I love that show. Some people find Clarkson to be offensive, but personally I think Top Gear makes all the typical American car shows seem dull, and unentertaining. I love watching the challenges and reviews they come up with.
Plus, they put most of their segments on YouTube for free!
I assume they get a lot of their budget from advertiser who I bet would line up for a spot to advertise during the breaks. They get a lot of publicity and a bunch of Canadians, an ocean away are talking about it on a Mac user forum, so they definitely have a powerful brand.
I'm not much of car person, but it's one of the shows I watch because it's so entertaining. Beware if you get watch several seasons back to back you'll see patterns and find it repetitive. Clarkson is like Stephen Colbert's character - pompous, arrogant, stubborn and uses his gut for a lot decisions. I think James May is the most sane of all of them. But if you enjoyed that segment there's plenty others that are great.
Vietnam challenge: Buy a vehicle and get from bottom to top.
Africa challenge: Buy a vehicle there and get across the various terrain
Amazon clallenge: Similar idea as above.
Suburb to airport challenge: Who would arrive first and how? Speed boat vs. SUV vs. public transit vs. bicycle.
You might say I'm a bit of a Top Gear enthusiast but then that's like calling Job's an Apple fan
If you really want to get a feel for the show acquire some of the specials...Polar, Botswana and Africa are some of the better ones. The weekly shows are brilliant too just a little different focus. Also its not a car show...hasn't been in years. If you want a decent car show watch 5th Gear...if you want to be entertained watch Top Gear.
As for their budget TG makes the BBC Millions in sales of DVD's, advertising, royalties and such...its IMMENSELY popular around the world.
If you want to actually learn something though I'd highly recommend looking into Richard Hammonds Engineering Connections shows...they're very well done and he presents in a manner that's interesting and engaging.
James May has several documentaries as well that are good to watch...his At the Edge of Space is fantastic.
I doubt many advertisers would allow the kind of editorial freedom that Top Gear enjoys. Could you imagine Jeremy describing a car as "absolute crap" if it's maker had purchased a big block of advertising time on Top Gear?
Apparently Jay Leno was offered the chance to host the upcoming American Top Gear, but he turned it down in part because he didn't think it would work on advertiser supported television.
Another problem for Top Gear in America is the biting humour and criticisms of the cars. My great fear in America is that, for instance, if Kia was our sponsor this week, we’d have to say the car was fantastic.
I don’t think you could be quite as freewheeling with your opinions as you can on the BBC, because sponsors pay for the programmes. Sponsors would be unlikely to embrace any criticism.
As we move into the era of "Permission Marketing" and conventional television advertising becomes increasingly irrelevant, I wonder if the BBC approach is more sustainable? It certainly seems to result in better programming...