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Top Gear is a BAFTA, multi-NTA and International Emmy Award-winning BBC television series about motor vehicles, primarily cars. It began in 1977 as a conventional motoring magazine show. Over time, and especially since a relaunch in 2002, it has developed a quirky, humorous style. The show is currently presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig, an anonymous test driver. The programme is estimated to have 350 million viewers worldwide.
In 2007 it was one of the most pirated television shows in the world.
First run episodes are broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two. Top Gear is also shown on Dave, BBC America, Special Broadcasting Service in Australia, and a number of other television channels around the world. The popularity of the show has led to the creation of three international versions, with local production teams and presenters, for Australia, the United States and Russia. Episodes of the Australian version premiered on 29 September 2008, while NBC is holding the American version for broadcast in February or March 2009, as a possible mid-season replacement.
The show has received acclaim for its visual style and presentation, as well as considerable criticism for its content and comments made by presenters. Columnist A. A. Gill described the show as "a triumph of the craft of programme-making, of the minute, obsessive, musical masonry of editing, the french polishing of colourwashing and grading". Pressure groups such as the Environmental Investigation Agency have accused the BBC of allowing the Top Gear team to cause damage to environmentally sensitive areas, such as the Makgadikgadi salt pan in Botswana.
Jeremy Clarkson, who helped the original series reach its peak in the 1990s, along with producer Andy Wilman, successfully pitched a new format for Top Gear to the BBC, reversing a previous decision to cancel the show in 2001. The new series was first broadcast in 2002. Top Gear's studio is located at Dunsfold Park, a privately-owned aerodrome and business park in Waverley, Surrey. Top Gear uses a temporary racing circuit which was designed for the show by Lotus and is laid out on parts of Dunsfold's runways and taxiways. A large hangar is used for studio recording with a standing audience.
The new series format incorporates a number of major changes from the old show. The running time was extended to one hour and two new presenters were introduced: Richard Hammond and Jason Dawe, with James May replacing Dawe after the first series. The Stig, an anonymous masked racing driver, was introduced as the test driver. New segments were also added, including "Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car", "The Cool Wall", "Car News", "Power Laps", and one-off features such as races, competitions and the frequent destruction of caravans.
In early 2006, the BBC had planned to move the filming 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 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", in a few studio and film segments of that series.
On 20 September 2006, Richard Hammond was seriously injured while driving the Vampire turbojet-propelled drag-racing car at up to 314 miles per hour (505 km/h) for a feature in the show. The BBC indefinitely postponed the broadcast of Best of Top Gear and announced that production of the show 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 show 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 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 James May and Jeremy Clarkson travelling in a 'polar modified' Toyota Hilux, and Richard Hammond on a dog-drawn sled — or, as they became known, "Team Dog". All three presenters had experienced explorers with them, and 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 to win 3rd in class and 39th overall. The car was allegedly fuelled using Bio-diesel refined from crops sown during a tractor review item in a previous series.
In 2008, the show was adapted into a live format called Top Gear Live. A 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 will be a new "occasional regular host". This was revealed to be Top Gear Stunt Man. The series' executive producer, Andy Wilman, has also revealed that future programmes will 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 70s 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".
For their initial broadcasts, new episodes of Top Gear are shown in the United Kingdom on BBC Two on Sunday evenings at 8:00 pm. Each show is an hour in length with no interruption for adverts as the BBC is funded by the annual TV license and not by advertisements.
Repeats of earlier series are currently shown on Dave, cut to 46 minutes to allow it to fit in an hour-long slot while leaving room for advertisements. Since mid-October 2007 the channel Dave has begun showing new episodes of Top Gear only three weeks behind BBC Two. The new episodes are also shown in an edited 46-minute version. Top Gear has been broadcast in other countries either in its original format, in a re-edited version, or with specially shot segments in front of the UK audience. For example, Canvas, the Flemish public broadcaster, picked up the show after the success of the Top Gear: Polar Special programme. The BBC version of the programme is broadcast by RTE Two in Ireland.
The BBC also broadcasts edited Top Gear programmes on its international BBC World TV channel. Episodes are shortened to 30 minutes, often leaving dangling references and inconsistencies. Additionally, the original transmission order is sometimes not adhered to, so references to un-aired events are common. The only footage specially shot for the international version is for the end of each episode, when Clarkson bids his goodbye to BBC World viewers, instead of BBC viewers. BBC America also broadcasts repeats of Top Gear, with two episodes shown back-to-back, but with segments edited to allow for commercials.
Recently, BBC World has changed from showing edited versions of the current series to "best of" collections of the previous series. In both cases the BBC World edition mainly features the challenges and races from the normal episodes, with Clarkson's 'stronger' remarks removed. Interviews and "Car of the Year" are generally not shown.
The show's episodes from Series 11 and Series 12 are also available on iTunes. They are edited for content, often pixelating curse words and "Beeping" them out, but the timing indicates they match with the full BBC2 version.
Main article: List of Top Gear episodes
As of July 2008, Top Gear have produced three specials for Comic Relief. The first, titled Stars in Fast Cars, was broadcast on 5 February 2005, and starred Hammond and May as presenters, with Clarkson and five other British television personalities racing against each other. It spawned a short-lived series presented by Dougie Anderson.
The second was filmed for Comic Relief's Red Nose Day 2007 fund-raising event, and is titled Top Gear of the Pops. It mixed the show's typical format with music and appearances from artists Lethal Bizzle, Travis, Supergrass, and McFly who were challenged to write a song including the words "sofa", "administration" and "Hyundai", which they later recorded and included as a B-side to their single "The Heart Never Lies". It concluded with a performance by Clarkson, Hammond and May with Justin Hawkins of "Red Light Spells Danger" by Billy Ocean.
The third, titled Top Ground Gear Force, was broadcast on BBC Two at 10:00 pm on 14 March 2008 as part of Sport Relief. This programme, which borrowed the Ground Force format, saw presenters 'Alan Clarkmarsh', 'Handy Hammond' and 'Jamesy Dimmock May' undertake a one-day makeover of Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave's garden, an attempt that failed spectacularly.
The show 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, train or ferry.
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 seasons, the series 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 show'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, and participating in the Britcar 24-hour endurance race at Silverstone Circuit.
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 tests to establish who has bought the best car. The presenters have no prior knowledge of what the tests will be, although the tests typically involve long journeys to determine the reliability and fuel economy of the cars, and a race track event to determine performance.
In each episode, a celebrity is interviewed by Clarkson. Then, Clarkson, the guest and the studio audience watch footage of the guest's fastest lap around the Top Gear test track. The times are recorded on a leader board. For the first seven series of Top Gear's current format, the car driven was a Suzuki Liana. At the beginning of the eighth series, the Liana was replaced by a Chevrolet Lacetti. Consequently, as the Lacetti is more powerful, the leader board was wiped clean. The format for setting a lap time was also changed: each celebrity is allowed five practice laps, then a final timed lap. No allowance is made for any errors on this final timed lap.
Ellen MacArthur set the fastest lap time of any celebrity in the Liana. As of July 2008 Jay Kay set the fastest lap time of any celebrity in the Chevrolet Lacetti in the final episode of series 11, knocking Simon Cowell off the top.
There have been several mishaps in the past with this feature. Sir Michael Gambon went around the final corner of the track on two wheels, prompting Jeremy to rename the corner in Gambon's honour. Lionel Richie and Trevor Eve lost a wheel and David Soul destroyed the clutches of both the main car and the back-up car. Several celebrities have come off the track in practice, with Clarkson showing the footage to the audience.
There is a separate Formula One drivers' leader board. The Stig is top of this board, but the presenters consider Lewis Hamilton's time to be more impressive; despite being set on a very wet and oily track, Hamilton's time was only three tenths of a second slower than The Stig's, which was set in dry conditions. In the past Clarkson has told drivers that they may deduct three seconds for a wet lap in the Suzuki Liana, making Hamilton's lap even more impressive. All Formula One times, even those set after the seventh series, are set in the Suzuki Liana.
In the Power Laps segment, The Stig completes a lap around the Top Gear test track to gauge the performance of various cars.
The qualifications for the normal Power Lap Board is that the car being tested must be road-worthy, and be able to go over a speed bump which is 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.
The most powerful production car ever featured on Top Gear, the 1,001 PS (987 hp/736 kW) Bugatti Veyron, has not yet been driven around the track by The Stig. According to Clarkson, this is because Bugatti has not given Top Gear permission to run the car through a power lap. This was confirmed on the Veyron's second appearance in February 2007, when Clarkson made an appeal to Veyron owners to let Top Gear borrow their car and allow The Stig to drive it around the track, offering up to 30 to do so.
The car that recorded the fastest lap time on the Top Gear track was the Renault F1 car, at fifty nine seconds (0:59.00), although it was disqualified because the rules only include production cars able to get over speed bumps.
As of the Eleventh Series, the fastest road legal car that met the 'sleeping policeman' requirement was the Gumpert Apollo S in a time of 1:17.1. This is only 0.2 seconds faster than the former lap leader, the Ascari A10.
Without the 'sleeping policeman' requirement the fastest time around the track for a road legal car would be the Caparo T1. The Caparo posted a time of 1:10.6 despite its reliability problems.
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", and "Sub Zero". According to Andy Wilman, the show's 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 "fashion cars" such as the Audi TT, 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." On the show, 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 show in series nine, many of her own judgments on which vehicles were "cool" and "uncool" were the opposite to the show's verdicts (her own set of wheels being a G-Wiz, previously dubbed "uncool"). Later, when Bruce came on in series 11, her preferred choice of transport - a Citroen Picasso - visibly horrified Clarkson.
In the first episode of series four, a separate fridge section, the "DB9 Super cool Fridge", on a table to the right of the board, was introduced after Jeremy declared that the Aston Martin DB9 was too cool even to be classified as "Sub-Zero". It initially contained just the DB9, but was eventually joined by the Aston Martin V8 Vantage in the seventh series. At the other end of the scale, James May's car - the Fiat Panda - was placed several metres to the left of the "uncool" side, on a banner at the back of the hangar.
This was partly due to an acknowledged rule by the presenters that cars owned by themselves cannot be considered cool. In series nine, Clarkson was forced to place the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder in the Uncool section because he had just bought one. He then revealed that he had sold his Ford GT, allowing him to move the car back into the Sub-Zero section.
The humour of this section often lies in Clarkson and Hammond disagreeing over which section a car should be placed in, with Clarkson nearly always winning the argument — sometimes by placing the car at the very top of the wall, preventing the much shorter Hammond from being able to reach it, and sometimes by unorthodox methods such as burning the card depicting the car in question, or once even taking a chainsaw to the wall when Hammond dared to try and place a Ducati 1098 motorbike on the wall. Hammond has occasionally had his revenge; after a series of disagreements with Clarkson's choices, he snatched the card on which a BMW M6 was featured from Clarkson and then ran into the audience, leading to a fight between the two and to Hammond eating the card, preventing it from being used; or during series six, after Clarkson had slipped two intervertebral discs and was unable to bend down, Hammond ended an argument by placing the car in question at the bottom of the board.
The Cool Wall was mostly destroyed in the fire that occurred in August 2007 (reported, tongue in cheek, by Jeremy Clarkson as having been started by their Five rivals Fifth Gear), prior to the beginning of the tenth series, and was subsequently not used in that entire series. The burnt wall was present during episode 3 of series 10, when Hammond was testing the auto-parking Lexus LS 600 next to it. A new Cool Wall was introduced in the second episode of series eleven.
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 Toyota Hilux, thereby proving its strength. The 'trials' included dropping the Hilux from a crane, setting the vehicle on fire and also driving it into a tree which belonged to Churchill parish, Somerset. The villagers presumed that the damage had been accidental or vandalism had occurred until the Top Gear episode was broadcast. After the BBC was contacted, the director of Top Gear admitted guilt and the broadcaster paid compensation. Other tests on the Hilux included leaving it out in the sea, 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) Hilux now stands on a plinth in the Top Gear studio.
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 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".
The Dacia Sandero also made frequent appearances as an item of fun on BBC Two's Top Gear News feature, during its release in 2008, with the presenters' increasingly sarcastic excitement each episode highlighting the fact that the car was of no real importance to anybody.
The programme will on occasion, sometimes to celebrate an anniversary, present short review films of non-contemporary cars to highlight why they are significant. These reviews are distinct from the various challenges involving old cars, because the subject matter is addressed in a more serious and factual manner. Reviews include:
|Car||Series & episode|
|Ford Escort RS1800||Series One, Episode Two|
|Citroën DS||Series One, Episode Three|
|Bentley T2||Series Two, Episode One|
|Rover P5||Series Two, Episode Two|
|Jaguar Le Mans C-Type & Mark 2||Series Two, Episode Four|
|Triumph TR6||Series Two, Episode Five|
|GM HyWire||Series Two, Episode Nine|
|BMW M1, M3 & M5||Series Three, Episode Two|
|Lamborghini Miura||Series Three, Episode Four|
|Lamborghini Countach||Series Three, Episode Four|
Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Cosworth
|Series Three, Episode Five|
|Aston Martin V8 Vantage||Series Three, Episode Six|
|Mercedes-Benz 280SL||Series Three, Episode Eight|
|Aston Martin Lagonda||Series Three, Episode Eight|
|Dodge Charger 440 R/T||Series Four, Episode Three|
|Jaguar XJS||Series Four, Episode Six|
|Rover V8 engine & Rover SD1||Series Four, Episode Eight|
|Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing||Series Five, Episode Five|
|Maserati Biturbo & 250F||Series Six, Episode Two|
|Maserati Bora||Series Six, Episode Three|
|Aston Martin DB5 & Jaguar E-type||Series Six, Episode Five|
|Ford Transit||Series Six, Episode Seven|
|British racing green & Vanwall F1||Series Seven, Episode Two|
|Modern control layout Featuring:
Royal Enfield quad bike,
Ford Model T,
Cadillac Type 53,
|Series Ten, Episode Eight|
|Ferrari Daytona||Series Twelve, Episode Five|
|British Touring Car Championship Featuring:
Jaguar Mark 2,
Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
|Series Twelve, Episode Seven|
At the end of each autumn series the hosts present an award to their favourite car of the year, that they can all agree on. Winners have included:
|2002||Land Rover Range Rover|
|2004||Volkswagen Golf GTI|
|2006||Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder|
|2007||Ford Mondeo or Subaru Legacy Outback|
From 2003 to 2006, Top Gear conducted an annual survey which consults thousands of UK residents on their car-ownership satisfaction. The survey asks respondents to score cars on build quality, craftsmanship, driving experience, ownership costs, and customer care. While for legal reasons the survey is now conducted via the Top Gear magazine, the results are still used on the show. The survey, which used to be done in conjunction with J.D. Power, is now conducted by Experian. Based on these weighted criteria, the best and worst ranked cars from the survey are:
|Year||Best Ranked||Worst ranked|
|2003||Jaguar XJ||Volkswagen Sharan|
|2004||Honda S2000||Mercedes M-Class|
|2005||Honda S2000||Peugeot 807|
|2006||Honda S2000||Peugeot 807|
The programme occasionally alters the end credits to reflect its locale, replacing every first name in the credits with one reminiscent of the area. In the "Winter Olympics Special" episode, filmed in Lillehammer, Norway, everybody was named Björn (except for Hammond, May and The Stig, who took the names Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid respectively), whilst in the "African Adventure Special" all were called Archbishop Desmond. Furthermore, in the Polar Special all first names in the ending credits were replaced with Sir Ranulph, in reference to the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
In Series 9, The America Challenge ending credits named Clarkson as 'Cletus Clarkson', Hammond as 'Earl Hammond, Jr.', May as 'Ellie May May', The Stig as 'Roscoe P. Stig' and replaced the first names of all other crew members with 'Billy Bob'.
The 2008 special episode, portraying the presenters' epic journey across Vietnam, replaced every first name with "Francis Ford" as a tribute to Francis Ford Coppola's work on the Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now.
Top Gear has always used an adaptation of The Allman Brothers Band's instrumental hit "Jessica" as its theme song since the original series started in 1977. The show used part of the original Allmans' recording of the song up until the late 1990s, but later series and the 2002 relaunch use updated cover versions.
During series 6, May hosted a segment showing nominations for the greatest song to drive to, the final list of ten was voted for by write-in nominations on the Top Gear website, the top five were then submitted for phone vote by viewers of the show. Songs in the top 10 were:
|10||Fleetwood Mac||"The Chain"|
|9||AC/DC||"Highway to Hell"|
|8||Led Zeppelin||"Immigrant Song"|
|7||Kenny Loggins||"Danger Zone"|
|6||Motrhead||"Ace of Spades"|
|5||Deep Purple||"Highway Star"|
|4||Steppenwolf||"Born to Be Wild"|
|3||Meat Loaf||"Bat Out of Hell"|
|2||Golden Earring||"Radar Love"|
|1||Queen||"Don't Stop Me Now"|
It included continual complaining from the presenters about the presence of "Bat Out of Hell" on the list (which was leading as of the selection of the top five) and its promotional segment included such visuals as cars being towed away and gridlocked streets. On the other hand, the equivalent "Don't Stop Me Now" segment was the exact opposite, featuring open roads and being described as "a joy" and "a song for life" in the voiceover.
In addition, pre-recorded film segments use a wide variety of background music clips. Along with classic and contemporary rock and occasionally dance tracks, excerpts from movie soundtracks are often used, including Aliens, Pirates of the Caribbean, Casino Royale, Predator, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Matrix, The Rock, V for Vendetta, Lord Of War, Donnie Darko Where Eagles Dare and 2001: A Space Odyssey, among others.
Top Gear has released several collections of "driving songs" on CD. These releases started during the original series run in the 1990s (though this list only reflects releases made during the current presentation format).
|Top Gear - The Greatest Driving Album This Year!||10 November 2003||2-CD package|
|Top Gear - The Ultimate Driving Experience||14 November 2005||Packaged as a 2-CD box set|
|Top Gear Anthems||21 May 2007||2-CD package. The first four tracks are selections from the top driving songs as decided in series 6|
|Top Gear - Seriously Cool Driving Music||12 November 2007||2 CD Package|
|Top Gear Anthems 2008 - Seriously Hot Driving Music||2 June 2008||2 CD Package|
|Top Gear - Sub Zero Driving Anthems||17 November 2008||2 CD Package|
A number of DVDs have been released as well.
|Top Gear - Back in the Fast Lane: The Best of Series 1 & 2||27 October 2003||Contains Footage From Series 1 & 2. Includes Additional Features Not Broadcast On TV. A DVD Titled "Highlights From Series 1 & 2", Containing Highlights From The Official DVD, Was Issued With Top Gear Magazine|
|Top Gear - The Best Of Series Three And Four||TG Magazine (April 2004)||Containing 33 Mins Of Footage From The Third And Fourth Series, Including Never-Before Seen Exclusive Footage. This DVD Was Issued With Top Gear Magazine|
|Top Gear - Revved Up||6 June 2005||Contains Footage From Series 3-5. Contains Out-Takes & Additional Footage Not Broadcast On TV. A Short DVD Titled "The Best Of Top Gear: Revved Up", Containing Highlights From The Official DVD, Was Issued With Top Gear Magazine|
|Top Gear - The Races||TG Magazine (June 2005)||Containing 33 Mins Of Footage, Including Three Top Gear Races Taken From The First Seven Seasons. This DVD Was Issued With Top Gear Magazine|
|Top Gear - Winter Olympics||5 June 2006||Contains The Winter Olympics Special From Series 7, Plus Additional Footage And Out-Takes Not Broadcast On TV|
|Top Gear's 007: The Best Car Chases||TG Magazine (September 2006)||Contains 50 Mins Of Footage, Including Clips From 13 Classic James Bond Movies, Right Up Until The Most Recent. This DVD Was Issued With Top Gear Magazine|
|Top Gear - The Collection||18 December 2006||Contains "Revved Up", "Winter Olympics", and "Back In The Fast Lane", Bound Together In A Stylish New Cardboard Case Containing All New Cover Images|
|Top Gear - The Challenges||21 May 2007||Compilation Of The Best Top Gear Challenges. A DVD Titled "Best Of The Challenges", Containing Footage From The Official DVD, Was Issued With Top Gear Magazine|
|Top Gear's Greatest Movie Chases Ever||TG Magazine (July 2007)||Contains 45 Mins Of Footage, Including Clips From 10 Classic Car Chase Movies. This DVD Was Issued With Top Gear Magazine|
|Richard Hammond's Top Gear Interactive Challenge||12 November 2007||Interactive DVD, Presented By Richard Hammond. Contains Several Rounds Of Top Gear-Style Knowledge, Challenges And Competitions|
|Top Gear - The Great Adventures||3 March 2008||Includes The Polar Challenge (Director's Cut) And American Road Trip Specials. Contains Additional Footage And Outtakes Not Broadcast On TV|
|Top Gear - Planes, Rockets And Automobiles||TG Magazine (April 2008)||Contains 45 Mins Of Footage, Mostly Taken From "The Challenges 2" DVD, As Well As Several Clips Not Included. This DVD Was Issued With Top Gear Magazine|
|Top Gear - The Challenges 2||2 June 2008||Second Compilation Of Top Gear Challenges, Plus Additional Footage And Outtakes Not Broadcast On TV. A Limited Edition, That Comes In An Exclusive Carboard Sleeve And Includes Free "I Am The Stig" T-Shirt, Was Exclusive To Amazon|
|Top Gear - Polar Special: The Director's Cut||20 October 2008||Re-Edited Cut Of The Polar Special Only Available On Blu-Ray Disc. Contains Additional Footage And Outtakes Not Broadcast On TV|
|Top Gear - The Challenges 1 & 2 Collection||10 November 2008||Contains "The Challenges" and "The Challenges 2", Bound Together In A Stylish Cardboard Case Containing All New Cover Images|
|Richard Hammond's Top Gear Interactive Stunt Challenge||14 November 2008||Interactive DVD, Presented By Richard Hammond. Includes Several Rounds Of Top Gear-Style Knowledge, Challenges And Competitions|
|Top Gear - The Great Adventures Vol. 2||23 March 2009||Includes The Botswana (Director's Cut) & Vietnam Road Trip Specials. Includes Deleted Scenes, Behind The Scenes Stills And Commentary By The Cast And Crew|
|Top Gear - The Best Of The Stig||TG Magazine (April 2009)||Contains 60 Mins Of Footage, Including Some Of The Best Races, Smash-Ups, Challenges And Time Trials Involving TG's Tame Racing Driver, The Stig. This DVD Was Issued With Top Gear Magazine|
|Top Gear - The Complete Tenth Series||21 April 2009||Includes All 10 Episodes From The Tenth Series (A Special U.S. & Canada Release Only.)|
|Top Gear - Collection 2.0||28 April 2009||Includes "The Challenges Vol. 1" and "The Great Adventures Vol.1" Bound Together In Steel Book Format (A Special Australian Release Only.)|
|Top Gear - The Challenges 3||6 August 2009||Includes A Third Selection Of Top Gear's Best Challenges; Including Several Clips From The Summer 2009 Series (Series 13). An HMV Exclusive Will Include Two Exclusive Postcards|
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 since he was too busy writing the script for the show.
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 and 2008. 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.
Top Gear presenters have also announced on the show 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.
Top Gear has often been criticised for content inside programmes by the public and Ofcom. Most of these stem from comments from the presenting team; however, other aspects of the programme have been underlined as unsuitable. Top Gear is often criticised for not featuring enough "affordable" cars, preferring instead to feature expensive supercars. The programme occasionally acknowledges this criticism and turns it into a joke.
In July 2006 the BBC rejected a variety of complaints about the topics Top Gear chooses and the way they are covered by the presenting team. The BBC argued that their "provocative comments are an integral part of the programme and are not intended to be taken seriously." Regarding offensive remarks traded between presenters and members of the audience, the BBC said "this is part of the appeal of the show [and] we trust most viewers are familiar enough with the style and tone of the show not to take offence." The BBC pointed out that they would act if such statements and actions were carried out with any degree of seriousness or if the programme breached legal and safety requirements.
Top Gear has also been criticised on many occasions for allegedly promoting irresponsible driving.
Groups such as the Environmental Investigation Agency have accused the BBC of allowing the Top Gear team to cause damage to environmentally sensitive areas, such as the Makgadikgadi salt pan in Botswana.
Clarkson himself has been critical of the BBC over handling of the programme. In the February 2006 issue of Top Gear Magazine, Clarkson voiced his opinion that the BBC did not take Top Gear seriously. He has also commented his dislike of BBC bosses for choosing the length of the series and for often replacing the show with snooker (which Clarkson labelled as "drunk men playing billiards" at the end of episode two of series 10), despite Top Gear having considerably higher viewing figures.
In 1998, Clarkson allegedly referred to those working on the BMW stand as "Nazis", although BMW said they would not be complaining. During the 13 November 2005 episode, a news segment featuring BMW's MINI Concept from the Tokyo Motor Show showcased a car that Hammond quoted as supposedly being "quintessentially British", of which one of the only added features aside from its novel styling was an integrated picnic set. Clarkson responded by mocking that they might as well build a car that is "quintessentially German". He suggested turn signals that displayed Hitler salutes, "a sat-nav that only goes to Poland" in reference to the Nazi invasion of Poland, and "ein fanbelt that will last a thousand years", a reference to Adolf Hitler's propaganda slogan of "the thousand-year Reich". These statements led to viewers' complaints reaching the BBC Board of Governors. In July 2006, the BBC Governors’ Programme Complaints Committee rejected the protests:
In April 2007, Clarkson was criticised in the Malaysian parliament for having described one of their cars, the Perodua Kelisa, as the worst in the world, built in jungles by people who wear leaves for shoes. A Malaysian government minister refuted the claim, pointing out that no complaints had been received from UK customers who had bought the car.
In December 2006, the BBC upheld complaints from four viewers after comments made by Jeremy Clarkson were considered to be derogatory references to homosexuality and had the potential to offend and should not have been broadcast. In a programme broadcast in July 2006, Clarkson had agreed with a member of the audience that a Daihatsu Copen was "a bit gay". He also described the vehicle as "ginger beer", taken to be rhyming slang for the term "queer". The BBC said there was "no editorial purpose" for the remarks and the "Top Gear team had been reminded of the importance of avoiding such comments about sexual orientation".
In July 2006 the BBC rejected a variety of complaints about the topics Top Gear chooses and the way they are covered by Clarkson, Hammond and May. The BBC argued that their "provocative comments are an integral part of the programme and are not intended to be taken seriously." Regarding offensive remarks traded between presenters and members of the audience, the BBC said "this is part of the appeal of the show [and] we trust most viewers are familiar enough with the style and tone of the show not to take offence." The BBC pointed out that they would act if such statements and actions were carried out with any degree of seriousness or if the programme breached legal and safety requirements.
Top Gear was in negotiations to move to Enstone in north Oxfordshire, close to the home of the Renault F1 team's British base and to Clarkson's home in Chipping Norton, but has so far been unable to negotiate a deal after their initial application was blocked due to opposition by local citizens because of fears that Top Gear would create pollution and noise.
The BBC compensated a Bristol local parish in 2004 after Clarkson crashed a Toyota Hilux into a tree during a segment on proving the sturdiness and reliability of the truck through a series of torture tests. The villagers did not know how the damage had occurred until the Top Gear episode was broadcast. Until then, it had been presumed that the damage had been accidental or vandalism.
During the 13 November 2005 episode, a news segment featuring BMW's MINI
Concept from the Tokyo Motor Show showcased a car that Hammond quoted as supposedly
being "quintessentially British", the only added feature being an integrated
tea set. Clarkson responded by mocking that they should build a car that is
"quintessentially German". He suggested turn signals that displayed Hitler
salutes, "a sat-nav that only goes to Poland" in reference to the Nazi invasion
of Poland, and "ein fanbelt that will last a thousand years", a reference
to Adolf Hitler's propaganda slogan of "the thousand-year Reich". These statements
gained negative attention in the British and German[citation
needed] news media, and led to viewers' complaints reaching the BBC Board
of Governors. In July 2006, the BBC Governors Programme Complaints Committee
rejected the protests:
"...the Committee did not believe that, when looking at the audience as a whole, they would have felt that the comments were anything more than Jeremy Clarkson using outrageous behaviour to amuse his audience, and that the remarks would not have led to anyone entertaining new or different feelings or concerns about Germans or Germany..."
In December 2006, the BBC upheld complaints from four viewers after comments made by Jeremy Clarkson were considered to be derogatory references to homosexuality and had the potential to offend and should not have been broadcast. In a programme broadcast in July 2006, Clarkson had agreed with a member of the audience that a Daihatsu Copen was "a bit gay". He also described the vehicle as "very ginger beer", taken to be rhyming slang for the term "queer". The BBC said there was "no editorial purpose" for the remarks and the "Top Gear team had been reminded of the importance of avoiding such comments about sexual orientation."
Top Gear presenters have been criticised for their negative views and depiction of caravans; once claiming to have received 150 complaints after they destroyed a caravan on a 'caravan holiday' during one of many caravan destruction segments. James Tapper, writing in the British Mail on Sunday newspaper, claimed the episode's action had been staged and that Dorset emergency services had been paid around 1,000 by the BBC for a six-man fire crew to participate in the mock fire. A BBC spokeswoman confirmed that the fire had been planned for safety reasons and that viewers were not misled due to the stunt's slapstick nature. Hammond also presented a show called Brainiac: Science Abuse, where at the end of each programme a caravan is blown up with a different kind of explosive.
Both the BBC and the UK media regulator OFCOM received complaints about the dead cow tied to the roof of Clarkson's Camaro in the American Special (Series 9 Episode 3). However, the BBC defended the programme against the complaints received. The cow had died several days previously.
Another point of controversy regards the airing of a staged train crash in Series 9 Episode 5. The showing of a reconstruction of a collision between a train and a car positioned across the level crossing in Hibaldstow, North Lincolnshire, near Scunthorpe was criticised due to the Cumbria train crash only 2 days earlier, even though it was not caused by a track incursion. The reconstruction, which was organised by Network Rail as part of its Don't Run The Risk campaign, was criticised by several people, including Anthony Smith, chief executive of the rail watchdog Passenger Focus who said: "We need to raise awareness of the issue, but now is not the right time." However, this item had already been delayed several weeks because of an earlier fatal level crossing crash, and with only one programme remaining in the series and the frequency of level crossing accidents, it may have been considered that there was no "appropriate" time to show the film without "offending" somebody. A repeat of this episode due to be aired on the 1 March 2007 was not broadcast after another death on a level crossing earlier that morning. The episode was replaced with a "Best of Top Gear" episode.
The BBC apologised to a number of Top Gear viewers after Clarkson asked the returning Hammond the question "Are you now a mental?" May also offered a tissue in case he "dribbled" during the first episode of series 9. The comments were meant as a joke about the head injuries Hammond sustained during his crash before the series, but an apology was made after several viewers complained.
During the Polar Special, Jeremy Clarkson was seen to be drinking a gin and tonic whilst driving through an ice field in the Arctic. Despite the producer's claims that they were in international waters at the time, the BBC trust found that the scene could "glamorise the misuse of alcohol", and that the scene "was not editorially justified in the context of a family show pre-watershed".
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 show would focus on American cars and include American celebrities. The Sun reported in July, however, that plans for an American version had been shelved, partly over Clarkson's misgivings about spending several months in the US, away from his family.
In June 2008, NBC announced it ordered a pilot episode for an American version of Top Gear, to be produced by BBC America (who also broadcast the British version of the show), and presented by television and radio host Adam Carolla, stunt driver Tanner Foust, and television carpenter Eric Stromer. To date, NBC has not placed the program on its schedule, holding it as a spring/summer season replacement.
In February 2009, Jeremy Clarkson while in Australia during an interview about the Top Gear Australia spin off, commented that the U.S. version of the show had been "canned". He went on to say that the Americans "don't get it".
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 show, other than that it would have a distinct Australian style. SBS ran a competition to find hosts for the show, and in May 2008, SBS Television confirmed that the presenters for the Australian programme were to be Charlie Cox, Warren Brown, Steve Pizzati and a local 'cousin' of The Stig. Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson added, "I'm delighted that Top Gear is going to Australia. Maybe the first guest could be Jonny Wilkinson."
The first series of Top Gear Australia premiered on 29 September 2008. A second series was announced the following day. On 19 December 2008 it was announced that Charlie Cox could not fully commit to a second series of Top Gear Australia. The world renowned Australian trumpet player James Morrison is replacing Charlie Cox from season 2 onwards. Season 2 was aired on SBS on 11 May 2009.
The notable difference from Top Gear Australia and original Top Gear is the Star in a Budget Car section which is executed on a racing track different from the track used by Stig in his Power Laps.
The Top Gear website officially confirmed on 14 October 2008 that a Russian edition of the programme was scheduled for production by the end of 2008. Initially, 15 episodes will be aired, but little else was known at this time. It was revealed on 20 December that the pilot, branded "TopGear: Russian Version" has been filmed for Russian broadcast on 22 February 2009. On 22 February, it was broadcasted, revealing the format similar to its British counterpart, with three hosts (the well-known Russian showman, musician and autoracer Nikolai Fomenko, the showman and actor Oscar Kuchera and the actor, former columnist of the Autoreview magazine and the producer of automotive-related web-sites drive.ru and drive2.ru Mikhail Petrovsky) and the segments similar to the BBC version, in particular: car review, news section, Power Lap, Star in a Budget Car (presented by Lada Kalina).