Top Gear battled severe COVID-19 restrictions to deliver a 29th season of the beloved motoring show which its ardent fans loved, producing record audience figures, but it also drove some viewers away. It’s mix of vehicle tests and high-octane stunts is constantly evolving, so where will they take it in 2021?
Some good news in a very difficult 2020: the government ruled in November that the film and TV industry could continue to operate despite a second lockdown being imposed to halt the rise of COVID-19 cases in Britain.
The hosts will be the same as the past two seasons. Paddy McGuinness, Freddie Flintoff and Chris Harris will reunite to film the show and, most likely, present it once again at the outdoor drive-in studio, a success from season 29 which will surely be utilised again in 2021.
Although most of overseas Top Gear filming had to be scrapped on season 29, we hope that Top Gear will be able to again film overseas when production begins in 2021.
So when is the next series on? Here’s everything we know about Top Gear so far.
When is the next series of Top Gear on?
It’s not yet clear when season 30 of Top Gear will be scheduled on BBC One but, coronavirus willing, the motoring show will be back in 2021.
Last year, Top Gear aired three series – first in February, then in June and December – so it originally seemed likely that fans could see another series this summer, but given the COVID-19 pandemic it was broadcast slightly later than originally planned, and in a shorter four-part run.
Filming on the series, including several overseas trips, was underway before the pandemic hit but was put on hold as production stalled across the industry.
In a bid to finish the series with as little delay as possible, in May the production team took the decision to scrap all remaining filming in overseas locations and instead focused on items based within the UK.
Eventually producers managed to make four episodes, including overseas segments such as the tour of Cyprus and testing supercars in Italy, alongside a number crazy stunts in the UK like the Wall of Death.
Top Gear showrunner Clare Pizey said: “Luckily for us, we had filmed some international and domestic mayhem before the lockdown started, and already have some really funny footage — footage that we absolutely could not film now with all three presenters in a car together.”
Filming eventually resumed on June 12th – starting with an electric car race around Staffordshire’s empty Alton Towers Resort.
The new socially-distanced studio was actually a field turned into an outdoor drive-in.
Paddy, Freddie and Chris welcomed audience members in their cars to pull up and watch the show.
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Brand new #TopGear, coming soon with a socially distanced twist. Yep, the audience are still here, and we’re still at Dunsfold. Just outside, hoping that for once the British weather commits to the forecast.
— Top Gear (@BBC_TopGear) September 9, 2020
What channel will Top Gear be on?
Top Gear moved from BBC Two to BBC One for its 29th series in October, after its lengthy success on the former channel since it premiered in 2002. It achieved figures of 5.57 million for episode four on BBC One, the highest since Chris Evans’ debut in 2016.
Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content, explained why the show moved across to the flagship channel: “The time is right to move the world’s best motor show to the nation’s most popular channel and bring it to an even broader audience on BBC One.
“Freddie, Paddy and Chris have revitalised the hit series with their escapades and banter; and we couldn’t have asked for a better response to their series so far and the impact it’s had with young audiences.”
Since their debut on BBC Two in June 2019, Paddy, Freddie and Chris have managed to bring in big numbers for the revamped show.
The first episode of season 27 attracted an average consolidated audience of 3.8 million viewers, making it the channel’s most popular programme of 2019.
The long-running entertainment show was also hugely popular among young audiences last year, occupying a spot in the top four shows on British television for 16-34-year olds during each week of its run.
What can viewers expect from the next series of Top Gear?
As usual, the hosts will be pushing their cars and themselves to the limit in the world’s biggest motoring show.
Hopefully, they’ll be travelling to new destinations and trying out some of the latest automobiles and vehicles to see if they really live up to what the manufacturer says, while keeping us entertained with their banter and their increasingly hair-raising challenges. The Wall of Death, filmed at Alexandra Palace in London, will take some beating. The presenters were challenged to drive cars near vertically around a purpose-built circular wall. Truly terrifying.
Season 29 necessarily had a more domestic look than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with several planned overseas jaunts having been scrapped due to the virus, although luckily some were filmed before production was halted.
There were other changes to the format provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the long-running segment Star in a Reasonably Priced Car axed.
But if you think the trio would take it a little more cautiously in these troubled times you’d be wrong. Paddy McGuinness had a mishap in a £250,000 Lamborghini Diablo when he lost control of it in the rain and “had a bit of a shunt” during filming in June.
Although he wasn’t hurt, he said: “If you’ve ever owned a Diablo or you’ve driven one you’ll know just as well as me, oh my god, she can be a cruel mistress, she can be a cruel mistress that one.”
With a second lockdown in place in the UK and a difficult winter ahead, it’s likely that season 30 will be heavily skewed towards domestic filming, although we hope restrictions on overseas travel will ease enough in 2021 to allow overseas trips for the intrepid trio.
Who are the Top Gear presenters?
Paddy McGuinness, Chris Harris and Freddie Flintoff will be returning to co-present the show for its 30th series.
Many will recognise the TV star from ITV’s Take Me Out, which he presented for nine years from 2010.
He became known on the show for his hilarious catchphrases, including “No likey, no lighty!”.
He has also appeared in comedy shows The Comedy Lab and That Peter Kay Thing on Channel 4.
Speaking about the new approach to the show, Paddy previously said: “It’s not as full on laddy as you might think. You can sit with your friends or your family and watch it on a Sunday night. You don’t have to be a petrolhead to get into it. Well, fingers crossed.”
Racing driver and car journalist Harris joined Top Gear’s presenting line up in 2016 for series 23.
On the BBC website, Harris is described as the best for “brutally honest, no-holds-barred automotive journalism” due to years of experience in the industry.
His YouTube channel Chris Harris On Cars has a huge following, attracting 453,000 subscribers at the time of writing, and he currently presents the online car review series Chris Harris Drives for topgear.com.
Flintoff is best known for being an international cricketer for England, having made his professional debut in 1998. He won BBC Sports Personality Of The Year award in 2005 after winning the Ashes against Australia and in 2006 he was awarded an MBE.
Retiring from Test cricket in 2010, he then appeared on various shows and eventually teamed up with Paddy and Chris in 2019.
Speaking of his stint on the BBC motoring show, he said: “Doing [Top Gear] is brilliant. I’m not taking anyone on – we’ve got to try and do what’s best for this programme. If you’re thinking that then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”
What happened on the last series of Top Gear?
The 28th series kicked off on 29 December 2019, and saw Paddy, Freddie and Chris head on a British summer holiday in super-cheap second-hand convertibles.
The five-part season 29 premiered on BBC One on Sunday 4th October.
In season 29, the trio race 200mph original supercars in Yorkshire and McGuinness famously crashed his Lamborghini Diablo.
The presenters also travelled to Cyprus for a weekend adventure in cheap rental cars with a budget of €30, which culminated in a ski race on four wheels down a mountain (who knew they have ski fields in Cyprus?).
sThe series featured a wonderful tribute by Harris to the late great British racing ace Stirling Moss, while the final episode starred McGuinness in his latest wacky contraption: an electric, all-terrain ice cream van for the 21st century called Mr Nippy, which was involved in a paintballing battle with Flintoff’s hot foods wagon.
Season 29 of Top Gear was a hit with viewers. It started with an average audience of 4.86 million on BBC One, which had grown to 5.57 million by episode four.
Season 29 and previous episodes of Top Gear are available to watch on BBC iPlayer now. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV guide.