Top Gear (series 22)
The twenty-second series of Top Gear aired during 2015 on BBC Two and BBC Two HD and consisted of 8 episodes, beginning on 25 January before abruptly ending on 8 March, and not fully concluding until 28 June. The series was preceded by a two-part special entitled "Patagonia Special" which aired during 2014, the first part on 27 December, and the second part a day later on 28 December. The series is most notable for two controversial incidents that occurred during filming, and was the last series to feature the regular hosting line-up of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, while it was also Andy Wilman's last as the show's executive producer. The second controversial incident received extensive media attention, the greatest amount created for controversy caused by Top Gear in the show's history, which subsequently led to Clarkson being suspended by the BBC while they investigated the matter. On 25 March 2015, the broadcaster officially dismissed Jeremy Clarkson from the show, and in the aftermath of their decision, Hammond, May and Wilman announced their resignations from the show in April 2015; all three hosts made their final appearances on the last episode broadcast on 28 June with assistance from Wilman, with only Hammond and May hosting the studio segments.
|Top Gear (series 22)|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||10|
|Original network||BBC Two|
|Original release||27 December 2014 –|
28 June 2015
To mark the end of the trio's era of presenting Top Gear, the BBC produced a two-part compilation special which aired near the end of December 2015 and was narrated by comedian John Bishop. The special consisted of moments from the 22 series that they presented the show, with the first part broadcast on 26 December, and the second part broadcast four days later on 30 December.
News that production of the series was being planned was hinted by Clarkson on Twitter on 29 April 2014, before he later confirmed on 7 July that year that he was going to Morocco to start filming for the show, with a media outlet in Australia further revealing on 24 October and 29 October that the trio were filming within the country's Northern Territory.
While Wilman had stated in the January 2015 issue of Top Gear Magazine (issue #265) that Series 22 was to contain 10 episodes in its broadcast, only seven were actually aired; the series abruptly ended after the seventh episode in the wake of Clarkson's suspension, with the BBC opting to pull the last three episodes from its schedule until its investigations on the presenter's assault was completed. Following their decision not to renew Clarkson's contract, the Director General Tony Hall announced that the broadcaster intended to show the three pulled episodes after it had debated on how to do so, although all that was left for use was two filmed vehicle challenges. Furthermore, Hammond and May, along with Wilman, had announced their decisions not to return to the show, leading to a re-think on the matter. After debating how to end the series, the BBC decided to air the two completed films as part of an extended special episode, with Hammond, May and Wilman asked to postpone their departures from the show to help with producing and hosting it; the official website of Top Gear hinted on 8 June 2015 at this having happened by announcing that the filmed segments were to be shown later that year, it was not until a week later, on 15 June, that the BBC officially confirmed that the segments had been allocated to a 75-minute special that was under production. Production of the episode led to studio segments being filmed, though no audience was invited to be at the show's studio at Dunsfold on the day of filming. The final episode of the series was eventually scheduled and aired on 28 June.
|Reviews||Features/challenges||Guest(s)||Original air date||UK viewers|
|167||—||N/A – Patagonia Special||Drive from Bariloche to Ushuaia: (Porsche 928 GT • Lotus Esprit V8 • Ford Mustang Mach 1)||None||27 December 2014||7.21|
|In a two-part special, as a tribute to the 60th anniversary of the small-block V8 engine, the boys head to South America for a road trip across Argentina and Chile that will cover 1,730 miles (2,780 km), unaware of the trouble they will face at their final destination of Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, and the fate that faces the V8-powered cars they take with them for the journey - Clarkson opts for a Porsche 928 GT because of how another 928 helped him to see his ill father before he died, Hammond brings along a 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 from the last year of the "great American V8", and May wonders if he took a risk with his choice of a Lotus Esprit V8, while all three later learn they have a back-up in the form of a Citroën 2CV. In the first part, the trio travel through Bariloche to Butch Cassidy's final resting place, spending the night there before continuing onwards, where they encounter a dead-end on the other side of an unstable bridge, navigate through a swamp, and finish an incomplete bridge to get across it. Then, when Hammond opts to take charge and lead them towards Chile, his route soon causes problems for the presenters' cars, not to mention annoyance when his colleagues learn they will spend the night camping.|
|168||—||N/A – Patagonia Special||Drive from Bariloche to Ushuaia: (Porsche 928 GT • Lotus Esprit V8 • Ford Mustang Mach 1)||None||28 December 2014||7.38|
The trio continue heading southwards for Ushuaia, as they make their way through Chile. In the second part, Clarkson resumes his leadership of the group after reclaiming it from Hammond. He soon becomes bored and decides to have some fun by recreating a (poor) facsimile of the Imola racetrack on a dry lake bed for the trio to race on, only for some damage to be caused. The group then have to find their way back to the road, before a locked gate leads them to search for a means to get through it and a deja vu moment with some horses. After gathering supplies for a match of car football being set up at Ushuaia, and modifying their cars before taking a ferry to reach the next leg of their journey, the trio attempt to get across a beach before the rising tide catches them out, navigate a mountain pass of snow and ice, and attempt to cross a river with the use of a ferry service and a bulldozer. Finally, the presenters reveal what happened to them, their film crew and their cars when they learnt of a protest being formed ahead of them at the city, and the events that soon happened when they stopped at a hotel after discussions to ease the tension fell apart.Note: For the end credits for the second part, in homage to Robert Leroy Parker (famously known as Butch Cassidy), each member of the cast and crew had their first name replaced by the words "Robert Leroy" (e.g. "Robert Leroy Clarkson", "Robert Leroy Hammond", "Robert Leroy May", etc.).
|169||1||Lamborghini Huracán • Renault Twizy||Race across the urban landscape of St Petersburg||Ed Sheeran||25 January 2015||6.41|
|To see if the car can reclaim its honour after its loss in the race across London, the trio head to St. Petersburg to see if May, driving a Renault Twizy, can reach the finish line before Hammond can on a £9,000 bicycle, before Clarkson can on a hovercraft, and before The Stig can on public transport. Elsewhere, Hammond tests out the new Lamborghini Huracán on the track, while Ed Sheeran is the latest star to be doing a lap in the Vauxhall Astra Tech Line.|
|170||2||None||Australian Northern Territory road trip in GT cars: (BMW M6 Gran Coupe • Nissan GT-R • Bentley Continental GT V8S)||Kiefer Sutherland||1 February 2015||6.56|
|The trio head out for a four-day road trip across the Northern Territory in Australia, taking with them three modern Grand-Tourer cars to see which is the best - Hammond argues that the Bentley Continental GT V8S will be the winner, May reasons it will be the Nissan GT-R and Clarkson believes it will be the BMW M6 Gran Coupe. Starting from Darwin and heading towards the 3.2 million acre (13,000 km2) cattle station of Wave Hill, the trio visit an abandoned WWII airfield to do both a 'fastest "off the line"' test and a full-on drag race, stop for the night at a "motel" and "fish restaurant" set up by the producers, conduct a brake test on an empty stretch of straight road, visit the Frances Creek open pit iron mine to see which is fastest getting from the bottom to the top via the service road, and encounter some road trains, before arriving at their destination, where the final test of their cars sees them helping to herd in some cattle. Elsewhere, Kiefer Sutherland talks about his role in 24, before seeing how good his lap was in the reasonably priced car.|
|171||3||None||Homemade ambulance challenge: (Porsche 944 Turbo • Ford Scorpio Cardinal • Chevy G20 V8 Van)||Daniel Ricciardo||8 February 2015||6.14|
|The presenters see if they can build a better ambulance than the standard model used by the NHS, after their initial design with Clarkson's P45, fails. On a budget of £5,000, each buys a car, races each other and a standard ambulance in a drag race, and then converts their vehicle for the purposes of being an ambulance - Hammond buys a customised Chevy G20 V8 Van and re-creates it as an ersatz "Nuclear Disposal" vehicle with a "right-of-way" smoke system and a nitrous oxide injection system for the engine, Clarkson buys a Porsche 944 Turbo and converts it into a "Rambulance" complete with a special ram, along with a split-tailgate rear door, a hydraulic handbrake, and a "Stayin' Alive" siren, while May buys a Ford Scorpio Cardinal hearse and redesigns it with a plush interior, a (slow) motorised bay door, and a "loud-speaker" siren system. To see whose is best, each have the Stig do a timed lap in their ambulance while they're in the back doing three medical procedures to a "patient", see who can get a patient quickly out of their ambulance and into a "hospital" with a special system of their own devising, and then head out to deal with the aftermath of a "meteor strike" and see who can get a "casualty" back to the hospital as fast as they can as well as carefully. Meanwhile, Formula One driver, Daniel Ricciardo sees how fast he can be in the Suzuki Liana.|
|172||4||Mercedes-AMG GT S • BMW M3 • BMW i8||Hammond pays homage to the Land Rover Defender||Margot Robbie • Will Smith||15 February 2015||6.24|
|Clarkson tests out the new BMW M3 and the new i8 to see which he would drive back home from Whitby, while May heads to the track to see how good the Mercedes-AMG GT S is. Elsewhere, as a tribute to the Land Rover Defender as its production comes to an end, Hammond sees if he can replicate a stunt the car did by heading to the Claerwen dam in Wales and using a Defender to climb to the top of it, while Margot Robbie & Will Smith talk about their roles in film Focus, before seeing who was fastest in the Astra.|
|173||5||Chevrolet Corvette Stingray • Porsche Cayman GTS • LaFerrari||May and Clarkson look at the weird and wonderful history of Peugeot||Olly Murs||22 February 2015||6.04|
|Clarkson and May pay homage to one of the most innovative and brilliant car makers, Peugeot, by looking back at some of the items they made before becoming involved with cars, taking a look at some of their great creations, including the Peugeot 504, the 205 T16, and the 205 GTI, and then take a drive as modern Peugeot drivers in a Peugeot 307 CC and a Peugeot 407 to show how bad it was for the car maker to change from making sporty cars to terrible ones. Elsewhere, Hammond reviews the new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray comparing it to the Porsche Cayman GTS , May finds out how good the Ferrari LaFerrari is against its main rivals, the McLaren P1 and the Porsche 918, while Olly Murs is the latest star in the reasonably priced car.|
|174||6||Lexus RC F • Lexus LFA||Hammond is dropped into British Columbia, Canada to test a watch with a built-in emergency beacon: (Ford F-150 Hennessey VelociRaptor • Chevrolet Silverado)||Gillian Anderson||1 March 2015||6.15|
|In order to test the effectiveness of a Breitling Emergency watch, Hammond is chosen as the "rescue victim" and dumped on Wolf Mountain in British Columbia, Canada, with an emergency beacon and supplies. His colleagues soon attempt to find him once the beacon is activated, but take their time with two of the best selling pick-up trucks in America that they pick for the job - Clarkson attempts the task in the Hennessey VelociRaptor, a tuned version of the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, while May selects the Chevrolet Silverado Z71. Meanwhile, Clarkson tests out the new Lexus RC F and the Lexus LFA, while Gillian Anderson is the latest star in the driving seat of the Astra.|
|175||7||Jaguar F-Type R • Eagle Low Drag GT • Mazda MX-5||May competes in a world rallycross race alongside Tanner Foust (U.S. Top Gear host).||Nicholas Hoult • Tanner Foust||8 March 2015||5.84|
May heads to Lydden Hill Race Circuit to participate in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (with a little help from his fellow hosts) and finds himself competing against Top Gear USA host, Tanner Foust. Meanwhile Clarkson heads to the track to look at the beauty of the new Jaguar F-Type R before seeing how it compares to a recreation of a one-off E Type racing prototype - the Eagle Low Drag GT, Hammond heads to Humberside to tests out the new Mazda MX-5, and Nicholas Hoult talks about his role in the film Mad Max: Fury Road before seeing how he did as the latest star in the Vauxhall Astra.Note: The series ended after this episode, following Clarkson's suspension, and was subsequently the final appearance of Jeremy Clarkson as a presenter after the BBC dismissed him following its decision not to renew his contract with the show.
|176||8||None||Find a cheap car that still lives up to the title of classic: (Fiat 124 Spider • Peugeot 304 S Cabriolet • MGB GT) • Living the sports utility vehicle lifestyle for less than £250: (Vauxhall Frontera Sport RS • Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin • Jeep Cherokee)||None||28 June 2015||6.92|
In a special edition episode, Top Gear hosts, Richard Hammond and James May, mark the end of the era hosting the show alongside their absent colleague, Jeremy Clarkson, by showing off the remaining two films they had done. In the first film, due to rocketing classic car prices, the trio are told by the producers to each buy an affordable car and live like classic car enthusiasts while seeing which of their choices is the best - Hammond believes his choice of the MGB GT will be best, Clarkson attempts to prove that it will be his Fiat 124 Sport Spider that will win, while May seeks to show his Peugeot 304 S Cabriolet will come out on top. After spending six months modifying and improving their cars, the trio head out for some challenges, where they accidentally end up at Japfest in Wiltshire and do some drifting, set fast laps around the Castle Combe Circuit, visit the town of Stow-on-the-Wold, and finally reach a Classic Car event at an airfield, where the host whose car broke down the least winning a "special prize".
In the second film, with experts predicting over half of all vehicles sold will be SUVs and the cheapest and smallest of these starting at £25,000, the producers send the trio off to buy a second-hand sporty 4x4 SUV with very high mileage, on a budget of £250, and see who got the best deal - May attempts to show he found a good one in a Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin, Hammond sets out to show that his Jeep Cherokee will be better than the other two, and Clarkson believes his Vauxhall Frontera Sport RS is the best bargain of the three. Arriving at the Rutland Activity Centre, the trio head for "Top Gear's secret lifestyle test track" for a series of challenges, where they attempt to pass a snow "inclines" test, race around an oval test track with "ballast" (in the form of caravans) against each other and the Stig's 'Leisure Activity Cousin', as he drives around in a Kia Sportage with a caravan, compete in a "0-60-0" challenge against each other without plunging into muddy water, modify their SUVs to reflect an active lifestyle, do some boating at a pond, and do a safety test on their SUVs by rolling them down a hill. For one final challenge, the trio head for the Yorkshire Moors in dinner jackets and find themselves in an off-road race against each other over a distance of 5 miles (8.0 km), to reach the finish line at Broughton Hall, with the loser having to do an after-dinner speech for the North Yorkshire Carbon Management and Sustainability Trust.Note: This was the final appearance of Richard Hammond and James May; both presenters ended the show with "Goodbye" and not "Good Night". Jeremy Clarkson is credited as a Presenter for this episode, but only features in the two films of the episode; he is absent in the studio segments, and his absence is symbolised by an elephant model in the background called "Jeremy". The end credits for this episode were not accompanied by the show's theme tune, nor any other form of music.
Criticism and ControversyEdit
Filming of Patagonia SpecialEdit
During 2014, in September and October, filming of the Top Gear special in Argentina was being done by the presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, alongside a crew of 29 people, with the group using three cars for a road trip across the country and its neighbour of Chile. However, controversy arose when an incident occurred during filming, which received extensive coverage by the media in both Britain and Argentina. Whilst the crew and presenters were travelling south to Ushuaia, comments emerged on Twitter which alleged that the number plate "H982 FKL" on the Porsche 928 GT being driven by Clarkson, was a direct reference to the 1982 Falklands War. Upon the comments being seen by one of the film crew, the number plate was substituted with one that read "H1 VAE". However, when the group arrived in Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego on 2 October, in which they had planned to film in the city for three more days before continuing to Chile, a large protest had formed, consisting of Argentinian veterans of the Falklands War who claimed the group were deliberately referencing the war, despite the change of number plate, forcing the crew and presenters to stay at a hotel while discussions commenced between the producers and representatives of the protesters to calm the tension down. Andy Wilman, executive producer for the show, said on 2 October that "Top Gear production purchased three cars for a forthcoming programme; to suggest that this car was either chosen for its number plate, or that an alternative number plate was substituted for the original is completely untrue." On the same day, Clarkson tweeted "For once, we did nothing wrong." "H982 FKL" has been registered to the Porsche since its manufacture in May 1991. Clarkson later wrote for The Sunday Times that he "had to hide under a bed" due to "a mob howling for his blood".
However, discussions failed to do anything, and with more protesters arriving and the atmosphere turning hostile, local police told the group they could not and would not give them any assistance, leading to the team making the decision of leaving. Believing the presenters were the main target of the controversy, Clarkson, Hammond and May left for Buenos Aires alongside the women of the crew, while the rest of the team focused on driving their equipment and the cars, both the presenters' and their own, back to the border with Chile; in a statement made by May after the incident, planning was done for possible airlifts for the crew if the journey to the border had become too dangerous, in which he and his fellow presenters assisted in planning prior to flying back to Britain. The film crew, driving back to the border in convoy, faced three major problems in their attempt to leave; all of these were shown as part of the Patagonia Special. The first came when they found the road they had taken to arrive in Rio Grande a day earlier, was now closed to them by crowds of people, forcing them to drive on tertiary roads. The second came when an intimidating crowd stopped them deliberately in Tolhuin, before pelting their cars with eggs, rocks and other missiles before they could escape, resulting in two of the film crew being injured and their cars receiving minor damage. In light of the attack and believing they were a magnet for trouble, the team abandoned the presenters' cars and continued on through the night for the border; pictures show that the abandoned cars had been attacked and damaged with stones. Their third problem came when, at 2am that night, they had to find a tractor to help get the camera cars across the river and into Chile.
Following the incident, the Argentine ambassador Alicia Castro met with BBC Director of Television Danny Cohen on 31 October 2014, and demanded a formal apology for what occurred. However, the BBC refused to do so, making it clear that they intended to broadcast the special as a fair representation of the events that occurred. Two days before the two-part special was aired, the Daily Mail reported on 25 December 2014 that Carlos Cristofalo, an Argentine journalist who first spotted the number plate of the Porsche, had slammed claims by the show's crew that it had been a coincidence the number plate "H982 FKL", stating that no-one who saw every series of the show would think "that it was a casual thing", adding that Top Gear could not dignify its audience with a proper explanation. On 28 May 2015, the BBC Trust, after investigating claims that there was a "cover-up" going on involving the use of the number plate, ruled that this was not the case and that no evidence had been provided to show that the reference to the Falklands War had been deliberate, adding it would not take further action on the matter. On 29 October, later that year, The Guardian reported that an appeal made at the appeal courts in Argentina had successfully demanded that Judge Maria Cristina Barrionuevo was to re-open a criminal investigation she had presided over, after she had decided not to press ahead with a full-scale investigation into the crew's decision to change the Porsche's number plate. Her decision to do so was because she had felt that it had been forced to happen by "massive government and popular pressure", despite the fact that it is an offence in the country to change a vehicle's registered licence plate to another.
Clarkson's Suspension and DismissalEdit
In March 2015, the BBC announced that it had suspended Jeremy Clarkson while it would look into an incident that had occurred during filming in Hawes, North Yorkshire, with the remaining episodes of the series withdrawn while they dealt with their investigations. Former Stig, Perry McCarthy, criticised the decision by the broadcaster to pull the episodes from the schedule. Media coverage on the matter soon revealed that Clarkson had been involved in an assault with Oisin Tymon, in which he physically and verbally abused the producer after he had been offered soup and a cold meal platter, instead of the steak he wanted, and learned that the chef at the hotel they were staying at had gone home. Despite a petition starting on Change.org on 10 March by blogger Guido Fawkes, aimed at reversing the decision on Clarkson being suspended, and being delivered on the afternoon of 20 March to the BBC after receiving one million signatures, which made it the fastest-growing campaign in Change.org's history, the broadcaster officially announced on 25 March that after deliberations on Clarkson's action and behaviour, it had decided to not re-new his contract, effectively axing him from the show.
On 24 February 2016, Clarkson formally apologised to Tymon, while settling a claim made by the producer for racial discrimination and physical injury sustained in the incident.
Due to Clarkson's dismissal, the series was shortened by two episodes. The planned eighth episode would have featured Gary Lineker as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, while Henry Cavill would have been the guest in episode nine. Episode nine would have also featured an additional film featuring Clarkson testing a trio of luxury limousines on and off the track. The planned tenth and final episode would have been a special in which the three presenters take an epic road trip across "one of the most remote areas of the planet". Although this episode is mentioned on the DVD release of Series 22, it remains unknown whether or not the episode was filmed only to remain on the cutting room floor, or whether filming would have taken place following Clarkson's suspension.
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