28/02/2012 11:03 | By Vicki Butler-Henderson, contributor, MSN Cars

Top Gear v Fifth Gear - Vicki's battle of the TV car shows

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Top Gear v Fifth Gear

I love Top Gear. And, according to the viewing figures, so do 8 million Brits plus countless more around the world. I also love Fifth Gear - not least because it's my paymaster.

But I feel frustrated every time some numpty dashes off a sentence that stays on the internet - forever - stating how much they prefer Top Gear, even though this is a question nobody on either programme has ever asked. All the presenters get on extremely well, we're all friends, so it's futile for anyone to create any rivalry.

here I hope to spell out why there's no need to take sides

The BBC show's global appeal does give strength to the web words 'Top Gear Rules', but here I hope to spell out why there's no need to take sides. For one thing, it hurts the handful of people who work hard to make the only alternative car show.

But I don't want your sympathy, I'm going for empathy.

I've been a big fan of Top Gear since girlhood. I vividly remember waiting by the TV every Thursday night, calling my Dad in to watch as soon as the first bars of the music blared. And then for the next blissful moments my world consisted only of William Woollard, Chris Goffey and cars.

The Top Gear team (© Top Gear)

And then in the late 1990s, with 15 years' of racing under my belt and some years as a road tester for various car magazines, I became one of its presenters. Back then there were 7 of us - Jeremy Clarkson, Quentin Willson, Tiff Needell, Michelle Newman, Steve Berry and Tony Mason.

Over the years the show evolved and some presenters moved on - most notably Jeremy who hosted his own chat show. A year after that, at the turn of the millennium, a woman at the helm of BBC2 decided to kill Top Gear. She didn't like cars.

we are now in our 11th year of Fifth Gear making our 21st series

Enter Channel Five, who did. And they wanted Quentin, Tiff and I to carry on but, because of copyright reasons, under a different name. Fifth Gear was born and we are now in our 11th year making our 21st series. To keep you in the picture, 12 months or so later Top Gear was resurrected.

Despite both shows having cars at their centre, they are wildly different. Top Gear is hosted by three poorly-styled men and a racing driver who daren't show his face or squeak. The Stig is a brilliant gimmick and I've yet to hear anyone disagree.

The Fifth Gear team (© Binz)

Fifth Gear employs three blokes and a bird, all of whom have no style whatsoever and three are racing drivers who walk and talk, albeit barely. We like to think of Tiff as our token pet pooch, though we've yet to find a muzzle strong enough to contain his constant yapping.

During the one hour show, Top Gear weaves adventure-come-travel stories in and out of supercar track tests, celebrity promotions and the latest motoring news, held in the middle of a bear pit surrounded by men (mostly) who bring their own box of tissues.

We lack a stimulated live audience, but make the most of whoever's in the most exotic location for that week's links for our half hour show. Sometimes it's even Wales.

Top Gear's glue is banter, goading and humiliation

Top Gear's glue is banter, goading and humiliation. Ours is informing the viewer, entertainingly of course.
But what highlights the differences the most is what goes on behind the camera.

On a filming day, the BBC show employs at least a couple of cameramen plus soundmen, a mini-cam specialist to record the on-board footage, a spare driver or two, a tea-boy to help grease the wheels and one or three presenters. All orchestrated by a director, and possibly the producer if it's a big shoot. And when they travel abroad for a 'big one' there can be as many as 20 people plus the odd helicopter.

Then, after a couple of weeks in a London edit suite pruning and preening and placing fragments of different music to certain frames, it's on our telly. And it looks absolutely brilliant.

When Fifth Gear goes filming, there's one cameraman, one soundman, one director and one presenter (though occasionally all four of us). And after one day in a Birmingham edit suite, the show goes on air. And it looks great.

Vicki Butler-Henderson (© Maserati)

If we had bigger budgets of course we could take more time creating a show that looks even better and engages further. But we'd never want to ape Top Gear because why would anyone want two identical car shows?
So you see, there's plenty of room for both programmes - and more. And they're not like football teams you know; hating the opposition isn't obligatory.

01/03/2012 14:17
You want to watch a factual 'magazine' programme about cars (and bikes) that informs? - 5th Gear.

You want to be entertained by (and I quote) "3 blokes cocking about with cars" - Top Gear.

Really is that simple.
29/02/2012 08:23
I like Top Gear,I also like Fifth Gear but which is best? There'se only one way to find out------Fiiiight.
01/03/2012 10:56
Surprise surprise, Vicki is 100% correct, who would of guessed that huh? I'll tell you who, everyone that watches and loves BOTH shows!

Vicki you are 100% right on everything you said.

Top gear, is fun, entertaining, the banter is great, the stig works, its just damn good fun and I love it. Life without Top gear would be really very very very dull.

5th Gear, what can you say... quality, pro drivers, facts and figures, the way tiff drives and talks :), Jason... enough said!, Jonny - stylish.. ;-) and superb REAL quality articles.

Oh... yes... Vicki, every red blooded mans dream woman to go for a drive with (you do like curry and bikes don't you?- good!) and well.... anyone who pukes ten times next to the best looking man in the world and still smiles and says you'd better not kiss me! is a petrol headed goddess!!

I LOVE both programs, they are ying and yang, they bring a spark and fun to a pretty dull real world right now.

May you both broadcast for ever in your own styles

29/02/2012 05:33
Like him, or loath him, Clarkson is an irreplaceable anchor for Top Gear and the personalities of May and Hammond blend well with him. Whilst Vicki seems to be pleasant and competent and some of the presentation on Fifth Gear is better than Top Gear, it remains an indisputable fact that, until the public inevitably tires of the whole idea of watching vehicles being driven fast/crazily/destructively, there will still be a significant front runner - Top Gear. Clarkson's habit of playing the provocative, non-correct role is an appealing alternative to the bland persona of so many television presenters. I would certainly prefer to watch either show, rather than waste time on dancing/sliding/squawking/moronic 'reality' cop-outs at any time.
29/02/2012 11:29
Top Gear is entertainment

5th Gear is informative

Either way, both are very good shows and the driver's in 5th Gear are amazing.

A collaboration would be fantastic!
29/02/2012 03:23
If you want to know about cars then Fifth Gear is the programme to watch I suppose, but I don't drive nor could I tell you a camshaft from a camembert! The BEST comedy programme on the telly today is Top Gear by far.
01/03/2012 01:27
I love both shows now, as they are contrasting, informative and entertaining in different ways.
The best thing Fifth Gear has done is to trim down the presenters to "Car People" and removed the useless Tim Lovejoy. Tom is better with a pen I think.
The combination Of VBH, Tiff, Jason and Jonny is perfect for the fast tempo of the show.
Guests like Ben are just a nice bonus, and should remain so.

29/02/2012 11:45
I love vicki i think she is great,  but my favourite female driver has to be sabine schmitz  that  beat  jc round the track in germany in the jaguar then nearly beat him using a ford transit great entertainment.
And that is what top gear is entertainment.
Fifth gear on the other hand is more factual and i like the part where it shows you cheaper alternatives to expensive cars.
I will continue watching them both as they are so different as vicki points out we dont want 2 shows the same. Any chance of a show with sabine and vicki !!

29/02/2012 11:18

Tiff Jason and Vicki are great, the other numpties on Fifth are what puts me off with their poor attempts at humour and seemingly "staged" jokes - but I agree with what Vicki has to say, we don't need a clone of TG, what TG fails to give us (reviews on cars most average bod's can afford) fith delivers, and vice verca. TG is becoming a little stale in that it struggles to re-create classic moments of the past, yet it tries (perhaps too hard) to do so. Fifth would be all the better with just the 3 presenters, with Vicki as the lead - no one (on both programmes) can match her giddy child-like excitement, which is completely engaging and though i'm not proud to admit it, gives a little sexy edge to fifth that would never work on TG (for us sober blokes anyway!!!!!)

29/02/2012 10:03

I have to say that I like both for differant reasons.


Top Gear is a laddish programme and about a couple of blokes mucking around. I love the stunts they do, and drool over the supercars they drive, and laugh like a drain when they do practical jokes on eachother. But when they get serious I find some of thier pieces very informative. Like the one on the chinese copies (How BMW didnt win that case I don't know)


Fith gear is more about practical everyday cars that you would want to go out and buy. With a sprinkling of fun. I think Tiff and Jason are fine drivers,  Vicki no doudedly is as well (and she is hot too)


So I think Top Gear Needs a female presenter. Who can drive and is hot!!!!

29/02/2012 09:20

tv would be boring without these shows.    end of

keep it up both of you

01/03/2012 10:49

I watch both programs because they are different, Top Gear has a more fun side but still shows some of the best cars around. Fifth Gear has a more serious side to it and shows a lot of different types of cars.I dont think that either show is better than the other, they are both good at what they do.

And above all VBH has got to be the sexiest woman on TV, I love that sexy laugh and any woman who loves fast cars as much as she does has got my vote. 

29/02/2012 23:36
I love both programes,Top Gear has turned more into a entertainment programe,lads messing around having a laugh in very expensive cars with occasional information about the cars and on the very odd occasion,cars that most of us can actually afford. While Fifth gear  is not lite on expensive cars,it has much more affordable cars and much more facts about the cars. I love the shoot out(normally between Jason the legend Plato and Tiff the fastest pensioner on the planet needell) but Jason did not appear on the last series. Also VBH knows a thing or two about cars and how to drive them and also can get very emotional about certain Ferrari's and then there is sensible how to save money Jonny Smith. Love both shows,very happy that's its coming back,just hope that there is even more to come
29/02/2012 02:26
Vicki much better looking than Clarkson + co but afraid its still top gear for me ..
29/02/2012 01:21
fifth gear is a great car show. The only problem is it's too short.
 Vicki is hugeley enthusiastic and the others are her boys with big ideas. Great.
Did you see the claptrap on u.s Top gear.. What a pile of mince.
 Both our car shows are worldbeaters.

Joe, edinburgh, favourite car, massive. Favourite bike , sports 600

29/02/2012 11:37
Would like an hour of Fifth Gear, it's too short - take time out for adverts and it's not much more than twenty minutes!
29/02/2012 05:42

I'm confused by how Britain has become so 'politically correct' over the past 15-20 years?  If we're not careful we will lose what made us once great!  All the great 'blue' comedians have been asked to tone it down....all TV presenters with an opinion that make the working man laugh get abused all across the papers... This is my first and last ever blog but the TG boys make television for people like me! all the do-gooders really need to change channel if the lads upset you that much..


Yesterday I returned from Halong Bay, the top gear boys inspired me to visit the place!

Not only is it a car show,an  entertainment show, but it's also a travel show! Keep it going.  I really do believe that if TG leaves our channels, BBC will lose half the male viewers they have!  + the 3 presenters they have now, compliment each other in a way that Del-Boy, Rodney & Uncle Albert complimented each other for years...BRILLIANTLY

29/02/2012 11:49
I find Topgear entertaining ,but 5th Gear more intellectually informative.
29/02/2012 21:51

It's unfair to compare Top Gear and Fifth Gear: All the two have in common is people talking about cars.


Top Gear's great fun, but I do love VBH.

29/02/2012 09:59
Top gear is very amusing and entertaining but yes sometimes is painfully staged and at times is barely an informative car show....and can be predictable...and yes (like most celebs) they do have an over inflated view of themselves. But it will always be on my sky plus. Amusing analogies and non pcness is a winning formula! As for 5th gear its Horses for courses. As has been said top gear= mostly entertainment  and the 'battle' could almost be with another entertainment show with similar ego to Jezza...(Top gear vs Jonathathen Ross) lol!
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