“Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.” – Jeremy Clarkson
UPDATE – It should be noted that the BBC never did bring back Jeremy Clarkson. He continues on in a deal with Amazon, creating a show called The Grand Tour…which is shaping up to be everything Top Gear was, but better. I have reprinted this article as a reminder of how special Jeremy, James and Richard were, and still are.
This week I need to address an international crisis that has occurred, one that threatens to destroy the future of television, journalism and the freedoms we hold dear. I am speaking, of course about the BBC’s suspension of Jeremy Clarkson.
In the rare case that you have been stuck in a tent somewhere in Antarctica, let me give you some background to the “slap heard round the world.” Clarkson, co-presenter of the hit television series Top Gear was recently involved in a fracas with one of the show’s producers. The event, described by media as a fight over “catering on-set” occurred in Hawes, North Yorkshire. Basically Clarkson was told that the hotel chef had gone home for the day and on-set catering was not available. Knowing of Clarkson’s behavior in the past, it is expected that a simple disagreement occurred, evolving into a heated argument, and ending with a punch in the face for the insolent producer. Clarkson is a star, after all.
In response, the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) decided to kill the upcoming episode of Top Gear, and announced on its website that it would likely drop the final two episodes of the series. In addition, they suspended Clarkson until an investigation can be completed, and in the process placed a franchise that earns approximately £50 million in jeopardy. Since the decision, support has been building to almost panic levels. Fans, celebrities and even the Prime Minister, David Cameron have all turned into dervishes with their support of Clarkson. A petition, started by Guido Fawkes on change.org has garnered a million signatures, and was delivered (courtesy of the Stig and Fawkes) by TANK to the BBC offices. Twitter and Facebook have been swamped with “Bring Back Clarkson” hash tags and profile photos, and the call is still spreading. In fact, Piece Morgan even wrote an article supporting Jeremy. This is especially funny, since he was a previous face punch victim and Clarkson’s sworn enemy.
Why all the fuss? Let me fill you in on some important statistics. Top Gear is a television automotive magazine show presented by the BBC. The presenters are Jeremy Clarkson (Jezza), Richard Hammond (Hamster) and James May (Captain Slow). Each show also features the anonymous test driver “The Stig.” Top Gear is a BAFTA, Multi NTA, and International Emmy Award winning program. It began in 1977, with Clarkson being the first of the trio to join the show in 1988. In 2002, the show was reworked with the current co-presenters and began its climb into the history books. Top Gear is broadcast in over 170 countries, 212 territories throughout the world…a number that is staggering. Could you even name 170 counties? In fact, it is THE MOST WATCHED TELEVISION SHOW IN THE WORLD. In addition, Top Gear is also the most pirated television show in the world, and ranks in at the second most expensive television show in the world at £1.2 Billion. It is estimated that the DAILY viewership is 750 MILLION viewers, and the show has no less than seven foreign variations presently running, including Top Gear US. The show is so popular that the waiting list to get tickets, just to be in the audience during filming is…wait for it…21 years long.
The success of the show is irrefutable. It is simply the most watched television show in the world. To put the 750 Million DAILY viewers in perspective, AMC’s Breaking Bad record breaking finale garnered only 10.3 million viewers, and the last Superbowl (GO PATS!) had a measly 114.5 million viewers. Beyond its success, Top Gear holds a few major world records.
- Clarkson and May are the first people to drive a vehicle to the magnetic north pole.
- The Stig was the first person to ever perform a double loop the loop stunt in a car (South Africa).
- Accredited by Guinness as the “Most Widely Watched “Factual” Television Show” (2013).
- First Automotive show to have a series of stamps made in their honor (Isle of Man).
They also hold many “firsts” and amazing accomplishments for a team of three middle age men. These include:
- First to jump an automobile (Mini Cooper) off the Olympic ski jump at Lillehammer.
- First to cross the English Channel by water in a pickup truck (Toyota Hilux)
- First non-government sponsored rocket launch (Reliant Robin Space Shuttle).
- First to drive production cars across Zimbabwe’s Makgadikgadi Pan.
- Driving the 1800 km trek from Saigon to Ha Long Vietnam on motorcycles.
- Driving the 1000 mile trek from Bolivia to the Pacific Coast of Chile, across the Death Road near Las Pas, the Andean Altiplano and an active volcano with a height of 17,200 feet.
- Driving from Iraq to Bethlehem in convertible sports cars during wartime.
- Driving from Mumbai to the Chinese border in British vehicles, while almost blowing up the embassy section of Mumbai with a self made firework.
- Driving the 1600 mile trek from Patagonia to the most southern city in the world.
- Driving across Burma to construct a bridge over the river Kwai (actually was the River Kok).
- Discovering the true source of the river Nile in Africa.
- Driving a Land Rover up the side wall of a dam to recreate a Land Rover commercial.
All this is combined into a show that features some of the most outrageous and exotic automobiles in the world, filmed in a way that rivals some of the best Hollywood cinematographers, and features hilarious and crazy challenges. Plus, the combination of Clarkson, Hammond and May is priceless. They are simply “car guys.” They have little to no filter, say and do exactly as they please without regard, have little tolerance for the common nuisances and rules of modern life, and seem to be true friends. They enjoy each other’s company, which makes us as viewers want to see them together.
Yes, there are faults. I decided at the end of last season that the end should be near. Jeremy in particular is getting older, plumper and more crotchety as the years pass. Watching a late middle aged man with a paunch manhandle the new Jaguar F-Type Coupe is slightly unsettling. Knowing all of the jokes and quips long before they are spoken, and predicting the wacky outcome of every challenge and adventure has made the show stale. The key to the program has always been the three very different personalities butting heads and being fools. Somewhere, the comedy routines became too rehearsed, too obvious, and the show lost some of its spark. However, the thought of not having Top Gear around is somewhat like knowing you have lost a friend. Top Gear has become something we take for granted, and losing it would be difficult, losing the show under these circumstances would be tragic and funny in a way only Top Gear could have scripted. Jeremy is a dolt, an oaf, a fool and probably can be a rude person. But he has always been that way, and his long history of controversies is well documented. This should have as much importance as the time when he insulted Mexico, or made one of many numerous controversial remarks.
The BBC needs to understand that they hired a untidy wildebeest years ago, and that nothing has changed since. The fact that it has attacked someone (again) should be of no surprise. We need Top Gear…for as long as the guys are around, even if it is predictable, stale and overly scripted. Top Gear is a large part of my life, and I would be heartbroken if it were to end. So, Bring Back Clarkson!