Top Gear is a BAFTA, multi-NTA and International 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 show is presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig, an anonymous test driver. The programme is estimated to have 385 million viewers worldwide. In 2007 it was one of the most pirated television shows in the world.
The show has received considerable acclaim for its visuals and presentation, as well as a number of criticisms 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." Groups such as the Environmental Investigation Agency have criticised the BBC for allowing Top Gear to film in environmentally sensitive areas such as the Makgadikgadi salt pan in Botswana.
New episodes are initially broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two. Episodes of Top Gear are also broadcast on Dave, BBC America, and a number of other television channels around the world. The popularity of the show has led to the creation of two international versions, with local production teams and presenters, for Australia and the United States. Initial episodes of the Australian version is scheduled to be broadcast in the second half of 2008 while NBC is holding the American version for broadcast in February or March, 2009, as a possible mid-season replacement.
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 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 and 2007. 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. Also, in Series 10, Richard Hammond won the award for the 'Best TV Haircut' and James May won the award for the worst, while James May also won an award for Heat magazine's "weirdiest celebrity crush" revealed during the news.