Hosted by the charismatic trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, “Top Gear’s” unorthodox and irreverent approach to automotive journalism has made it popular with fans and critics worldwide. Since its inception in 1977 as an automotive news magazine and the show’s 2002 reboot into the current format, “Top Gear” has become a British television institution.
The BBC-produced, Emmy Award winning car show can be seen in over 200 countries around the world.
At its core, the show aims to be informative, but does so with a unique blend of hyperbolic comedy, action, and drama that crosses the boundaries of age, gender, and culture. “Top Gear’s” unique storytelling method and irreverent attitude helped the show generate 350 million viewers a week worldwide, as well as a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most-watched “factual” TV program.
“Top Gear” executive producer Andy Wilman describes it as, “a journey into the male mind, which I believe, is a really, potentially, very funny place — ’cause, let’s face it, nothing happens there.”
He’s right,but 40% of “Top Gear’s” audience is actually female!
In fact, the show’s near-universal appeal has helped turn it into a $1.5 billion brand, with spinoff series in Russia, Australia, South Korea, and the United States.
What makes the original the most fun is the inimitable chemistry between the show’s trio of hosts. In fact, the program is propelled as much by their sometimes caustic camaraderie as it is by cars. One of the highlights of the show is the constant personality clash between the pedantic James May and the bombastic Jeremy Clarkson.
In 2006, Richard Hammond was nearly killed when the right-front tire of the Vampire jet car he was driving burst at nearly 300 mph, leading to a catastrophic crash. The accident, which caused the host to suffer memory loss and brain damage, had safety activists calling for the show’s cancelation. Fortunately, Hammond, known on the show as “The Hamster” due to his diminutive stature, returned to show just three months later without missing a single episode.
Unlike most American network shows, the BBC and “Top Gear” are funded by British taxpayers, which means the hosts can pretty much say or do whatever they want without fear of retribution from sponsors.
One of “Top Gear’s” most popular characters is the show’s unofficial mascot and mysterious resident professional test driver. Producers created the mute, helmet-clad character because they needed an adequately skillful driver to navigate the show’s test track, located at a former air force base.
“Top Gear” takes its style of automotive journalism to the extreme via over-the-top globetrotting adventures. Instead of simply telling viewers whether a car is good or bad, the show will also subject vehicles to extreme real-world conditions. In 2007, Clarkson and May became the first people to drive to the North Pole, when the pair piloted a modified Toyota Hilux truck through the Arctic.