Top Gear turns 21: The things you never knew about the BBC show as it returns for a 21st series

You might not think Jeremy Clarkson's brand of humour, Richard Hammond's haircuts or James May's shirts are worthy of celebration, but as the motoring programme returns for its 21st series since a 2002 relaunch in its current, laddish format, Jamie Merrill presents 21 things you never knew or never wanted to know about one of Britain's biggest TV exports

1. It rules the internet

Forget the Reith Lectures or David Attenborough's latest wildlife epic. The most popular show on BBC iPlayer last year was the Top Gear team's geographically illiterate search for the source of the river Nile, with a staggering 3.4m requests.

2. It's not known for its liberal views

Oh, they are cheeky chaps on Top Gear. Last month one of them posted a funny picture on Twitter of Jezza (that's Jeremy Clarkson) asleep with a sign in front that read, "gay ****". Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, is, like many of us, fed up with it all. He said: "Now they're 21, perhaps the boys will grow up?"

3. It's not really for grown-ups, anyway

In Radio Times last week, the show's executive producer admitted the show is "aimed at people with a mental age of nine".

4. It's not universally loved by motoring hacks

You might think Jezza was a hero of the motoring hack world, but that's not strictly accurate. Neil Lyndon, the Sunday Telegraph's motoring correspondent, sums its 21st birthday well: "Does that mean Billy Bunter and his gang finally get forced out of the Fourth Remove and into long trousers?"

The mysterious Stig The mysterious Stig 5. Don't expect car-buying advice

It's an in-joke in the show that they don't do car tests. You would be mad to make a purchases based on Jezza's verdict.

6. Clarkson is a YouTube star

Stray down the motoring internet hole and you'll find lovingly posted videos of "Clarkson the early years" with incredibly loud hair reviewing 1990s cars in an oddly sensible manner. Very disturbing viewing.

7. It used to offer real advice

Before the lads took over, it was real car-reviewing show with presenters such as Angela Rippon who gave practical reviews of down-to-earth workhorses such as Cavaliers or Mini Metros.

8. The world loves it …

Top Gear is already screened in more than 100 countries.

9. ... but not Mexico

A run of borderline-racist slurs about Mexico when testing the country's first sports car didn't go down well several seasons ago.

10. The "reasonably priced" cars take quite a battering

Denis Chick, of Vauxhall, is brave to have lent the show a fleet of his Astras. He said: "Vauxhall Astra sales would not improve if everyone drove like Jimmy Carr around the Dunsfold track." The comedian hilariously took his test car's front off-side tyre clean off its rim.

Jeremy Clarkson leans against a sadly dated car Jeremy Clarkson leans against a sadly dated car 11. It makes the BBC a fortune

The three middle-aged men have brought the show to the front of the BBC's commercial arms global profit drive. Last year shows such as Doctor Who and Top Gear made the BBC's commercial arm more than £300m.

12. And Clarkson doesn't do badly

Last year Jezza netted more than £14m from the show, the real engine of his wealth being the BBC buying out his 30 per cent shares in the company he set up to exploit the show's commercial opportunities. That's enough for 140,000 speeding tickets.

13. It's not for girls

When the show relaunched in 2002, the BBC wanted to hire an unnamed female presenter. Her agent also sent along Richard Hammond, then a former local radio presenter working on an unheard-of cable channel. Sadly for the automotive sisterhood, it preferred him.

14. Even Jezza is bored by cars

In 2002, Jeremy was only available because his BBC chat show had flopped. Prior to that he was bored with cars, and after testing one car couldn't think of anything to say about it.

15. There's a waiting list

Watching the lads' banter is so popular there is a lottery-type draw for audience tickets to each series.

Jeremy Clarkson, pictured here in 1995 Jeremy Clarkson, pictured here in 1995 16. World domination

The show will front a new global BBC Brit channel which the corporation hopes will fill a "gap in the global market". Apologies, world.

17. Women watch it

Oddly it seems up to 40 per cent of Top Gear viewers are women.

18. Complaints, it's had a few

The BBC has responded to complaints on all manner of subjects on the show, from Clarkson damaging a 30-year-old chestnut tree with a pick-up truck to the use of the phrase "ginger beer" for rhyming slang for "queer" (see 1).

19. Jason Dawe

The man they axed in favour of James May (or Captain Slow) in Top Gear's second post-relaunch series. He now writes about used cars. Oh, the glamour.

20. Video games

If tonight's episode isn't enough high-octane nonsense for you, there's always the chance to hear Jezza, Captain Slow and the Hamster on the latest Forza video game on the Xbox One. They are the official voices of the game.

21. Catch it on Dave

It might be the BBC's most bankable export, but it has also driven the success of Freeview channel Dave, where, if you were so tempted, you could watch the show at pretty much any time of the day or night.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas