Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May are returning to screens everywhere in just a couple of hours from now in the ‘Grand Tour’. But before you dive into it, be sure to read Stef Schrader’s piece for Jalopnik on how a small show ostensibly about cars became a global phenomenon:
In the United States, the explosive popularity of Top Gear started with the Internet. By now, sitting down at a computer to watch Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May feels normal. When their version of Top Gear first gained notoriety beyond the United Kingdom, it did so in clips and torrents posted online. If you wanted to track down episodes of Top Gear before they regularly started appearing on cable stateside, chances are you found your way onto its fan site FinalGear, which once linked to torrents of every episode. Similar shows, such as Top Gear’s international versions and Fifth Gear also made it on the site.
The path from ‘Top Gear’-as-car-show to the ‘Grand Tour’ — a massively expensive worldwide endeavour — can be traced directly through the popularity of FinalGear, and the BBC’s somewhat lackadaisical attitude towards piracy.