Top Gear

Top Gear

Top Gear is a BAFTA, Multi-NTA and Emmy Award-winning BBC television series about motor vehicles, mainly 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 programme is estimated to have 350 million viewers worldwide and 8 million viewers each week in the UK on BBC Two. The show is presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig, an anonymous test driver. It is one of the most pirated television shows in the world.

Top Gear is broadcast in many countries; for a list of these, and of the releases the programme has produced over the years, please see the List of Top Gear broadcasters and video releases. Series 10 of Top Gear has now finished; but show will return in the summer 2008.

eremy 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 in Surrey, a private aerodrome and business park. Top Gear uses a temporary racing circuit which was designed for the show by Lotus and is laid out on parts of the runways and taxiways. A large hangar is used for studio recording with a standing audience who apply to the BBC for free tickets.

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.

Series 9 was scheduled to air on BBC Two from 8 October 2006. However, on 20 September 2006, Hammond was seriously injured while driving a jet-powered drag-racing car at up to 314 mph (502 km/h) for a feature in the show. On 24 September the BBC said: "It also confirmed the final part of the Best of Top Gear had been postponed indefinitely and the new series, due to begin on 8 October 2006, will be delayed." Both the BBC and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out inquiries into the accident. On 5 October 2006, filming resumed. 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 edition of Top Gear — filmed for Red Nose Day 2007 — called Top Gear of the Pops mixed the show's typical format with music and appearances from artists Lethal Bizzle, Travis, Supergrass, and McFly with a challenge to write a song including the words "sofa", "administration" and "Hyundai" and a performance by Clarkson, Hammond and May with Justin Hawkins of "Red Light Spells Danger" by Billy Ocean.

Repeats of earlier series are currently shown on Dave and UKTV People, cut to 45 minutes to allow it to fit in an hour-long slot while leaving room for adverts. 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 45-minute version. Top Gear has been broadcast in other countries either in its original format, in a re-edited version, or (as in the case of the North American edition) with specially shot segments in front of the UK audience.

The BBC also broadcasts edited Top Gear programmes on its international BBC World TV channel. Episodes are shortened from their original length of one hour 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.

Recently, BBC World has not shown cut versions of the current series, but has resorted 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.

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 U.S., away from his family.

A special programme, Top Gear: Polar Special, was broadcast in the UK on July 25, 2007, and again on July 29. This episode involved a race to the Magnetic North Pole from Resolute, Canada, with James May and Jeremy Clarkson travelling in a 'polar modified' Toyota Hilux, and Richard Hammond on a dog-drawn sled. All three presenters had experienced explorers with them, but Clarkson and May became the first people to reach the magnetic North Pole by car, using the vehicle's satellite navigation to pinpoint their co-ordinates with the known coordinates of the pole. It was the first episode of the programme to be shown in high-definition.

On September 9, 2007, Top Gear participated in the 2007 Britcar 24-hour race at Silverstone, where the hosts (including The Stig) drove a race-prepared, diesel BMW 330d to win 3rd in class and 39th overall.

On 19 November 2007, the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), an Australian Broadcaster, secured the rights to franchise Top Gear and produce an Australian version of the show. Australia is the first country in the world to secure the rights to make a local version of the show, which mixes performance cars with comedy and celebrities. Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson added, "I'm delighted that Top Gear is going to Australia. Maybe the first guest could be Jonny Wilkinson."

A special episode of Top Gear for Sport Relief entitled Top Ground Gear Force, was broadcast on BBC Two at 10:00 pm on 14 March 2008. 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.

Also on 14 March 2008, BBC Worldwide announced that the Top Gear format would provide the basis for a live event that will visit fifteen countries. Clarkson, Hammond and May are expected to be present for the British leg of the tour.


Top Gear test track in computer games

On 24 October 2007 it was announced that players of the forthcoming PlayStation 3 game, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, will be able to download episodes of Top Gear within the game, and that the show's test track will be one of the included circuits when the full game (Gran Turismo 5) is released at Christmas 2008. A very basic yet driveable version of the track appeared around 2003 for the PC 'hardcore' racing simulation Grand Prix Legends. There's also a version of the test track for the realistic PC racing simulation Rfactor, produced with permission from Dunsfold park.

International Top Gear series

On 19 November 2007, it was revealed that a localised Australian series of Top Gear would be produced by the SBS 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 has been given yet as to the exact makeup of the show, other than that it will have a distinct Australian style. It is believed that the Australian show idea was sparked by Clarkson's love of the Australian performance car brand HSV. SBS ran a competition to find hosts for the show, interested applicants were invited to apply via the SBS Top Gear website.

NBC is also commissioning a version of the show to be broadcast in the United States, which will have different presenters from the UK version. NBC has begun casting, but no official casting announcements have been made to date. (Credit: Wikipedia).



BBC's Top Gear boosts magazine garage, by Miriam Steffens - 13th March 2008
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

ACP Magazines has moved to beef up its men's magazines division, entering a joint venture with the BBC to start an Australian version of the car lover's magazine Top Gear in June.

The venture, likely to be called Park Publishing, will be run from ACP's Sydney offices by its head of men's and specialist titles, Phil Scott.

It wants to publish more new titles - one this year - with plans centering on Australian versions of BBC Magazines' children's and food titles, or a travel magazine based on the BBC-owned publisher Lonely Planet.

It is the fourth large deal in a year for the BBC, which had identified Australia as one of its key growth markets last year.

The broadcaster acquired Lonely Planet in October for about $250 million and took a 25 per cent stake in the Australian production company Freehand, which is behind TV series including Missing Persons Unit.

In January the pay TV company Foxtel said the BBC would provide a channel for its new high-definition service later this year.

Last month BBC Worldwide, the BBC's main commercial arm, signed an agreement to provide programs including The Whistleblowers and The Vicar Of Dibley to the Seven Network.

Top Gear will be launched with a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign, with hopes it might sell up to 70,000 copies a month and reach a wider audience than ACP's best-selling motoring magazine, Wheels.

The publisher also plans a $1 million advertising blitz to promote a relaunch of FHM next month, aimed at moving the raunchy magazine more upmarket to stem circulation losses.

ACP bought FHM through its takeover of Emap's Australian titles last year, but it lost 24 per cent of sales in the December half as it competed for the same readers as ACP's own Ralph.

In a sign how serious ACP is taking the relaunch, Mr Scott said the publisher had even "walked away from around $1 million worth of advertising revenue from the phone sex market".



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