Top Gear (2002 TV series)

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Please note that this page uses IMCDb's definition of Top Gear, and so only includes the first 22 series. For the show known as Top Gear since 2016, please see Top Gear (2016 TV series).

Top Gear logo.

Top Gear is the name of a British automotive journalism programme which began airing on the 20th of October, 2002. It is a reboot of the earlier Top Gear which aired from April 1977 through to February of 2002 before its eventual cancellation and subsequent revival. The show ran for approximately 180 episodes across 22 series before lead host Jeremy Clarkson was sacked in March 2015.

Series overview[edit | edit source]

Series Episodes Originally aired Average UK viewers
(in millions)
Home video release date
Series premiere Series finale
1 10 20th October 2002 29th December 2002 3.30 Never released
2 10 11th May 2003 20th July 2003 3.16
3 9 26th October 2003 28th December 2003 4.03
4 10 9th May 2004 1st August 2004 3.48
5 9 24th October 2004 26th December 2004 4.15
6 11 22nd May 2005 7th August 2005 4.21
7 7 13th November 2005 12th February 2006 4.61
8 8 7th May 2006 30th July 2006 4.45
9 6 28th January 2007 4th March 2007 7.45 19th October 2012
P 1 25th July 2007 4.50 3rd March 2008
10 10 7th October 2007 23rd December 2007 7.01 25th October 2010
11 6 22nd June 2008 27th July 2008 5.94 25th April 2011
12 8 2nd November 2008 28th December 2008 7.32 5th August 2016
13 7 21st June 2009 2nd August 2009 7.17 8th August 2011
14 7 15th November 2009 3rd January 2010 6.69 23rd April 2012
15 6 27th June 2010 1st August 2010 6.25 20th August 2012
16 8 21st December 2010 27th February 2011 7.19 1st October 2012
17 6 26th June 2011 31st July 2011 6.42 1st October 2012
18 8 28th December 2011 11th March 2012 6.07 24th March 2016
BC 1 29th October 2012 5.48 18th February 2013
19 7 27th January 2013 10th March 2013 6.58 9th September 2013
20 6 30th June 2013 4th August 2013 5.31 9th September 2013
FS 1 26th August 2013 Australia only Never released
21 7 2nd February 2014 16th March 2014 6.49 12th June 2015
CP1 3 10th August 2014 24th August 2014 2.80 Never released
22 11 27th December 2014 28th June 2015 6.49 17th June 2016
AZ 2 26th December 2015 30th December 2015 1.79 28th November 2016
CP2 3 24th January 2016 7th February 2016 2.17 Never released

For home video releases, the UK release date is indicated in plain text, and may not necessarily mark the first time a series was released for home viewing. Italicised dates indicate that the series never saw a home video release in the UK, but can be imported through Mainland Europe and watched on a Region 2 DVD player.

Production[edit | edit source]

Each episode followed a rigourous, mostly consistent production process in a style that was more akin to the production of an American programme than a British one. The earliest segments or "Films" as they are known were typically planned for and shot 3 - 4 months before the first episode premiered. Filming then typically continued right through the programme's cours of around 2 months, finishing a matter of weeks before the final episode went to air. After these were shot, the films were then edited with voiceover lines recorded in a studio. During Series 12, it was established that these lines were recorded during the same week that the previous episode's studio segments were filmed.

The last thing to be filmed were the show's studio segments, which were typically recorded during the Wednesday prior to the episode airing.

Episodes[edit | edit source]

Main article: Top Gear (2002 TV series)/Episodes

One of the biggest changes between Top Gear and its older predecessor was the change from a 30 minute programme to a 60 minute one. This meant that each episode was fundamentally equivalent to two episodes of the older format.

In terms of number, it is commonly agreed that upwards of 150 episodes were produced during a 13 year period from 2002 to 2015. 10 of these starred Dawe in the place of May, but for the most part, the line-up was consistently Clarkson as lead host and announcer, with Hammond and May as secondary and tertiary hosts. Granted, there were some exceptions, but some of these are debated:

  • Due to a throat infection preventing Clarkson from serving in his usual role, one episode (Series 12, Episode 6) featured Richard Hammond as announcer.
  • 1 episode was presented by Richard Hammond on his lonesome.
  • 6 episodes were presented by James May on his lonesome.
  • The show's final episode featured commentary and footage containing Jeremy Clarkson, but did otherwise not feature him.

Officially, there is no definitive episode count. Most official and semi-official sources such as Wikipedia only count seasonal episodes, meaning that Series 12, Episode 4 was considered to be the show's 100th episode, which coincidentally featured Harry Enfield as the Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car, who was also the show's very first guest. However, this count deliberately omits the Polar Special, as at the time the episode was one-of-a-kind.

AlexTGRF's unofficial count[edit | edit source]

Depending on whether or not one includes the Top Gear: From A-Z two-part compilation special from December 2015 as part of the show's overall chronology, there are either 186 or 188 episodes of the 2002 format.

Possible additions[edit | edit source]

Presuming that the higher count of 188 is used as a base, there are a number of other episodes which can raise this count further.

  • If the two charity specials specials featuring the Top Gear name are included in the overall count, the episode count rises to 190.
  • If the Stars in Fast Cars pilot is also included, the revised episode count is 191.
  • From 2009 - 2014, there were 6 straight-to-DVD specials which aired on television in the United States, but not in the UK. If these are counted, the episode count is 197.
  • In 2007 and 2008, there were also two interactive DVDs produced by Richard Hammond, which if counted raise the total number of episodes to 199.
  • If the 2021 Top Gear: A Tribute to Sabine Schmitz tribute show is counted, the number of Top Gear episodes rises to a round figure of 200, which also coincidentally serves as Jeremy Clarkson's 400th episode since 1988.
  • If the D-Motor and Top Gear Australia versions of Top Gear crossover events are counted, the number of episodes rise to 202.
  • One of the 2006 Best of Top Gear specials, subtitled "The Special Guests", features new footage presented by Jimmy Carr, which could rise the number of episodes to 203.
  • From 1996 - 2011, host Jeremy Clarkson released his own home videos. If only those which take place at Dunsfold Aerodrome onwards are counted, the number increases to 212.
  • If only those filmed during the Top Gear revival are counted, the number rises to 213, and if all 16 home videos are counted, the number is 219.
  • Penultimately, if Top Gear: Revved Up (Thrashing, Crashing and Trashing), a 2005 DVD release which features a small amount of new footage and which never aired on TV is included, the final episode count is 220.
  • Finally, if all 64 other Best of Top Gear episodes are counted, the total number of episodes jumps to 284, however, these do not include any new footage and are essentially glorified repeats.

There are many more permutations featuring further compilation series such as Top Gear: Best of British and Top Gear: Top 40 which raise the count beyond 300, but these stretch the definition of what constitutes an episode of Top Gear and so have not been mentioned. There is also the 2012 Children in Need "Special" which did not feature any of the active presenters and was shown on BBC's Breakfast news programme.

Possible subtractions[edit | edit source]

There are likewise a number of episodes which can be removed.

  • If only seasonal episodes of Top Gear are counted, then there are just 170 episodes. If every special which aired off-season outside of the Polar Special and Bond Special are re-instated, the number becomes 176.
  • From there, the two-part specials (Africa, Burma, and Patagonia) were later folded into singular episodes for re-broadcast and home distribution, leaving just 168 or 173 episodes.
  • There is also the question of the Winter Olympics Special, which may lower the count further to 175, 172, or to as low as 167 if subtracted.