and TV3 in New Zealand, BBC Entertainment in India, Skai TV in Greece and a number of other television channels around the world. The popularity of the series has led to the creation of three international versions, with local production teams and presenters for Australia, Russia and the United States. Episodes of the Australian version premièred on 29 September 2008 and NBC was holding the American version for broadcast in February or March 2009, as a possible mid-season replacement, but later dropped it from their schedule before production resumed. Older series are also available on Netflix streaming. The U.S. cable channel History picked up the rights to the American version, which premiered on 21 November 2010.
The series regularly features long-distance (or, as Clarkson refers to them, "epic") races. These typically feature Clarkson (or one of the other presenters) driving a car against other forms of transport. The challenges usually involve Hammond and May taking the same journey by combinations of plane (one such race showed May piloting his own plane), train or ferry. The feature is edited to portray the result as close and to conceal the winner until the very end of the race (regardless of the actual closeness of the race).
A number of smaller scale 'novelty' races have also taken place that demonstrate various strengths and, more often, weaknesses of cars. These races involve one of the presenters, in a carefully chosen car, racing head-to-head against an athlete in conditions that favour the latter. The programme has also featured a variety of small races, typically lasting a couple of minutes, that pit two similar cars against each other, for example, old and very powerful racing cars against new showroom cars.
In the first few series, they featured novelty challenges and short stunt films, typically based on absurd premises, such as a bus jumping over motorcycles (as opposed to the more typical scenario of a motorcycle jumping over buses) or a nun driving a monster truck. No stunt films appeared between series seven and ten, but series eleven saw the introduction of segments with an anonymous stunt man (credited as "Top Gear Stunt Man") performing car jumps.
Starting with series five, many of the programme's challenges were introduced with the tag-line "How hard can it be?". These included challenges where the presenters attempt to build a convertible Renault Espace, being roadies for The Who, driving amphibious cars to France, participating in the Britcar 24-hour endurance race at Silverstone Circuit and trying to build an Electric Vehicle that would be cheaper than a G-Wiz.
Starting with series four, one episode of each series has featured a film built around the premise of "cheap cars", whereby the presenters are given a budget (typically around £1,500, but it has been between £100 and £10,000 depending on the type of car) to buy a used car conforming to certain criteria. Once purchased, the presenters compete against each other in a series of challenges to establish who has bought the best car. The presenters have no prior knowledge of what the tests will be, although they typically involve long journeys to evaluate the cars' reliability and fuel economy, and a race track event to determine performance.
Isle of Man Post Office issued a set of six stamps featuring a selection of the most bizarre and ingenious automotive challenges featured on Top Gear.
Beginning in 2007, a series of specials have featured the hosts travelling long-distance across a foreign country or region in vehicles purchased on a limited budget. 2006 featured an Olympic sporting event, using cars instead of athletes.
|Month & Year||Episode||Title||Hammond's vehicle||Clarkson's vehicle||May's vehicle||Back-up||Budget||Mission|
|February 2006||Series 7, Episode 7||Winter Olympics||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||Winter Olympics with cars.|
|February 2007||Series 9, Episode 3||US Special||1992 Dodge Ram||1989 Chevrolet Camaro RS (chosen winner)||1989 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham||N/A||$1,000||Drive from Miami to New Orleans across four states in second-hand American cars.|
|July 2007||Series 9, Episode 8||Polar Special||Dogsled (with Matty McNair)||2007 Toyota Hilux (race winner)||N/A||N/A||Travel from Resolute, Canada to the Magnetic North Pole|
|November 2007||Series 10, Episode 4||Botswana Special||1963 Opel Kadett||1981 Lancia Beta Coupé||1985 Mercedes-Benz 230E||1968 Volkswagen Beetle (chosen winner)||£1,500||Travel from the Zimbabwean border to the Namibian border, a trip of 1,000 miles in second-hand and two-wheel drive cars available in-country.|
|December 2008||Series 12, Episode 8||Vietnam Special||1992 125cc Minsk||1981 Piaggio Vespa scooter (race winner)||50cc Honda Super Cub||American liveried Honda CF50||15,000,000₫
|Travel from Saigon to Hạ Long in eight days on second-hand motorcycles.|
|December 2009||Series 14, Episode 6||Bolivia Special||1974 Toyota Land Cruiser||1984 Range Rover (chosen winner)||1988 Suzuki Samurai||N/A||£3,500||Complete a 1,000 mile trek from the Bolivian rainforest to the Pacific coast of Chile in four-wheel drive vehicles bought online.|
|December 2010||Series 16, Episode 0–2||Middle East Special||2000 Fiat Barchetta (chosen winner)||2000 Mazda MX-5||1998 BMW Z3||1995 Opel Astra cabriolet||£3,500
|Travel from northern Iraq to Bethlehem in second-hand two seater convertibles.|
|December 2011||Series 18, Episode 0||India Special||2000 Mini Cooper (joint winner)||1995 Jaguar XJS (joint winner)||1975 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow (joint winner)||1979 Austin Allegro||£7,000||Travel across India from Mumbai to the Chinese border in British-built vehicles.|
|March 2013||Series 19, Episodes 6 and 7||Africa Special||2002 Subaru Impreza WRX Estate||1999 BMW 528i Touring||1996 Volvo 850R Wagon (race winner)||1998 Ford Scorpio Ghia Estate[note 2]||£1,500||Find the true source of the River Nile driving second-hand estate cars.|
|March 2014||Series 21, Episodes 6 and 7||Burma Special||Isuzu TXD (joint winner)||Isuzu TXD (joint winner)||Hino Ranger (joint winner)||N/A||"Limited Budget"||Crossing Burma to construct a bridge over the River Kwai, the bridge was "mistakenly" built over the River Kok.|
|December 2014||Series 22, Episodes 0–1 and 0–2||Patagonia Special||Ford Mustang Mach 1||Porsche 928 GT||Lotus Esprit V8||Citroen 2CV||N/A||A 1600-mile trek through Patagonia to the southernmost city in the world, in order to stage an epic game of car football against Argentina.|
- May "rounded up" and spent £3,966
- The vehicle was lost partway through the challenge, falling off a raft built to cross a river
Star in a Car
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car is a recurring segment featured throughout the first twenty-two series of the programme. In each episode, a celebrity is interviewed by Clarkson. Then, they and the studio audience watch footage of the guest's fastest lap around the Top Gear test track. The times are recorded on a leaderboard.
Star in a Rally-Cross Car
In series twenty-three, the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car was replaced by a new segment, titled Star in a Rally-Cross Car. During the segment, Chris Evans interviews two celebrities, discussing subjects such as their favourite cars and their first cars. The celebrities then complete a lap of the Top Gear track in a rally-spec Mini Cooper. Much like its predecessor, this challenge utilises corners such as The Hammerhead and Gambon, as well as off-road sections, including a "jump", and several deep puddles.
In the Power Laps segment, The Stig completes a lap around the Top Gear test track to gauge the performance of various cars. The Top Gear test track was designed by Lotus.
The qualifications for the normal Power Lap Board are that the car being tested must be roadworthy, commercially available, and able to negotiate a speed bump (sometimes referred to as a 'sleeping policeman'). There is a separate unofficial board of times for non-production cars, such as the Aston Martin DBR9 Le Mans racer.
Cars that have recorded ineligible lap times on the Top Gear track include the Renault F1 car (0:59.0) and the Caparo T1 (1:10.6), both disqualified due to the sleeping policeman requirement, as well as the Ferrari FXX (1:10.7), which was disqualified for using slick tyres. The Pagani Zonda R set a time of 1:08.5 but was disqualified for not being road legal.
The Cool Wall
Introduced in the sixth episode of series one, Clarkson and Hammond decide which cars are cool and which are not by placing photographs of them on to various sections of a large board, known as 'The Cool Wall'. The categories are, from left to right; "Seriously Uncool", "Uncool", "Cool", "Sub Zero", and the "Super Cool Fridge". According to Andy Wilman, the series' producer, any given car's coolness factor rested on various attributes that are not necessarily related to the quality of the car itself. For example, Wilman suggests that "fashionable cars" such as the Audi TT, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Jaguar S-Type, and Volkswagen Beetle are uncool because they "make a massive impact for five minutes and then look clichéd and vaguely ridiculous." In addition, if a Top Gear presenter owns any of the vehicles it automatically goes into the "Seriously Uncool" section, but may be subsequently promoted if sold. The "Super Cool Fridge" was originally meant for the Aston Martin DB9, but since then, other cars have been promoted into the fridge.
On the programme, Clarkson has stated that cars were deemed cool by the extent to which he believed they would impress actress Kristin Scott Thomas, and later, BBC newsreader Fiona Bruce. Both have since been the celebrity guest for the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car feature; when Scott Thomas appeared on the programme in series nine, many of her own judgments on which vehicles were "cool" and "uncool" were the opposite to the programme's verdicts (e.g. her own car being a G-Wiz, previously dubbed "uncool"). Later, when Bruce came on in series 11, she stated to a visibly horrified Clarkson that her preferred choice of transport was a Citroën C4 Picasso.
A common theme on Top Gear is an approach to reviewing cars which combines standard road tests and opinions with an extremely unusual circumstance, or with a challenge to demonstrate a notable characteristic of the vehicle.
This has included several reviews, including "Toyota Hilux Destruction", featured in series three, episodes five and six. Various methods were employed by Clarkson and May to try to destroy a fourth generation Toyota Hilux, thereby proving its strength. The 'trials' included dropping the Hilux from a crane, setting the vehicle on fire, crashing it into a tree, driving it through a big shed (with a sign which said 'Top Gear Production Office'), leaving it in the Bristol Channel tethered to the jetty at Burnham-on-Sea and waiting for the tide to engulf it, dropping a caravan on it, slamming it with a wrecking ball, and finally having it hoisted to the roof of a tower-block that was subsequently demolished with explosives. The heavily damaged (but still driveable, without the use of any new parts except for a replacement windscreen) Hilux now stands on a plinth in the Top Gear studio.
Another such review featured a Ford Fiesta, after Hammond read out a letter from a viewer complaining that "Top Gear cannot review cars properly any more." Clarkson gave the model a sarcastic, but thorough, appraisal and was then pursued around Festival Place shopping centre in Basingstoke, Hampshire, by a Chevrolet Corvette C6. The Fiesta was then used as a beach landing craft with the Royal Marines.
Occasionally, many cars are featured and reviewed inside one segment. In the "Scooter Road Test Russian Roulette Challenge" of series six, episode nine, Hammond and May worked as ScooterMen in order to road-test as many randomly selected cars as possible, the catch being that they wouldn't know what they'd be road-testing and would have to review the vehicles in the presence of the owners.
Exotic or foreign cars are occasionally also reviewed in unusual ways. In the "VIP Chauffeur" test of series eleven, episode six, May conducted road tests in Japan of the Mitsuoka Orochi and Galue, and used the Galue to chauffeur a Sumo wrestler and his manager to a tournament as a way to test if the car is "Japan's Rolls-Royce".
During its release in 2008, the Dacia Sandero was frequently mentioned as a running gag in the programme's News feature, with the presenters' increasingly sarcastic excitement highlighting their opinion that the car was of no real importance to anybody. James May would sarcastically say "Great News! The Dacia Sandero..." and it would follow with a pointless fact about the Sandero. In the first episode of series 14, the crew actually went to Romania, where the Sandero is built. While there, Jeremy bought a Sandero for May, but just after May drove it, it was promptly crushed by a lorry. James said it was a brilliant car, and was furious when it was crushed. The phrase was once again revived in Series 15, referencing the Dacia Duster, in Series 18, when May brought up the new Dacia Lodgy, in Series 19, Episode 1, when May had announced that the Dacia Sandero was finally on sale in the UK, in Series 20, Episode 2, when May mentioned that the Dacia Duster is the #1 family 4x4 of the year, and finally, in Series 20, Episode 3, when James stated there would be a Dacia Duster "Black edition", which Clarkson and Hammond stated was "just a Duster covered with black plastic wrap". In Series 21, Episode 3, May drove a Sandero across Ukraine to Chernobyl in a challenge.
Also in series 14 Clarkson tested the Renault Twingo in Belfast following a complaint from one of the city's residents. Despite claiming to have caught a cold on the ferry getting there, he admitted he loved the car. However, he did some rather strange things, including driving it "upside down" in the Belfast Sewage System. Clarkson ended up driving the car into Belfast Lough after an attempt to land it on the HSS Stena Voyager after missing the boarding time. Throughout the review it was claimed that Ross Kemp was in the boot.
In series 15 episode 3, Clarkson, Hammond and May took turns testing three high performance sports saloons: a Porsche Panamera Turbo, a Maserati Quattroporte, and an Aston Martin Rapide. All three presenters acted as chauffeurs for an actual wedding; the couple were invited to the studio during the airing of the segment (afterwards, they were introduced to the audience and presented with a toilet seat with a picture of the three presenters on its surface).
Top Gear episodes have featured a number of races, but also unusual motorsport competitions. Ball sports have been played, using cars to play football, rugby and ice hockey, and attempted to play tennis (with a lot of editing). In 2006, the Top Gear Winter Olympics special episode series faced the presenters in several winter sports challenges, including a biathlon and downhill slope jumping.
Car of the Year
At the end of each autumn series the hosts present an award to their favourite car of the year. The only criterion for the award is that all three presenters must come to a unanimous choice. Winners of the past years are:
|2002||Land Rover Range Rover|
|2004||Volkswagen Golf GTI|
|2006||Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder|
|2007||Subaru Legacy Outback/Ford Mondeo
(joint winners – chosen in studio)
|2008||Caterham Seven R500|
|2009||Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni|
|2011||Range Rover Evoque|
|2013||Ford Fiesta ST|
Car of the Decade
On the final episode of Series 14 (broadcast 3 January 2010), during the Top Gear Awards Ceremony, Clarkson decided that, being the end of the decade, they could also announce the 'Car of the Decade' award. Clarkson commented that the winner, the Bugatti Veyron, was the only car really worthy of the award. Since the current format of Top Gear started in the 2000s (decade), there has only been one award so far.
|Series||Episodes||Originally aired||Average UK viewers
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||10||20 October 2002||29 December 2002||3.40|
|2||10||11 May 2003||20 July 2003||3.19|
|3||9||26 October 2003||28 December 2003||4.03|
|4||10||9 May 2004||1 August 2004||3.48|
|5||9||24 October 2004||26 December 2004||4.15|
|6||11||22 May 2005||7 August 2005||4.21|
|7||7||13 November 2005||12 February 2006||4.61|
|8||8||7 May 2006||30 July 2006||4.45|
|9||6||28 January 2007||4 March 2007||7.45|
|10||10||7 October 2007||23 December 2007||7.00|
|11||6||22 June 2008||27 July 2008||5.94|
|12||8||2 November 2008||28 December 2008||7.32|
|13||7||21 June 2009||2 August 2009||7.17|
|14||7||15 November 2009||3 January 2010||6.32|
|15||6||27 June 2010||1 August 2010||5.76|
|16||8||21 December 2010||27 February 2011||6.33|
|17||6||26 June 2011||31 July 2011||5.38|
|18||8||28 December 2011||11 March 2012||5.11|
|19||7||27 January 2013||10 March 2013||5.17|
|20||6||30 June 2013||4 August 2013||5.31|
|21||7||2 February 2014||16 March 2014||6.49|
|22||10||27 December 2014||28 June 2015||6.49|
|Specials||2||26 December 2015||30 December 2015||1.79|
|23||6||29 May 2016||3 July 2016||3.89|
During the run of the series, several compilations of driving songs have been released. These releases, all double albums, were inspired by similar releases that were made available during the series' original run in the 1990s. Two exclusive compilations have been released – Australian Anthems, a compilation released in celebration of an Australian version of the series being commissioned, and Seriously Rock & Roll: NZ Edition, released in very limited quantities in the UK, which features a range of music from famous New Zealand artists.
|Top Gear: Rock||26 May 1994|
|Top Gear Vol.2||4 May 1995|
|Top Gear 3-Rock Ballads||22 February 1996|
|Top Gear: On the Road Again||20 September 1996|
|Top Gear Anthems||14 September 1998|
|Top Gear: The Greatest Driving Album This Year!||10 November 2003|
|Top Gear: The Ultimate Driving Experience||14 November 2005|
|Top Gear: Anthems – The Greatest Ever Driving Songs||21 May 2007|
|Top Gear: Seriously Cool Driving Music||12 November 2007|
|Top Gear: Anthems 2008 – Seriously Hot Driving Music||2 June 2008|
|Top Gear: Sub Zero Driving Anthems||17 November 2008|
|Top Gear: Australian Anthems||17 November 2008|
|Top Gear: Seriously Hot Driving Anthems||27 October 2009|
|Top Gear: Seriously Rock 'N' Roll||26 November 2009|
|Top Gear: Full Throttle||8 November 2010|
|Top Gear: Anthems 50 Best Driving Songs||18 November 2013|
A number of DVDs have also been released, covering various specials, and series compilations.
Top Gear on Facebook
The book Top Gear: 100 Fastest Cars was released in 2012.
Awards and nominations
In November 2005, Top Gear won an International Emmy in the Non-Scripted Entertainment category. In the episode where the presenters showed the award to the studio audience, Clarkson joked that he was unable to go to New York to receive the award because he was busy writing the new script.
Top Gear has also been nominated in three consecutive years (2004–2006) for the British Academy Television Awards in the Best Feature category. Clarkson was also nominated in the best "Entertainment Performance" category in 2006. In 2004 and 2005, Top Gear was also nominated for a National Television Award in the Most Popular Factual Programme category; it won the award in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011. Accepting the award in October 2007, Richard Hammond made the comment that they really deserved it this year, because he didn't have to crash to get some sympathy votes. On 20 January 2010 Top Gear was once again nominated for a National Television Award, in the category "Best Factual Program" however, they lost out to Loose Women.
Top Gear presenters have also announced on the programme that they have won some slightly lower profile awards. In Series 10, Richard Hammond won the award for the "Best TV Haircut" and James May won the award for the worst. All three presenters have won the award for Heat magazine's "weirdest celebrity crush" revealed during the news. In series 11, the Stig won an award from the Scouts for Services to Instruction. After revealing that, the Stig was shown "attacking" the Scouts, and the presenters coming to the conclusion that he is either terrified of Scouts or was a Girl Guide.
At the end of 2009 Top Gear was voted best programme of the decade in a Channel 4-commissioned survey, The Greatest TV Shows of the Noughties, ahead of The Apprentice and Doctor Who in second and third places respectively. Industry insiders and television pundits voted; also a thousand members of the public took part in a YouGov poll. The results were broadcast on Sunday 27 December 2009 at 9:00 pm, the same time as the Bolivia Special on BBC Two.
Top Gear has often been criticised for content inside programmes by some members of the public and by Ofcom. Most of the criticisms stem from comments from the presenting team; however, other aspects of the programme have been underlined as unsuitable. Incidents and content ranging from (but not limited to) remarks considered by some viewers to be offensive, promoting irresponsible driving, ridiculing environmental issues, Germans, Mexicans, and Poles, and alleged homophobia have generated complaints. British comedian and guest of the programme Steve Coogan has criticised the programme, accusing it of lazy, adolescent humour and "casual racism".
The programme has also been accused of misrepresenting vehicle manufacturer Tesla in an episode first aired in 2008. The firm took Top Gear to court for libel and malicious falsehood after it suggested one of its Roadster vehicles had run out of power after only 55 miles. On 19 October 2011, the High Court of Justice in London rejected Tesla's libel claim, claiming the series is an entertainment programme and not an information programme.
Clarkson himself has been critical of the BBC over their handling of the programme. In the February 2006 issue of Top Gear magazine, he voiced his opinion that the BBC did not take Top Gear seriously. He has also commented on his dislike of BBC bosses for choosing the length of the series and for often replacing the programme with snooker (which Clarkson labelled as "drunk men playing billiards"), despite Top Gear having considerably higher viewing figures.
In March 2014, Indian-born actress Somi Guha made a formal complaint to BBC for $1.8 million, for a racist term used after building a bridge over the Kok River in the Burma Special. Upon its completion, Clarkson said, "That's a proud moment, but there's a slope on it", and Richard Hammond added, "Yeah, right. It's definitely higher on that side". This led to complaints that "slope" is a derogatory term for an Asian person. In April, Top Gear’s executive producer Andy Wilman apologised for the racist remark. In July 2014 Ofcom ruled that the BBC had breached broadcasting rules by including this offensive racial term. In May 2014, there were complaints and calls for Clarkson to be sacked after it was revealed that he recited "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe; catch a nigger by his toe" as a children's rhyme on an unaired take from the show. Clarkson denied having used the word, then apologised when a previously unbroadcast clip revealed him doing so.
Top Gear also received extensive criticism in late October 2014 during filming of an episode for Series 22 in Argentina. The presenters and the associated film crew were chased out of the country by angry protesters allegedly throwing rocks at the team. This was in protest against the number plate, H982 FKL, on Jeremy Clarkson's car which was believed to make reference to the 1982 Falklands War. The BBC maintained that the index number was pure coincidence.
The show also received widespread criticism after the sacking of Jeremy Clarkson, and subsequent departure of James May and Richard Hammond. The criticism continued for the first episode of the following series, hosted by Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc.
Top Gear was broadcast in 214 different countries by the end of 2014; however the show's publicist has stated that the oft-repeated claim of 350 million viewers per week is "unreliable". In addition to the original UK series, there have been various local versions around the world, made under licence from BBC Worldwide:
On 19 November 2007, it was revealed that a localised Australian series of Top Gear would be produced by the Special Broadcasting Service network in conjunction with Freehand Productions, BBC Worldwide's Australasian partner. This announcement marks the first time a deal has been struck for a version of Top Gear to be produced exclusively for a foreign market. No indication was given as to the exact makeup of the series, other than that it would have a distinctly Australian style. SBS ran a competition to find hosts for the series, and in May 2008 confirmed that the presenters for the Australian programme were to be Charlie Cox, Warren Brown, Steve Pizzati and a local 'cousin' of The Stig. James Morrison replaced Charlie for the second series of Top Gear Australia. Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson added, "I'm delighted that Top Gear is going to Australia." It was announced that the Nine Network had secured the rights to the local and UK versions from 2010 on both its Nine and Go! (digital TV) stations. On 20 June 2010, it was announced that actor and comedian Shane Jacobson and Top Gear Australia magazine editor Ewen Page would join a returning Steve Pizzati to present the programme which premiered on 28 September 2010. The Australian version has received lacklustre reviews. Eventually, Top Gear UK and Top Gear Australia met up and challenged each other. Top Gear Australia was cancelled in September 2011.
On 14 October 2008, the Top Gear website confirmed that a Russian edition of the programme was scheduled for production by the end of that year. Initially, 15 episodes were scheduled. It was revealed on 20 December that the pilot, branded Top Gear: Russian Version, was filmed for broadcast on 22 February 2009. The format is similar to its British counterpart, with three hosts: an ex rock guitarist Nikolai Fomenko, an ex-MTV Russia VJ Oscar Kuchera, and a former automotive journalist Mikhail Petrovsky.
After only half of the first series, broadcasting of the Russian version ceased due to viewers' criticism. The channel switched to broadcasting the British version of the series from then on.
First news of an American version of Top Gear surfaced in January 2006, when the official Top Gear website ran a feature about the filming of an American version of the series, produced by the Discovery Channel. The pilot featured Bruno Massel as one of the hosts, but was not picked up by the network, which later began running edited versions of Series 1–5 of the UK original.
In April 2007, the BBC reported on a Sun story that Top Gear had been in talks about creating an American version. The current presenters would remain as hosts, but the series would focus on American cars and include American celebrities. Plans for an American version were eventually shelved, partly over Clarkson's misgivings about spending several months in the U.S., away from his family.
NBC announced it ordered a pilot episode for an American version of Top Gear, to be produced by BBC Worldwide America. The pilot, filmed in June 2008, was presented by television and radio host Adam Carolla, rally driver Tanner Foust, and television carpenter Eric Stromer. However, following the failure of a car-themed drama, NBC did not place the programme on its schedule, indicating it planned to hold it as a spring/summer (2009) series replacement. Eventually, NBC dropped the series. In a February 2009 appearance in Australia, Jeremy Clarkson commented that the U.S. version of the series had been "canned".
The series found new life in February 2010, when it was announced that the History cable channel had picked up the series and ordered between 10 and 12 episodes. The series began production in August 2010, with a premiere on 21 November 2010. A trailer was released in early August showing footage of the hosts simulating a "Moonshine run". Tanner Foust remained as a host, and was joined by comedian/actor Adam Ferrara and racing analyst Rutledge Wood. The show has now aired 62 episodes across 5 seasons.
In January 2016 a seven part compilation show of racing segments from all 22 UK series, presented by Matt Le Blanc, began airing on BBC America titled Top Gear: The Races.
On 20 August 2011, the first series of the Korean version of Top Gear, produced by the XTM Channel, was aired with 13 episodes. On 8 April 2012, the second series of 10 episodes began.
The first attempt at a Chinese Top Gear was in 2011. Fifteen minutes of the pilot leaked prior to the airdate but was promptly removed at the BBC's request.
In May 2014, BBC announced that it has signed a deal with Honyee Media to produce a local version of Top Gear in China. On 13 November 2014, the first series of the Top Gear China premiered on Shanghai Dragon Television, presented by Cheng Lei, a veteran Chinese TV presenter, Richie Jen, a Taiwanese singer and actor, and Tian Liang, a former Olympic gold-medalist in diving.
A French version of Top Gear began in 2015 on RMC Découverte, NextRadioTV's free-to-air channel. It is presented by the actor Philippe Lellouche, the professional driver Bruce Jouanny and Yann Larret-Menezo, an electronic music artist and journalist.
The first episode, broadcast on 18 March 2015 at 20:45, broke RMC Découverte's audience record with 966,000 viewers (3.6% audience share).
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motoring show Top Gear, is also recognised in the 2013 volume. The BBC Two fixture holds the record for the world's most widely-watched factual TV programme, having now been broadcast in 212 territories.
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- Top Gear at TV.com
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- BBC News article on Top Gear's history (21 September 2006)
- List of Cars appearing on Top Gear courtesy of IMCDb
- Needcoffee.com post and BBC Worldwide America press release regarding the American version (15 January 2008)
- Top Gear on UKTV
- World of Top Gear at National Motor Museum, Beaulieu