How does one define success? Is it acquiring wealth, respect, or fame? Better yet how does one define what makes a television show successful? Is the number of years the show runs a mark of success, is it how profitable the show is, or is it how many people watch the show? If any of those sound like the sign of a successful TV show then I am here to tell you that Top Gear is one of the most successful shows there has been.
Let us tackle the first of these criteria and look at how long Top Gear has been on the air. Top Gear first launched onto British TV’s in 1977 and is still on the air today. That is 39 years that the show has been on the air. 39 years makes the show nearly twice as old as Justin Bieber. To put the life of this show in perspective let’s look at another “successful” TV program according to the top hit on google. The Simpsons, another critically acclaimed TV program which is also known for its longevity, first premiered on Fox in 1989 and is still currently on the air as well, making the show 27 years old. Now I know what you’re saying “doesn’t the Simpsons have a world record for longest running…”, I thought you might say that. Well as it turns out The Simpsons is the “longest-running scripted series in TV history. ”
So the Simpsons didn’t do it?
An impressive start for Top Gear but let us move on to the next criteria and talk about how profitable the show is. CNN Money seems to think the show is very lucrative. They estimate that the BBC powerhouse brings in around £150 million or $225.8 million in revenue to the broadcasting company and slightly over £50 million or $72.4 million in profit. Due to the unique way the BBC is funded this relatively modest amount of profit quite astounding. To put this into perspective The Apprentice a show produced and hosted by one would be president, made this man approximately $213.6 million.
Or you could say that Top Gear made about 72 times more than a small loan.
Let’s move on from to something less orange viewership, something Top Gear has in spades. As I have mentioned before Top Gear has been recognized by the Guinness Book of world records as the most factually watched show in the world. I may sound a bit like a skipping record when I say it but the figures really are staggering; 350 million viewers a week in over 200 countries. That is more countries that were involved in World War II, and more people than the populations of Tokyo, Delhi, Shanghai, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and Mumbai combined. I mean we’re talking about a weekly audience 50 million more than the population of The United States. If conventional TV programs could net even a quarter of that audience they would be considered the best television program of this age and make their company millions if not billions. However due to the unique way the BBC functions as a public company, this is why we do not see the profit for Top Gear to be so astronomical considering the audience.
Still not convinced yet? Ok let us take a look at other factors that I believe make Top Gear one of the most successful shows to go on the airways. In addition to the one record of most viewed factual show that Guinness awarded them, Top Gear has broken five other records. From the world’s first car to do a double loop the loop, to the longest reverse jump in a car, to the world record attempt for number of times a car has rolled at high speed, to the record for being the first to top out the fastest production car the Bugatti Veyron Top Gear is no stranger to pushing the limits of auto motoring. On top of that, in one special the Top Gear team became the first people ever to take a car to the North Pole. In their journey they took a modified Toyota Hilux to the Pole navigating around ice boulders the size of small churches and temperatures reaching around -40C.
And we are back to talking about figures, numbers, stats, whatever have you. Top Gear in 2015 decided (very stupidly) to let Jeremy Clarkson go from the show, James and Richard soon followed suit. The final episode that would feature the hosts we had grown to know and love blew away the producers who originally thought that no more than 5 million would watch, in fact 8.4 million people. To put this number in perspective that’s more than the entire audience of Malcom in the Middle . The show continued into 2016 with a new set of hosts.
Although many knew this day would eventually come I don’t think anyone was really ready for the change. The new version of the show will probably never achieve the success that proceeded it. A recent poll suggests the show is struggling to pull in a quarter of its regular audience with only approximately 1.3 million tuning into the first episode of the new season.
Ok let’s summarize what we initially said makes up success. Acquiring wealth, respect, or fame. Wealth: I don’t think anyone who’s name doesn’t rhyme with dump would argue that $72 million in profit is a small amount, in fact I am sure many could and would make an argument that it is actually a small fortune. Respect: If you consider holding records a respectable trait or perhaps longevity then you must respect the show for lasting longer than most people’s dogs and breaking more records than Michael Phelps. Fame: the figures speak for themselves with Jeremy, James, and Richard being known by more people than the population of the U.S. But to me Top Gear is something special. It’s a show that I have watch since I was in 14 and I’ve grown to love every aspect of the show from its cheekiness, to the characters and their personalities, to the monumental and awe inspiring journeys they take, Top Gear is as the least if you aren’t convinced by me, successful at least to me.