Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Jeremy Clarkson debacle is what Top Gear needed

THIS IS a wonderful time for Top Gear.

Over the past few weeks it’s almost been impossible to visit the loo without someone venturing an opinion on what Jeremy Clarkson did or didn’t do in a North Yorkshire hotel, which is why – until now – I've refrained from weighing in with mine.

Watching the whole Jeremy Clarkson thing unfold has been like watching – perhaps aptly – a car crash in slow motion, made all the worse by the fact I’ve grown up alongside his televisual career. So standing on the edge of the huge abyss his sacking has ripped through the motoring landscape has been like seeing a close relative getting nicked.

It's made worse - especially for the BBC - by the fact there is no clear cut answer. As at least one Champion colleague pointed out, to defend Jeremy would be to defend someone who punches a colleague at work. To agree with casting out would be to disagree with Top Gear's army of fans and to rob the Beeb of one of its biggest stars.

The Corporation has made the only call it realistically could, but it's a sorry end for Jeremy's long career there, A career that not only included some brilliant Top Gear moments, but the wonderfully nostalgic Clarkson's Car Years, the tongue-in-cheek Jeremy Clarkson Meets The Neighbours and the passionate case he made for Brunel to be recognised as Britain's greatest person.


Jeremy looks back at the Lamborghini Countach in Clarkson's Car Years back in 2000

I spent my childhood watching the fuzzy-haired progenitor of dodgy faded denim carefully crafting his metaphors on Motorworld. I laughed when his description of how the Ford Probe was so good looking it could snap knicker elastic earned him a mention on Points of View, and yes, I remember the ripples of derision his televised destruction of the Vauxhall Vectra sent through the motoring world back in 1995. Clarkson, both back in the Nineties when I got hooked on Top Gear and in his mega successful Noughties incarnation, is still compulsive viewing.

Yet everyone who loves Top Gear – and that includes you – will be just fine, because the show’s now been forced into the rethink nobody was prepared to admit it needed.

Top Gear of right now reminds me of Roger Moore donning a space suit in Moonraker – it was brilliant in parts, but proof positive that bigger budget doesn’t always bring better results. Stung by the criticism of a Bond film that tried – and failed – to mimic Star Wars, the producers went back to basics and came back two years later with the excellent For Your Eyes Only.

The BBC – as Doctor Who, Have I Got News For You and, erm, a 2002 series called Top Gear prove – is brilliant at rescuing hit shows from the brink and making them brilliant again. As much as it hurts to admit it, Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear are not one and the same. Now is the opportunity to reboot it and get back to the basics of the show. The cars.

Jeremy's infamous 1995 Top Gear road test of the Vauxhall Vectra

For all the punches, BBC inquiries, sackings, death threats, wild speculation and newspaper columnists seriously suggesting Piers Morgan should be at the helm of the word’s biggest motoring show despite having no experience of car reviewing, everyone will be fine.

Jeremy will be fine because he’ll either retire and enjoy the contents of his garage or find an equally lucrative job. Top Gear will be fine because the Beeb’s best brains are already onto the job, and you’ll be fine because in the long run you’re not going to deprived of motoring telly.

In fact, the only people who lose are The Daily Mail because they’ll have lost something to irritate the public about. Result!


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