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Trivia / Top Gear (UK)

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  • Backed by the Pentagon: Well, Ministry Of Defence. Top Gear frequently has appearances from members of the British Army, Royal Marines or Royal Air Force, taking part in all sorts of hijinks under the guise of car tests. This includes a tank/an attack helicopter/snipers from the Irish Guards hunting down Jeremy Clarkson as he drives a car or SUV, and Clarkson reviewing the new Ford Fiesta in part by using it in a Royal Marine beach assault and playing a motorised version of British Bulldog with various armoured vehicles and a Mitsubishi, Richard Hammond racing a British Army parachutist or RAF pilot flying a Eurofighter Typhoon (Hammond's first shot at driving the Bugatti Veyron), and a BAE Sea Harrier doing a Power Lap. This trope continues in Spiritual Successor The Grand Tour, which continues Top Gear's tendency to feature plenty of military hardware.

    In 2009, the MoD revealed that since 2004, the Armed Forces were involved in filming for the equivalent of 141 days and civilian officials spent 48 days working on items for the programme. Although there was a bit of snarkery over this, the MoD insists that it was an excellent way to boost support for the Army. Clarkson notably supports the troops, and he is a patron of Help For Heroes
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  • Banned Episode: The episode where the crew destroys a Perodua Kancil could never air in Malaysia ever again until Perodua stopped producing Kancils several years later.
  • Banned in China: Indirectly. For their troubles of destroying a Malaysian car called the Perodua Kancil, the local satellite Pay TV provider that was carrying BBC Entertainment at the time dropped the entire channel, replacing it with ITV Granada. While the provider outright denied that the episode had to do with the channel being dropped (they simply claimed that the channel has nothing new to offer, which angered fans of other shows on the channel, particularly Whovians) Many Malaysians suspect a full-on governmental conspiracy to ban the show because the programme had badmouthed a local car. However that didn’t stop a local terrestrial station to pick up the show (although it was put on their Friday Night Death Slot and the offending episode removed from their airing) and local versions of the Top Gear magazine continued to be printed (albeit now heavily censored). Eventually the channel reappeared on a different provider three years later, but only after Top Gear had moved to the BBC Knowledge sister channel and Perodua had stopped producing Kancils anyway.
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  • Channel Hop: In 2020, the show moved from BBC Two to BBC One.
  • Distanced from Current Events: In 2007, the show received criticism for broadcasting a feature in which they demonstrated the importance of taking care on level crossings by crashing a locomotive into a car. It so happened that this was broadcast shortly after a train crash involving a car on a level crossing had made the news. Some thought that, with rail safety high in the public consciousness as a result, this was an ideal time to broadcast the feature. Others thought that there would never be a proper time to broadcast it as it would have caused offence to someone at any time — at that point, the feature had already been postponed more than once due to, you guessed it, level crossing accidents. The fact that Clarkson (who presented the feature) was clearly playing it for laughs probably didn’t help, mind you.
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  • Doing It for the Art: For all the flack the show gets about being bawdy and offensive, deep down you know that the trio really love cars (especially Clarkson; see the last scene of Series 13) and it's really just sixty minutes of gushing about them with gorgeous imagery.
  • Dork Age: Season 23 in 2016, no doubt. From the atrocious changes to segments that weren't broken (like for example the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" becoming rally-cross themed and having a much longer interview - a.k.a. the part that always was seen as the weakest of the show), over badly timed humor to an abrasive and very much unlikeable Chris Evans not being suited for the role of main host, the series failed spectacularly, bringing barely a third of the viewers the Clarkson era had by its' end.
  • Dueling Shows:
    • With Fifth Gear, which is much less popular than Top Gear (and is based on the original, more straightforward-review format) but is often name-dropped because its presenters include several of Clarkson's old colleagues and rivals from the original Top Gear. Disasters such as the Cool Wall burning down are often ascribed to Fifth Gear's nefarious schemes. Then again, most of the jabs at Fifth Gear are (presumably) in good humor as the show's host Tiff Needell has continued to work with Jeremy and co. on occasion.
    • When Clarkson, Hammond and May left to create The Grand Tour, they became this to their old show. As Top Gear has gone on, the two shows have settled into a friendly rivalry of sorts. A 2019 interview with crew from Top Gear revealed that the shows go out of their way to not directly compete with or copy each other; for example, Top Gear had a trip to Azerbaijan planned until they heard that The Grand Tour was filming an episode there in their third series, so they dropped the idea. While Clarkson has said he doesn't watch the new version of the show, feeling he doesn't need to see how it's changed, May watches it and has said he's a fan and pleased with how the show has settled into its new hosts.
  • Early Instalment Weirdness:
  • You'd be very surprised to see that the series before 2002 were your bog-standard car review show (in fact, this original version inspired a slew of motoring shows throughout continental Europe). While it isn't quite devoid of humour (especially in segments done by Clarkson, who'd constantly add witty remarks to his reviews), the rule was factuality-first, jokes second.
    • Even the early seasons of the post-2002 show had a markedly different tone to what it would evolve into after a few years. There were no cheap car challenges, much more emphasis on novelty/stunt challenges, much less emphasis on banter and more of a pretence maintained of being a semi-serious show. Not to mention that the first series had Jason Dawe as the third presenter instead of James May, and the first two series had a Stig dressed in black rather than white.
  • Edited for Syndication:
    • Rather clumsily, to make room for ad breaks, on Dave (a UK channel that shows reruns of many BBC programmes) — ironic, as sitcoms and panel games are generally unedited, taking up an awkward 40-minute place in the schedules. UKTV, Dave's parent company, often also comes under criticism for editing documentaries on their other channels.
    • Also edited for ad breaks on BBC America. The News and Cool Wall segments are generally cut, presumably because they're relatively short and involve topics with which American audiences are likely unfamiliar (and, in the case of the News segment, possibly because the topics discussed are no longer "news" by the time the episodes appear across the pond). However, they keep Star in a Reasonably Priced Car... which is relatively short and involve topics with which American audiences are likely unfamiliar. As an example: episode 13x02 edited out the news, including a part about a car sounding like it was having a "crisis", which made future references to having a "crisis" look like an inside joke. Also, a line from Clarkson about "separating the men from the Grindrs" loses its humor since the part where Stephen Fry shows Clarkson the Grindr app was edited out.
    • Subverted in 2010 where the episodes are shown in full in special 90-minute slotsnote  on their first airing (and a handful after that), possibly since it had more stars recognizable to Americans. BBC America tried this after success with similar time-slots for Doctor Who.
    • Dave and BBC America also occasionally makes additional edits, such as beeping out swears that weren't beeped in the original BBC version. The most egregious example being during the £25,000 classic car challenge, when James's "Cock!" upon seeing Jeremy's time in the slalom is bleeped.
    • Due to rights issues, some of the music is also changed after the BBC airings, which can completely kill a moment in some cases. In at least one case they edited the music on the iTunes distribution of an episode: in the Vietnam Special every shot of the "alternate transportation" (a gleaming motorcycle sporting US flags and painted in a red, white, and blue US flag motif) was accompanied by Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" as background music. In the iTunes release, this is changed to "The Star Spangled Banner". This can cause some problems if there's a running joke in an episode.
  • Executive Meddling: One of Clarkson's pet peeves, often lampshaded with snarly references to Health & Safety.
  • Fan Nickname:
    • The presenters' In Series Nicknames (Jezza, Hamster, and Captain Slow) have been taken up by the fanbase. The presenters collectively are sometimes called the Top Gear Three, or TG3 for short.
    • Also "White Stig," distinguished from the former "Black Stig" by the white color of his racing suit.
    • Nico Nico Douga users tend to tag videos featuring May with "J`・ω・)".
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: While a lot of the material is readily available on home video, a large portion of it is plagued by this.
    • Old Top Gear is only available as a few VHS compilations.
    • Series One is almost never repeated, and only released on DVD as a "Best Of" release that didn't include any of Jason Dawe's footage. The early series in general are rarely repeated due to the Early Installment Weirdness of them.
    • Series 1-8 have never been released on DVD outside of "Best Of" releases. Series 10-20 and 23 are available in the UK, 10-22 in the USA and 9-12 as well as 17-24 are available in Germany. To make things worse, some of these releases use the 50 minute Edited for Syndication versions.
    • Series 9 Episode 1, the first episode following Richard Hammond's near death in the Vampire Dragster crash and featuring a detailed discussion about the accident, was only aired once in the UK and is not available through any other means like Amazon. The episode was aired a few times on BBC America in the United States, but eventually disappeared from rerun rotation there too.
    • The specials are all available in the UK (albeit with the first US Special missing 10 minutes), and many of them are extended cuts to boot. There are also several 'The Challenges' volumes and 'Best Of' releases with pieces from the unreleased series.
    • Finally, everything from series six onward are available on VOD in the UK and USA.
  • McLeaned: The original Stig, as a result of the driver revealing his identity. Black Stig was launched off of an aircraft carrier and never seen again.
  • The Pete Best: Jason Dawe, who was a presenter on Top Gear for one season and then was replaced by James May.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Richard Hammond was a diehard fan of Top Gear, a fan of Jeremy Clarkson even, back when he was still on satellite Television. How diehard? Well, he read every single Top Gear magazine, watched Top Gear every week, and he envied everybody working for Top Gear. Needless to say, he Jumped at the Call when the current format of Top Gear started auditioning for presenters, although the last thing he expected was to actually be chosen for the job. Well, look where he is now.
  • The Red Stapler: Inversion; for a show which spends most of its time talking about unaffordable supercars, Top Gear has a reputation as being able to destroy an everyday car's sales with a single negative word. Manufacturers will occasionally refuse to provide a car for the show to review, fearing they will hate it, but this tends to rile the presenters more, and they will often name and shame such cars before going on to review them "covertly" anyway:
    • One notable case is the Vauxhall Vectra (Opel in Europe). The Vectra was trashed roundly by Clarkson and Vauxhall/Opel actually blamed him for their poor sales. BTW, for American car fans, the Vectra's American mutation is the Saturn Aura (which was fairly well-received). Clarkson (in a 90s article): "There are only three objective reasons for not buying any particular car. It is unreliable; it is hideously expensive; it is a Vauxhall Vectra."
      • Perhaps because of that, GM replaced the Vectra in 2011 with the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia (Americans, that's the current Buick Regal, since Saturn had been discontinued during GM's 2009 bankruptcy).
    • The presenters spent an entire series mocking the forthcoming Dacia Sandero before it had even been finished. By the start of the next series, Renault had cancelled the UK release; of course, this was probably for "unrelated reasons". Three years later in Romania, May lamented that the Sandero was not sold in the UK and wanted to take the one he got in Romania home with him.
    • Lampshaded in the American Muscle Cars special (San Francisco to the Bonneville Salt Flats); Richard Hammond noted that Chrysler refused to loan him a Dodge Challenger on the grounds that Top Gear always criticizes their cars. Hammond got around this by going to a local dealership and buying one. (Ironically, Hammond loved it.) During one episode May joked that certain dealerships have started asking "Do you know Jeremy Clarkson?" and denying entry to anyone who does.
    • It's probably because of this inversion that the show got into controversy and ultimately lead to the episode banned in Malaysia and BBC Entertainment becoming unavailable in the country for Several years. The crew had bad-mouthed a Perodua Kancil, a car from one of the two national car makers in the country. The national carmaker probably feared that this trope would affect sales of the car and complained to the satellite provider, which ultimately led to the removal of the entire BBC Entertainment channel from their lineup. Ironically, Perodua would retire the Kancil line anyway several years later.
    • On the other hand, when the team demonstrated the durability of the Toyota Hilux pickup truck, Toyota released a new model, named in honour of the achievement, called The Invincible. In fact, there's a television commercial in the U.S. for the American equivalent of the Hilux, the Toyota Tacoma, which features footage from that episode.note  They don't mention that it's Top Gear, only that the stunt was done by "some automotive experts in Europe" (grossly underestimating ''Top Gear'''s American fanbase and its ability to recognize the scene).
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: Clarkson was always a magnet for controversy and had to repeatedly apologize for things he said on air. The misdemeanor in question that led to his dismissal was when he verbally and physically abused producer Oisin Tymon because hot food was not available at a hotelnote . The BBC announced that it wasn't going to renew Clarkson's contract and Hammond and May announced that they would be leaving in solidarity.
  • Screwed by the Network: An inadvertent example. The late-2009 season was put up in its usual Sunday evening time slot, despite the fact that it would be competing against The X Factor's results show and I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. Result? The season got utterly torn apart in the ratings, posting audience figures that would have been considered embarrassing for the original version of the show, and helped fuel reports that it was on the verge of being cancelled. As a result, the BBC have announced that there won't be any more seasons broadcast in the autumn, and that in future, there will be one season just after the turn of the year, and one in the summer. This was demonstrated further when series 19, which would have been aired in the summer, got pushed to winter 2013 due to conflicts with the 2012 Summer Olympics.
  • Scully Box: In one episode Clarkson and Hammond are standing on opposite sides of a Cadillac Escalade. When Jeremy walks around to Hammond's side it's revealed that Hammond had to stand on a box so he could be seen over the bonnet.
  • Technology Marches On:
    • The "flappy-paddle" gearbox. When Top Gear was first relaunched, the presenters were all unimpressed by and dismissive of the idea. Then, as the tech improved, they started praising a few individual ones for being better than most. Nowadays they tend to describe them, more often than not, as an option worth considering.
    • Teslas. When they first came out, they actively downplayed anything their review model did well out of sheer lack of faith in the technology. Nowadays, they all consider them fantastic cars and recommend the technology as worth watching and investing in. More noticeable on The Grand Tour, for obvious reasons.
    • Increased efficiency in public transport and cross-country transport can be seen during the races where Clarkson drives while Hammond and May take alternate means of transport. Earlier races had Clarkson winning handily while the two scarpered around, while the final few races were far closer, with Hammond and May even winning one and breaking Jeremy's streak.
  • Unintentional Period Piece:
    • In a rather harsh example of this trope, on at least two occasions the presenters have been through a peaceful country on one of their adventures mere months before it exploded into violence - first Syria and then Ukraine.
    • In earlier series, the presenters would casually use "gay" as an insult toward one another and cars they didn't like. This was put to an end as people became more aware of homophobia and and how offensive such language was.
  • What Could Have Been: James May was originally planning to present the Vampire rocket-car segment but had to back out due to a schedule conflict. Particularly frightening because Hammond said he only survived the car sliding upside down at 280 mph because when the roll cage dug in, his short stature reduced the forces on his head and neck. Hammond is 5'7". May is 6'. On the other hand, if May had been presenting that segment, he probably wouldn't have taken the car for an additional last-minute run.
  • Writer Revolt: After his "fracas" with Oisin Tymon, Clarkson returned to work fully believing that everyone could simply forget about the incident and move on. The entire staff, however, apparently refused to let bygones be bygones and demanded that Clarkson report himself to the BBC for review.


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