Angela Smith (University of Sunderland, UK) and Philip Drake (Edge Hill University, UK) authors of "Belligerent broadcasting, male anti-authoritarianism and anti-environmentalism" provide a timely analysis of anti-environmentalism in Top Gear, the hugely popular UK television series.
Top Gear is the BBC’s most-watched and most profitable programme, with extensive franchising of both format and associated merchandise. It was, conversely, the BBC’s most controversial show, with repeated official complaints to the broadcasting standards authority (OfCom) and, eventually, widespread media disdain for the main presenter, Jeremy Clarkson. In the end, this all built up to a climactic crisis in late 2015 after Clarkson hit a member of the production team off-camera when filming. Clarkson’s contract had been due for renewal at this point and so, in the face of mounting media pressure, the BBC was left with little choice but to not renew that contract nor that of the two co-presenters, Richard Hammond and James May. A new presenting team emerged, including US actor Mat LeBlanc, German racing driver Sabine Schmitz, F1 racing team owner Eddie Jordan, and lesser-known motoring journalist Chris Harris, and after a public audition, Rory Reid. Headed by TV and radio presenter Chris Evans, the team seemed to represent many of the topics that had been the ‘soft’ target of Clarkson’s Top Gear: race, gender, xenophobia. The show was also split into two sections, with the online TV station BBC3 showing Extra Gear in which Harris and Reid reproduced the more in-depth car reviews and the ‘news’ section that had previously formed part of the main show’s format. The six-episode series that was first broadcast in 2016, with Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc as lead hosts, was alternatively criticized for being ‘too similar’ to the Clarkson era show, or ‘not at all like’ this. This leads us to the conclusion that there is a certain invisible factor at work in the show that led to its global popularity and widespread derision.