Top Gear (series 21)
The twenty-first series of Top Gear aired during 2014 on BBC Two and consisted of 5 episodes, beginning on 2 February and concluding on 2 March. The series was subsequently followed by a two part special entitled "Burma Special", with the first part aired on 9 March a week after the series concluded, and the second part on 16 March.
|Top Gear (series 21)|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||7|
|Original network||BBC Two|
|Original release||2 February –|
16 March 2014
Confirmation that filming of Series 21 was made on 16 September 2013 via a tweet made on Jeremy Clarkson's Twitter account, which confirmed the two part special was being filmed on 20 October later that year. A teaser trailer for the new series was released on the BBC's YouTube channel, and across BBC channels on 17 January 2014.
|Reviews||Features/challenges||Guest(s)||Original air date||UK viewers|
|160||1||None||Prove that the hot hatchbacks of their youth were better than their modern equivalents: (Volkswagen Golf Mk2 GTI • Vauxhall Nova SRi • Ford Fiesta XR2i)||Hugh Bonneville||2 February 2014||6.12|
|In an attempt to prove that modern hot hatchbacks are not as good as those from their youths, each of the trio are told to buy a classic hot hatchback they liked very much and prepare them for a series of challenges - Clarkson figures his Volkswagen Golf Mk2 GTI will be a good hatchback, May expects his Ford Fiesta XR2i not to let them down, and Hammond shows that his Vauxhall Nova SRi will do well. In their efforts to prove their point, the trio attempt to set a fast time on the Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb that is better than the one set by Teenage Stig and his SEAT Ibiza Cupra, give their cars a factory fresh look, drive fast in a supermarket circuit without breaking stuff, play a number of car-related games that wouldn't be legal in the modern age, and then see who can outlast a pursuit in an abandoned army base by their rival colleagues utilising the TGPD's (Top Gear Police Department) selection of vehicles. Meanwhile, Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey is the latest star to drive the Astra.|
|161||2||Alfa Romeo 4C • McLaren P1||Alfa Romeo 4C vs Gibbs Quadski • May visits Camp Bastion in Afghanistan||Tom Hiddleston||9 February 2014||6.97|
|Hammond heads to the shores of Lake Como in Italy to test drive the new Alfa Romeo 4C, but soon finds himself seeing if the car can reach a hotel on the other side of the lake, faster than Clarkson can when he tries to beat him on a Gibbs Quadski, that has one advantage - it can convert to travelling over water. Elsewhere, Clarkson travels to Belgium to try out the hybrid powered McLaren P1 and puts it through its paces on the streets of Bruges and the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, while May visits Camp Bastion in Afghanistan to oversee the operation to bring back the military vehicles that British Forces used, including a look at some of the vehicles that were developed to cope with the dangerous situations that were face, and on the test track is Tom Hiddleston, as he handles the Astra on a very wet track.|
|162||3||Zenvo ST1||Trip through Ukraine in compact hatchbacks: (Volkswagen Up! • Ford Fiesta • Dacia Sandero)||James Blunt||16 February 2014||6.87|
|The trio head out for a road trip across Ukraine, to its northern border with Belarus, each taking a small, underpowered but fuel efficient hatchback, to prove which one gives the best fun when driving it - Hammond seeks to prove the Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost is the best, Clarkson argues that the Volkswagen Up! is the one to go for, and May attempts to show that the Dacia Sandero has more fun than the other two. On their trip, the trio visit the Crimean Peninsula, find ways to make the travel bearable by learning something new along the way, and then attempt to avoid entering Pripyat by running out of fuel before reaching the 30--kilometre checkpoint on the border of the radiation contaminated Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, with the unlucky presenters forced to drive on and hope they don't run out while driving through the abandoned city. Elsewhere, Clarkson reflects on Denmark's contribution to motoring on the form of the Zenvo STI, and James Blunt talks about his deployment in the Kosovo War and his new album, before seeing how fast he was on the track in the Astra.|
|163||4||Caterham 7 160 • Caterham 7 620R • Alfa Romeo Disco Volante by Touring • Mercedes Benz G63 AMG 6x6||Cars being better than Motorbikes||Jack Whitehall||23 February 2014||6.53|
|Clarkson heads to the Pordoi Pass in northern Italy, to drive along it in the new Alfa Romeo 8C-based Touring Disco Volante, the first coach built car to be made since the 1930s. Meanwhile, Hammond travels to the United Arab Emirates in order to test out the six-wheeled Mercedes Benz G63 AMG 6x6 in a number of aspects such as driving over sand dunes, while May hits the track to try out several new cars from Caterham - the Caterham 620R, the 160, and the Caterham's Aeroseven Concept. Jack Whitehall sees if he was fast when he did his lap in the Astra. Finally, Clarkson attempts to prove that Cars were better than Motorbikes by attempting to pull a table cloth with a Nissan GT-R.|
|164||5||BMW M135i • VW Golf GTI Mk7 • Porsche 918||Make a commercial for reducing cycle-related accidents||Aaron Paul||2 March 2014||5.64|
|Clarkson reviews two new German hot hatchbacks on the track - the BMW M135i, and the VW Golf GTI Mk7 (ignoring the Mercedes A45 AMG - while Hammond heads to the Yas Marina Circuit to review Porsche's new hybrid supercar, the 918 Spyder. Elsewhere, Clarkson and May try to create a Public Information Film to promote the safety of cyclists in London, while Aaron Paul talked about his role in Breaking Bad and in the film Need for Speed, before finding out how he did when he went around the track in the reasonably priced car.|
|165||—||N/A – Burma Special||Build a bridge over the River Kwai: (Isuzu TX • Isuzu TX • Hino FB110)||None||9 March 2014||6.29|
|In a two-part special, the three presenters find themselves travelling out to Burma for a road trip to Thailand and the River Kwai, each taking with them a second-hand lorry that they will use to build a bridge over it - Clarkson buys a Isuzu TX that has an extensive stereo setup in the cab and a dumper truck layout in the back, May acquires a Hino FB110 with a crane on the back, while Hammond purchases another Isuzu TX, but modified with extensive space for carrying large volume loads. Starting their journey in the country's old capital of Rangoon, the first part sees the trio take the wrong road and thus take a mountain pass to get back on track, whereupon they stop at a truckstop that they soon dislike. After reaching Burma's new capital of Naypyidaw, and finding a hotel that has no rooms available (despite looking deserted), the trio, fed up of not finding a good place to sleep, modify their lorries for accommodation purposes as they did in Africa, and make other changes they desire or need. With their modified lorries, the trio use the empty streets of Naypyidaw for a drag race, before heading off northwards towards the Shan State, visiting a local village, dealing with some of the problems their modifications have caused, and find themselves stopping to find fuel, leading to the trio having to ride horses to the next village to get some (which doesn't end well).|
|166||—||N/A – Burma Special||Build a bridge over the River Kwai: (Isuzu TX • Isuzu TX • Hino FB110)||None||16 March 2014||7.01|
The trio continue heading onwards to the River Kwai after finally refuelling and getting Hammond back after an accident with a horse. In the second part of their journey, the trio enter the Shan State, a region with no modern amenities or hospitals, but just beautiful surroundings, where they are invited to a party by the two factions that have fought a civil war in the region and enjoy local delicacies and drinks, and dancing. After the party, the trio continue their journey for Burma's border with Thailand, dealing with steep, winding roads, before finally crossing into Thailand and making their way to what they think is the River Kwai (but which they later discover is the River Kok). Finally at their end point, the trio discover they must cross the river, so set to work building a sturdy bridge with some extra vehicles and hands being brought in, before attempting to cross it with their lorries to fully end their trip.Note: For the end credits of the second part, in homage to Sir Alec Guinness and his role in the film "The Bridge on the River Kwai", each crew member's first name is replaced with the words "Sir Alec" (e.g. "Sir Alec Clarkson", "Sir Alec Hammond", "Sir Alec May", etc.), while the show's theme tune does not end the episode.
Criticism and ControversyEdit
Burma Special "slope" commentEdit
In the second part of the Burma Special, a scene showing the presenters looking over their completed bridge over the Kok River, featured a moment in which a native of the area is crossing the bridge as Jeremy Clarkson says to Richard Hammond about their finished work - "That is a proud moment, but there's a slope on it." Following the broadcast of the second part, complaints of racism arose in regard to the comment, primarily citing that "slope" was a derogatory term for an Asian, leading to Top Gear and Andy Wilman, the show's executive producer, apologising for any offence caused by it in late April 2014, while subsequently cutting the scene from future repeats of the special. In a statement by Wilman to the media, the executive producer said:
"When we used the word slope in the recent Top Gear Burma Special it was a light-hearted word play joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it. We were not aware at the time, and it has subsequently been brought to our attention, that the word slope is considered by some to be offensive and although it might not be widely recognised in the UK, we appreciate that it can be considered offensive to some here and overseas, for example in Australia and the USA. If we had known that at the time we would not have broadcast the word in this context and regret any offence caused."
However, a few months later, British broadcasting regulator Ofcom, which investigated the complaints of racism in regard to the comment, ruled that both the BBC and Top Gear had breached broadcasting rules for using offensive language, stating that the use of the term was both offensive and racist, that the explanation of its context for the broadcast could not be justified, and that the broadcaster had missed opportunities during filming and post-production to "check whether the word had the potential to offend viewers". Following the incident, and emergence of video evidence of an unaired take during filming for Series 19, in which he was shown to mumble another racist term, the BBC chose to give Jeremy Clarkson a final warning in regard to his behaviour, amidst calls by many public figures for him to be fired.
- "Transmission – BBC Top Gear Even more trailers for Series 21! We're back Sunday 2 February, 8pm, BBC Two". Transmission.blogs.topgear.com. 18 January 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
- Jeremy Clarkson [@JeremyClarkson] (21 December 2013). "The Top Gear Christmas special will air in March. But I have made a programme about PQ17. It airs on January 2nd. #lookitup" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Top Gear Series 21 to start on 26 January 2014?". AUSmotive.com. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
- "Top Gear: Series 21 Jeremy Clarkson Teaser Trailer – BBC Two". YouTube. 17 January 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
- "Weekly Top 10 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board.
- "Top Gear Apologises for "Slope" comment in Burma Special". huffingtonpost.co.uk. 23 April 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
- "Top Gear Breached Broadcasting Rules". mirror.co.uk. 28 July 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- "Clarkson's "Slope" bridge comment ruled as Racist by Ofcom". dailymail.co.uk. 28 July 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014.