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History of Top Gear

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1977

The original Top Gear started as a monthly television series produced by BBC Midlands, based at Pebble Mill. The 30-minute programmes had a magazine format and were transmitted to viewers in the Midlands region only. Top Gear and its title were conceived by executive producer Derek Smith .The programme covered motoring-related issues such as new car road tests, fuel economy, safety, the police, speeding, insurance, second-hand cars and holiday touring.

The first programme was broadcast on 22 April 1977, on BBC 1 Midlands at 10:15pm. It was presented by Angela Rippon and Tom Coyne, who was front man of the local evening news programme, Midlands Today. In the first edition, Angela Rippon drove from Shepherd's Bush in London, to the Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham, reporting on driving conditions en route. Other items covered in the first programme were speed traps, fuel economy, strange new road signs and an interview with the transport minister. There were nine programmes in that initial series.

Demise and relaunch[edit] Edit

Following many well-known presenters' departure in 1999/2000 the Top Gear audience fell from a peak of six million to under three million.Following Clarkson's departure in 2001, the programme was jointly presented by Quentin Willson and Kate Humble, who ran an ongoing test throughout the programme between reports. Brendan Coogan (who had joined in 1998), left the show a year later after being convicted of drink driving.In 2000, Jason Barlow, from Channel 4's Driven, joined the existing line-up for the final 53 episodes.[12] The programme ran almost continuously between September 2000 and October 2001, and despite regularly being the most watched show on BBC Two, the channel decided the format needed to be dramatically refreshed. However, a Top Gear special with Jason Barlow being the only remaining presenter—Vicki Butler-Henderson, Tiff Needell and Adrian Simpson having moved to Fifth Gear—was broadcast in 2002 with coverage of the 2002 Birmingham Motorshow from the NEC.

In 2001 the show was cancelled by BBC bosses in London only to be relaunched in a new one-hour-long, studio-based format made by the BBC in London one year later.

Meanwhile, in 2002, Channel 5 launched Fifth Gear, a car show featuring many of the former Top Gear presenters including Tiff Needell, Quentin Willson and Vicki Butler-Henderson. The show was produced by former Top Gear producer Jon Bentley. While most of the production team moved from the BBC to Channel 5 to create Fifth Gear, Jason Barlow was still under contract to the BBC and went on to front the new programme Wrong Car, Right Car, which ran for two series and 23 episodes. The name change to Fifth Gear was required as the BBC would not relinquish the rights to the Top Gear name (the corporation was publishing Top Gear magazine).[13]

After the first series of Fifth Gear was completed, the BBC decided to relaunch Top Gear, but in a new studio-based format as opposed to the magazine format used until the cancellation. The idea came from producer Andy Wilman and Jeremy Clarkson, who presented the relaunched show with Richard Hammond and Jason Dawe. James May replaced Dawe from the second series onwards of the current format. The pre-cancellation show is referred to as "Old Top Gear" when mentioned on the new show due to the differences in style.

since a relaunch in 2002, it has developed a quirky, humorous and sometimes controversial style. Former main host, Jeremy Clarkson, was informed by the BBC on 25 March 2015 that his contract would not be renewed Following Clarkson's departure, his former co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May and executive producer Andy Wilman announced that they would not return to the show without him.The show has also featured at least three different test drivers known as "The Stig". On 16 June 2015 Chris Evans was confirmed as the new lead host,[9]whilst open auditions will be held to cast his co-presenters.

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