Top Gear (2002 TV series)/Series 1

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Series 1 (2002 format)
Jeremy Clarkson with Jason Dawe and Richard Hammond.
Jeremy Clarkson with Jason Dawe and Richard Hammond.
Episodes 10
Originally aired 20/10/2002 - 29/12/2002
Original network BBC Two
Resolution 576i
Aspect ratio 16:9 Widescreen
Uncut length 589:56
Preceded by Series 45 (2001)
Superceded by Series 2 (2003)

The first series of Top Gear premiered in the United Kingdom on the 20th October, 2002, and concluded on the 29th December, 2002, after a run of 10 episodes. The series' main host was Jeremy Clarkson, and he was accompanied by Jason Dawe, Richard Hammond and The Stig as co-presenters. The series was produced at Television Centre in Wood Lane, London, and aired on BBC Two in a 60-minute studio format. Series 1 attracted an average viewership rating of 3.3 million viewers per episode, with a peak of 3.67 million viewers for Episode 9, and a low of 2.43 million viewers for Episode 1.

Highlights from this series include the introduction of Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car alongside the debut of the 2002 format as a whole.

Production[edit | edit source]

In August 2001, the BBC announced[1] that Top Gear in its previous incarnation was to be discontinued after 23 years on the air. This meant an uncertain future for three of its main hosts; Tiff Needell, Vicki Butler-Henderson, and Adrian Simpson, who after meeting with former colleague Richard Pearson in the Autumn of that year, decided to move[2] to rival broadcaster Channel 5. The resultant programme, rechristened as Fifth Gear, would premiere[3] in April of 2002 and recycle much of the format that the outgoing Top Gear had employed. Public reception[4] to this new series was largely positive, and put pressure on the BBC to deliver a suitable replacement.

On the 22nd March, 2002, BBC Two channel controller Jane Root would announce that long-time presenter Jeremy Clarkson would be returning[5] to the show as lead presenter. Clarkson, who had retired[6] from the original incarnation of Top Gear at the beginning of 1999, citing[7] a myriad of reasons including his dislike of the journey to Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham, and the direction in which the show was heading from a creative standpoint. As one of the few remaining personnel following the departure of much of its cast and crew for 5th Gear, Andy Wilman would decide to seize control of the Top Gear television franchise and began drawing up plans for a successor with lifelong friend Clarkson. Towards the end of 2001, he would approach[8] the aforementioned channel controller Root with a proposition to revive Top Gear under a different format, which was immediately approved.

Scriptwriter Richard Porter, who had joined the programme in 1998 after working in a Wilmslow branch of Next, had left the programme in 2000 to found SniffPetrol, a satirical motoring website[9] similar in style to more infamous publications such as The Onion. After several months, Porter would be persuaded back onto the show after a brief tenure working with Channel 4's Driven, who had intended to relaunch their programme in a studio format, unbeknownst to those working with Porter that Top Gear had had the same idea. With filming due to begin in the Summer of 2002, Porter would begin writing new scripts for films featured in the series, the first of these being Clarkson's road test of the Renault Vel Satis around Swindon.

Hosts[edit | edit source]

Episodes[edit | edit source]

# Total Episode Page Challenge(s) Original airdate (UK)
1 1 Series 1, Episode 1 Can you beat a speed camera? • Can you run a car on vegetable oil? 20th October, 2002
Vehicles Citroën Berlingo MultispaceLamborghini Murciélago vs. Pagani ZondaMazda 6
Guests and features SIARPC: Harry Enfield • Competition application: Grannies doing doughnuts
2 2 Series 1, Episode 2 Can a bus jump 14 bikes? 27th October, 2002
Vehicles Ford Focus RSNoble M12 GTO • Retrospective: Ford Escort RS 1800
Guests and features SIARPC: Jay Kay • Competition application: Britain's Biggest car bore
3 3 Series 1, Episode 3 Can a granny do doughnuts? 3rd November, 2002
Vehicles MINI One vs. Toyota Yaris VersoAston Martin DB7 Vantage • Retrospective: Citroën DSWestfield XTR2
Guests and features SIARPC: Ross Kemp • Car design competition with Ian Callum and Peter Horbury • Competition application: Fastest Faiths
4 4 Series 1, Episode 4 Saloon Grand Prix 10th November, 2002
Vehicles Aston Martin Vanquish vs. Ferrari 575M Maranello • Retrospective: Nissan Skyline GT-R • Family saloon group test: Renault Laguna II vs. Jaguar X-Type vs. BMW 318i vs. Honda Accord
Guests and features SIARPC: Steve Coogan • Competition application: Budget Bond Car • Jeremy interviews Richard Burns
5 5 Series 1, Episode 5 Bond car on a budget with Edd China 17th November, 2002
Vehicles Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W220) vs. Audi A8Maybach 62Bentley Arnage T
Guests and features SIARPC: Jonathan Ross • Used Peugeot 206s
6 6 Series 1, Episode 6 Can a granny do a handbrake turn? 24th November, 2002
Vehicles Honda NSX-RRenault Vel SatisBMW Z4Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG
Guests and features SIARPC: Tara Palmer-TomkinsonCool Wall introduction • Used Volkswagen Golfs
7 7 Series 1, Episode 7 Who is the fastest faith? 1st December, 2002
Vehicles SAAB 9-3Lotus Elise 111S
Guests and features SIARPC: Rick ParfittCool Wall #2 • Diesel sports car (Peugeot RC Carreau) • Jason vs. electric car (Ford TH!NK) • Favourite car in a school playground
8 8 Series 1, Episode 8 Who is the fastest white van driver? • Turning a Lada into a Lotus 8th December, 2002
Vehicles Audi RS 6 vs. Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG • Supermini group test: Ford Fiesta vs. Citroën C3 vs. Honda Jazz vs. Nissan Micra vs. MG ZRMaserati Coupé Cambiocorsa
Guests and features SIARPC: Sir Michael Gambon
9 9 Series 1, Episode 9 Stripping down a Jaguar XJSRadical SR3 vs. plane on the Top Gear Test Track 22nd December, 2002
Vehicles People carrier group test: Renault Espace (fourth generation) vs. Toyota Land Cruiser vs. Volvo XC90Subaru ForesterVolkswagen Golf R32
Guests and features SIARPC: Gordon Ramsay • Cooking food on a car's engine • Cool Wall #3
10 10 Series 1, Episode 10 2002 Top Gear Awards • Who is the fastest faith? 29th December, 2002
Vehicles Range Rover (L322) vs. rivals: Toyota Land CruiserBMW X5Jeep Grand Cherokee • German tuner cars: AS One vs. MTM Bimoto • Retrospective: Lotus EspritTVR T350C power lap challenge
Guests and features SIARPC: Award presentation for fastest driver • Jason's guide to buying old bangers

Compilation Episodes[edit | edit source]

# Total Episode Page Challenge(s) Original airdate (UK)
1 1 Best of Top Gear #1 Speed camera • Bus jump • Vegetable oil 26th January, 2003
Vehicles Noble M12 GTO • BMW Z4 • Citroën Berlingo Multispace • Aston Martin DB7 Vantage • Supermini group test: Ford Fiesta vs. Citroën C3 vs. Honda Jazz vs. Nissan Micra vs. MG ZR • Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG
Guests and features SIARPC: Harry Enfield • Jonathan Ross • Tara Palmer-Tomkinson • Cool Wall
2 2 Best of Top Gear #2 Fastest Faiths 30th March, 2003
Vehicles Lamborghini Murciélago vs. Pagani Zonda • Ford Focus RS
Guests and features SIARPC: Gordon Ramsay • Sir Michael Gambon
3 3 Best of Top Gear #3 Grannies doing doughnuts • Plane vs. car race 6th April, 2003
Vehicles Volkswagen Golf R32 • TVR T350C power lap challenge • Bentley Arnage T
Guests and features SIARPC: Jay Kay • Steve Coogan • Cool Wall

Home video distribution[edit | edit source]

Unfortunately, along with much of the content filmed for Top Gear's first eight series, Series 1 has never been made available on a home video format by the BBC.

Clips from the programme's first two series were later compiled and released on DVD as the 90-minute long Top Gear: Back in the Fast Lane compilation, which was released in October of 2003.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • Series 1 was the only series of Top Gear to air in 2002.
  • It was the only series to feature Jason Dawe as host, his role on the show taken over by James May from Series 2.
  • Series 1 was the first of 4 series to feature 10 episodes, the others being Series 2, Series 4, and Series 10.
  • It was also the first of 6 series to feature 10 or more episodes, with Series 6 and Series 22 each featuring 11 episodes.
  • The look and structure of the studio set noticeably changes between episodes; by the end of the series, it is much darker in appearance.
  • Richard Hammond would appear concurrently in archive programming he had produced for Granada Television's Men & Motors channel prior to his departure from the network, such as Used Car Heaven.
  • One of these episodes featured RV02 ONL, the same Ferrari 360 Modena which appeared in various pieces of Top Gear promotional material, including the series' introduction.
  • Likely before the final title sequence was filmed and edited together, an alternate title sequence with a different version of "Jessica" was made. This appeared on UK Horizons and some BBC World airings.

References[edit | edit source]

Navigation[edit | edit source]