Over the Christmas period of 2014, Top Gear returned to our screens for its 22nd series. Presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May launched the new series with a two-part special based in Patagonia, South America, which saw the trio embark on a 1,600 mile trip across the region in three V-8 sports cars.
The feature incorporated all the laughs and motor-fuelled thrills that we have come to know and love, but the show took a darker turn when the Top Gear film crew were forced to flee, the presenters subsequently catching an early flight out to Buenos Aires. This abrupt and alarming end to the show, picturing the crew’s cars being stoned by enraged crowds, resulted from outrage among Argentinians regarding the number plate on Clarkson’s Porsche 928 GT – “H982FKL”. They considered it a provocative jibe, referring to the 1982 Falklands war in which hundreds died.
This is not the first time the programme has been subject to serious criticism, but despite this Top Gear has achieved great success both in the UK and across the world. The programme has now been running for almost 40 years, starting out as a monthly half-hour feature on the motoring magazine of the same name. Following its cancellation and subsequent relaunch in 2002, the programme was given a style overhaul, becoming an hour-long studio-based production.
But what is it that has made Top Gear so successful? And after so many episodes – endlessly repeated on TV channel Dave, and the international controversy attached to the show, has Top Gear run its course? This is the question being asked by many critics, who are sceptical about what the show has left to give. However, the fans tell a different story – the simultaneous broadcasting of this series in over 50 countries worldwide gives you an idea of just how popular the show continues to be across the globe.
So what precisely is it about Top Gear that appeals to such a wide audience? The fact is the show presents a combination of a love of motoring, humour and stunning landscapes, capturing people’s imaginations. The show is both informative and entertaining, making it watchable for both the ardent car enthusiast as well as those less knowledgeable of the motoring world; this is due to the variety of the show, whether it’s reviewing the latest motor releases, putting vehicles to the ultimate test through quirky challenges such as car rugby with the 2013 Kia Cee’d and Sportage models in series 19, or finding out how the star in the reasonably priced car will fare on the Top Gear test track.
It is this variety and broad appeal that enables the show to retain its strong following – it develops and changes with time to incorporate new challenges and take viewers to new places, it is not just a show about cars, but about a love of driving, and the unique experiences that can be had from the driving seat.
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