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The first series of the BBC motoring show Top Gear, starring presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and Jason Dawe alongside ex-Formula 1 driver Perry McCarthy as The Stig, premiered on the 20th of October, 2002 and concluded on the 29th of December, 2002 after ten episodes.

This series marked the major reboot of the well-known car show and saw Clarkson's first appearance on the show as a whole since 1999, with Richard Hammond having been hired due to his sustained role in Granada Television's Motor Week, and Jason Dawe as the substitute pick for what was originally intended to be James May, who only wanted to be a part of the show if it ended up popular.

Though the show's future seemed unlikely due to the radical transformation of the show's established format, the series was a hit, attracting an average viewing figure of 3.3 million each week, which albeit down from a peak of 6 million in 1998 by almost half, eventually led to the show being renewed for a second series. Series 2 would begin airing in May 2003.

Episodes

Episode Number Synopsis SIARPC Airdate
1 (1) Jeremy Clarkson has a look at the Citroën Berlingo Multispace, and puts the Lamborghini Murciélago and Pagani Zonda against each other. Richard Hammond challenges The Stig to defeat a speed camera, and reviews the Mazda 6 before comparing it to its rivals. Harry Enfield 20/10/2002
2 (2) Jeremy reviews the new Ford RS car, the Focus, before taking the Noble M12 for a spin. Richard sees how many motorcycles a double decker bus can jump before having a go in his childhood dream car, the Ford Escort RS1800. Jay Kay 27/10/2002
3 (3) Jeremy compares the new Mini One to the Toyota Yaris Verso before driving the updated Aston Martin DB7. Elsewhere Richard sees if grannies can do donuts, before taking what is tantamount to a road-legal MotoGP bike on the road. Ross Kemp 03/11/2002
4 (4) Jeremy heads to the Isle of Man to compare the Aston Martin Vanquish against the Ferrari 575M Maranello, with the help of Damon Hill. Meanwhile, Richard tasks The Stig with testing several mid-range saloons F1 style, and Jason Dawe has look at the R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R. Steve Coogan 10/11/2002
5 (5) Jeremy reviews the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class before comparing it to its Ingolstadt-based rival, the Audi A8. Richard tests the luxury of the Maybach 62, whereas Jason evaluates some used Peugeot 206s. Edd China builds a Budget Bond Car from an old Rover. Jonathan Ross 17/11/2002
6 (6) Jeremy takes the Renault Vel Satis to Swindon, the home of the repmobile, while Richard reviews the new BMW Z4 in Portugal. Elsewhere, Dawe sees if grannies can do handbrakes turns before taking a look back at the Volkswagen Golf GTI. After driving it himself, The Stig takes Clarkson's SL55 AMG for a joyride. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson 24/11/2002
7 (7) Richard reviews the Saab 9-3, before seeing which religious faith is fastest. Jeremy takes the newest Elise, the 111S, for a literal spin, before Jason Dawe sees if the Lamborghini Countach is still the king of the playground. Rick Parfitt 01/12/2002
8 (8) Richard compares a selection of superminis, finds out the fastest white van driver and sees if Lotus can improve a Lada Riva. Jeremy once more puts Audi's finest new arrival, the RS6, against Mercedes' E55 AMG, and takes to the track in the new Maserati Coupé. Sir Michael Gambon 08/12/2002
9 (9) Richard tests the Subaru Forester before both he and Dawe see how fast a Stripped Jaguar XJ-S can be. Jeremy drives the Toyota Land Cruiser to see if it can rival the Renault Espace, before deciding if Volvo's XC90 is any good. He also tests the Volkswagen Golf R32 before handing it over to The Stig, who races a Radical SR3 against an acrobatic plane. Gordon Ramsay 22/12/2002
10 (10) To conclude the first series of revitalised Top Gear, Jeremy reviews the new Range Rover with some greenlaners while Richard tests out the TVR T350C Concept. Dawe looks into the brilliance of the original Nissan Primera before rerunning the religious faith race, and it's the show's first yearly Awards programme. None 29/12/2002

Production

After spending much of late 2001 and the first half of 2002 making executive decisions on how the rebooted Top Gear would look, in addition to a 2001 Awards special airing in February, production commenced in mid-2002 once Wilman and Clarkson had secured the rights to use Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey as the show's fixed location. One of the hangars was then slowly turned into the studio (a process which was still ongoing for much of the first series), and a small CGI sequence was filmed which appeared to show the Top Gear logo painted on the roof of this hangar.

Though initially the show was not planned to be called Top Gear, mostly due to the proposed format differing too much from the established programme which had preceded it for a quarter of a century, with a favoured name being Carmageddon according to director Richard Porter, the name was used as it had been kept from Channel 5, who named their successive show Fifth Gear, and would otherwise only remain as the name of BBC's automotive magazine.

Originally, it had been intended for Top Gear to take a hiatus throughout 2002 and lightly restructure into a similar series designed to take on Fifth Gear, with Carmageddon as a solo project in a similar vein as Jeremy Clarkson's Motorworld and Clarkson's Car Years, but by March 2002, it had been decided to combine the two ideas as a revamped version of Top Gear.

The host selection process began almost immediately following the news that Clarkson was to return to the show in March 2002, and a provisional line-up would most likely have featured Clarkson alongside Jason Barlow, who hosted the final 53 episodes of original format Top Gear, and Dominic Littlewood, a used car expert who also appeared on the cover of the June 2002 issue of Top Gear Magazine. As the latter two appeared at the 2002 Birmingham Motor Show feature that BBC produced on the same week as the first episode of the reboot, it is possible that Suzi Perry may also have played a part, as it was rumoured that Richard Hammond was found due to having the same agent as a hopeful female presenter.

Filming began on the 23rd of August, 2002, with a segment on the Renault Vel Satis. Though intended for the show's pilot episode, it was pushed back to the sixth episode of the series on account of various production problems with the episode's first two sets of studio segments. The first of these pilots was to feature French footballer David Ginola in a non-driving role, as the concept of Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car had not yet been devised. Filming of the studio segments resumed in September and continued through to December. After filming concluded, a series of highlights was broadcast on BBC Two throughout early 2003.

Airing History

Series 1 originally aired on BBC 2 from October to December 2002 in its only known unmodified broadcast. The UKTV network would then make various cuts to each episode in order to shorten them to 45 minutes long for commercial broadcast and syndicated re-runs, along with a unique introduction sequence, but would otherwise leave copyrighted footage and music untouched. Series 1 would later leave British syndication and eventually be pulled from the BBC Worldwide sales catalogue once successive host James May had starred in a sufficient number of episodes.

International Distribution

Top Gear would first air on BBC's international World service, as its predecessor had done shortly after its original transmission in the UK. These versions of the episodes would be reduced to around 50 minutes in length to accomodate commercials, and were separate cuts from the UKTV versions. "Extended" versions of each episodes, known as Top Gear Xtra, would later air on BBC Prime until at least June 2005, although these airings would lose most of the copyrighted soundtracks and footage.

Series 1 is known to have aired in Canada in 2006, and in Australia in 2008 on the SBS network. It then allegedly aired in Hungary in mid-2009 in its last documented international airing. The Australian airings would be the closest to the original BBC 2 airings, and so would often be circulated on the Internet once they had been recorded by viewers, but still suffered from some cuts and a loss of copyrighted content.

Parts of Series 1 would air in the United States in 2005 as part of Top Gear on Discovery, along with other assorted segments from the first five series. It would not re-air as part of the "Lost Seasons" once Top Gear entered syndication in the USA.

Thanks to its survival through online file sharing site Uloz, it is also known that Series 1 aired in a dubbed, largely-uncut format on Czech television channel Prima COOL. This is possibly the only foreign dub of Series 1 which exists, or at least the only one which remains extant.

Reception

The show's IMDb page rated this series at an average score of 6.9/10, indicating a positive reception overall.

Releases

As of 2019, Series 1 of Top Gear remains unreleased in its entirety in terms of physical media, and was only available as a cut-down compilation alongside Series 2 for the Back in the Fast Lane compilation DVD, released in October of 2003.

Due to licencing issues with the BBC, largely on account of Jason Dawe's appearance, the series remained unavailable for streaming until November 2019, when the series was finally made available on the MotorTrend On Demand service for customers living in North America.

Trivia

  • This was the first series of the rebooted Top Gear.
  • This was Dawe's only series. He was replaced by James May for the following series.
  • It should be noted that due to various reasons, Dawe's appearance included, that this series had effectively been written out of the greater Top Gear canon and has not re-aired on television since the 2000s. Any channel that wished to licence the show for their network could not obtain the first series from the BBC Worldwide sales catalogue for over a decade. British channel Dave, known for their constant syndicated re-runs of Top Gear, instead runs a TV cut of the Back in the Fast Lane home video to represent Series 1.
  • Furthermore, the last known confirmed airing of the first series was on Australian channel SBS in February 2008, and was done in order to "catch up" on the seasons that the country missed, due to only picking up the show from Series 5 onwards.
  • Globally, the series appears to have finally aired in Hungary in June 2009, though no footage of this exists.

Navigation

Series 1 (2002 format)
Presenters Jeremy Clarkson | Richard Hammond | Jason Dawe | The Stig (Perry McCarthy)
Episodes Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8
Episode 9 | Episode 10 | Top Gear: The Best Of (Series 1)
Unaired Pilots Unaired Pilot Episode 1 | Unaired Pilot Episode 2
Series (2002 format)
2016+ Series 23 | Series 24 | Series 25 | Series 26 | Series 27
2002 - 2015 Series 1 | Series 2 | Series 3 | Series 4 | Series 5 | Series 6 | Series 7 | Series 8 | Series 9 | Series 10 | Series 11
Series 12 | Series 13 | Series 14 | Series 15 | Series 16 | Series 17 | Series 18 | Series 19 | Series 20 | Series 21 | Series 22
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