Whether it is Clarkson, James May, Richard Hammond, Vicki Butler-Henderson, or any other media car reviewer or online amateur, it seems as though everyone has an opinion on what the best cars to be driving (or seen to be driving) are.
Looking back, it seems as though just a couple of decades ago, there were only a few real mainstream magazines on the shelves, most notably Motor magazine which merged with AutoCar, and Performance Car which then became Car magazine; now it is difficult to escape the mass of car magazines which fill the shelves of the nation’s newsagents.
The current best selling car magazine, Top Gear was first published in 1993 as a spin off to the Top Gear TV series, which first came into being in 1977 as a 30 minute BBC Midlands TV programme, which reviewed new car models and covered other car-related issues such as road safety, classic cars and motorsport. Since this time, the two biggest mainstream UK Car programmes, Top Gear and Fifth Gear, have become important parts of media car culture in Britain.
Over recent years there has been a change in the way that cars have been dealt with by journalists in the media. As time has gone on, and following a major revamp in 2002, Top Gear has moved away from a standard journalistic show and focused on a more light hearted and quirky based entertainment style of programming. The actual motoring information provided on the show has been decreasing, as global ratings have been increasing.
It still remains one of the most entertaining shows on TV and provides essential viewing to both petrolheads and millions of non car enthusiasts alike. However, with the inclusion of celebrity challenges, outrageous stunts and challenges, and the regular destruction of caravans, the focus these days is very much on entertainment and personalities rather than cars.
Fifth Gear was originally intended as a replacement for Top Gear, which went into a period of lull around the start of the century following Clarkson’s departure before being cancelled. But the new programme on Five was launched just as the BBC announced they would bring back a new modified 60 minute version of Top Gear. Although achieving nowhere near the viewing figures that the Clarkson lead show has managed, Fifth Gear is generally less outrageous and more of a straightforward informative motoring show.
Now interest in motoring has also gone online, with Top Gear being the most pirated TV show in the world, beating programmes like Lost and Desperate Housewives. The BBC reported that one video of Clarkson achieved 938,000 downloads on YouTube before they asked for it to be removed. Even interested non-journalists are now able to find videos and offer advice through car forums, motoring blogs [http://www.motoraddicts.com/blogs], general car sites and the many online owners clubs.
With the future looking rosy for professional motoring journalists both on TV and in print, and as the public appetite becomes increasingly voracious to get involved in the action, and sites provide more interactivity, it is hopefully only a matter of time before we get fully immersive interactive super car test drives with a background commentary by Clarkson.