If there is one thing which cannot be debated about Jeremy Clarkson, it is that he has overstepped the mark. After some slaps on the wrist and a “final warning” was delivered last year, the physical assault of a crew member was always going to be the final nail in the coffin: because the BBC can only be seen to put up with so much. He has now subsequently been dropped.
Unfortunately this stems a new problem. Executives will always want to prove that the show can go on, and that stars are in fact replaceable: at the moment Chris Evans is the favourite for the job, as well as Jodie Kidd, and even Steve Coogan. This is a combination of the BBC’s own egotism, accompanied of course by an insatiable desire for ratings and profit. In some instances, revamps can work: but not with Top Gear.
Of course the programme has already been through a substantial revamp, but this is markedly different. I was made to watch old Top Gear in the late ‘90s by my older brothers, and although I was young at the time, it was pretty boring; and despite being very interested in cars, I still have no desire to watch a bog-standard car programme.
The reality is when Clarkson ushered in new Top Gear he transformed it into something entirely unique which cannot be replicated. Over time it grew into a show which is essentially formed around three mates arsing around, having a laugh, and doing stupid challenges. It is this even more than Clarkson’s trademark humour which will ultimately see any pretender to the throne fail.
Regardless of who your favourite presenter is, or whether you don’t like certain individuals, when push comes to shove they are all irreplaceable.
They have developed a repertoire and a bond over the last 14 years: they have raced to the North Pole; had stones thrown at them by hillbilly’s; crossed the Makadikadi; crossed the Channel in an amphibious Hilux; tackled Vietnam on bikes; destroyed countless caravans; and discovered the source of the Nile.
But what made all those adventures so memorable were the interactions and exchanges between the presenters. They are of course regular people and not actors, but the principles are the same: it is their characters we tune into. It is for this very reason that James May has said ‘I think the three of us are very much a package’ and that ‘much as I think he’s a knob, I quite like working with Jeremy’.
The only way that Top Gear can continue is if it were to change its format and even this would be dubious at best: but if the BBC try to make the same programme and drop three new people into the roles of Messrs Clarkson, Hammond, and May, it quite simply will not work. Just imagine how wrong and contrived it would be if Chris Evans or anyone else took the ‘some say…’ introduction of The Stig. Even though it would still technically be Top Gear, it would smack horrifically of imitation.
As you can probably guess, I am a big fan of Jeremy Clarkson. He may step over the line from time to time, but in a world which is becoming increasingly boring and uptight about political correctness, we need people like him. And it is worth remembering that it is pressure on the BBC about their stars off stage which is their chief concern at the moment, and that they really did not want to drop one of their biggest stars. There are of course those who vehemently detest Clarkson, and I can understand why, but if you don’t like him don’t watch him. It’s one of the reasons I avoid programmes such as The X-Factor like the plague.
It is an acrimonious departure for such a hallmark show, and it is yet to be seen whether Clarkson, Hammond, and May, will indeed take up the offer to sign with Sky or Netflix in a similar show. But as for the BBC it would be nice to see them make the right decision and pull the plug.
Don’t try what would essentially be the equivalent of Matt LeBlanc’s ill-advised Friends sequel Joey. Just accept that you have lost one of your biggest assets and move on like the rest of us.
My loyalty does not lie with the Top Gear brand: but with the three individuals whom I have grown up watching, and have provided me with years worth of laughter and entertainment. But now that Clarkson has left the building it is apparent that Top Gear really must not go on.
And on that bombshell…