Top Gear (2002 TV series)

Top Gear is a British television series about motor vehicles, primarily cars. It is a relaunched version of the original 1977 show of the same name, airing since 2002, and has become 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 the show's executive producer, and introduced 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. Following the first series, Dawe was replaced by May, and the hosting line-up remained unchanged until 25 March 2015, when Clarkson was informed by the BBC that his contract would not be renewed following an incident between himself and a producer. Following Clarkson's dismissal, his co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May, along with Andy Wilman, announced that they would not return to the show without him, and instead left to work alongside Clarkson to produce a new motoring series that would later be known as The Grand Tour. Following their departure, Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc took over as the new hosts for the 23rd series, with Rory Reid, Sabine Schmitz, Chris Harris and Eddie Jordan joining them in the series when needed. Following negative feedback for the series, Evans resigned, with the BBC choosing to retain the other five presenters and assigning LeBlanc, Harris and Reid as the main hosts for the 24th series.

First-run episodes are broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two and (from series 20) BBC Two HD. From series 14–19, before 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.

Following the decision by the BBC to cancel Top Gear in 2001, Jeremy Clarkson and producer Andy Wilman pitched the idea of creating a new format for the show to the broadcasters. Their pitch included conducting power laps of notable cars that were featured, such as supercars and high-performance roadsters, performing some of their car reviews at a fixed site as well as locations across Britain and abroad, the utilisation of a studio for discussions on cars and for other segments with a studio audience present, and the participation of a celebrity guest who would be interviewed on motoring matters and take part in a challenge of setting a lap time in an affordable car. As part of their changes, the show's running time was extended to one hour, the fixed site was located at Dunsfold Aerodrome, an airport and business park in Waverley, Surrey, utilising one of its large aircraft hangars for the studio, and using the runways and taxiways for car reviews. Lotus assisted in the design of a race circuit at the site for use by the programme. While the celebrity segment was referred to as "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car", additional segments were added in – "The Cool Wall", and "The News".

The first series of the new format of Top Gear was broadcast in 2002, with Clarkson, joined by two new presenters – Richard Hammond and Jason Dawe, although only the former typically appeared in most segment along with Clarkson – along with the introduction of a test driver called The Stig, an anonymous, helmeted racing driver who conducted the show's Power Laps. Following the first series, Dawe was replaced by James May, who had previously worked on the old format, while the original Stig portrayed by Perry McCarthy was replaced at the beginning of the third series by Ben Collins. While the show operated in a similar manner to the previous format during the early series, with the inclusion of reading out letters from viewers and conducting interviews, it eventually focused on humour and creating a unique presentation style for the programme, and the inclusion of races between cars or between a car and another form of transportation, challenges involving cheap, second-hand cars, unusual approaches to reviewing cars, and road trips. In most of the early series, the presenters regularly destroyed a caravan.

In early 2006, the BBC made arrangements to move the programme's film site from Dunsfold to Enstone, Oxfordshire, in preparation for its eighth series, but were forced to change this after West Oxfordshire council rejected their plans on the basis of noise and pollution concerns. As a direct result, the broadcaster ordered that filming continued at Dunsfold during May of that year, despite having no permit to do so, with the eighth series unveiling a revamped studio set. In addition, the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment was modified with new rules along with a new car, while Hammond included one of his dogs for the series throughout its studio segments, along with a number of films made for this series and the next.

This page was last edited on 12 February 2018, at 03:19.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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