Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Top Gear.... And On The Bombshell

So the BBC have decided not to renew Jeremy Clarkson's contract, bad timing on Jeremy's side to instigate a very public "fracas" just weeks before his contract has expired. He's not been fired but he wont work for the BBC, possibly, ever again. Waiting for the axe to fall has been interesting with the various media outlets and newspapers guessing what will happen. With Clarkson's co presenters very publicly saying they come as a package it almost certainly will be the end of Top Gear. I will say that I have enjoyed some of the Top Gear programs but as I am not particularly a petrol head most of my interest was to be found in the various challenges that were set and, of course, the occasional specials. Its amazing to think that Top Gear existed before Clarkson, May and Hammond but it did, although it was a very different show. The show started way back in 1977 and was a half an hour magazine style show hosted by Angela Rippon and Tom Coyne with the most exciting thing that ever happened being Rippon driving from Shepherds Bush to Birmingham reporting on the road conditions. Vietnam Special it certainly wasn't but it obviously gained an audience as the show continued until 2000 with a plethora of different presenters. Helming the show through the 1980s was none other that Noel Edmonds, yes he of the ludicrous sweaters and interestingly the only person to remain unscathed from controversy from my childhood. It was due to the departure of a number of the well loved presenters in 2000 that the program was facing the scrap heap as its viewing figures had plummeted from six million to three million. The program was finally crushed after presenters,Vicki Butler-Henderson, Tiff Needell and Adrian Simpson, jumped ship to host Fifth Gear. 

Jeremy Clarkson and Andy Wilman pitched a new format for the show to the BBC, with an extended running time of an hour and the regular "star in a reasonably prices car" segments. It also introduced Richard Hammond and Jason Dawe as new co presenters (Dawe was replaced by James May from the second series) The new format worked and viewing figures soared aided by the more tongue in cheek approach and the indisputable chemistry of its presenters. The success of Top Gear has to be attributed to its three stars as their very different personalities and views are what draws many of its fans. It certainly worked for me and I own many of the DVDs releases of the misadventures and hilarious challenges the program has set Clarkson, The Hamster and the wonderfully acerbic Captain Slow. Top Gear has made its presenters house hold names and has given the BBC a show that is marketed all around the globe and spawned numerous live Stage shows. By 2008 the waiting list to appear in the audience is equivalent of 21 years worth of episodes. It is calculated that Top Gear brings in revenue of approximately £35 Million and growing, it has made millionaires of Clarkson, May and Hammond with their combined worth estimated at £55 Million. Top Gear is broadcast in 170 different countries with a total viewing populace of 350 Million per week.

It hasn't all been success and awards though with Top Gear suffering set backs, criticism and courting controversy. It almost cost Hammond his life in 2006 when a drag racing stunt went wrong and he was seriously injured. Success has also turned Jeremy Clarkson into an intolerable motor mouth who has regularly caused the BBC severe embarrassment with his ill timed and offensive remarks. More concerning has been Clarkson's habit of laughing these incidents off and he certainly acted like he was untouchable. Clarkson knew what he was worth to the BBC and even with the issuing of a final warning last month seemed unlikely to change his ways. Lets be honest, Top Gears fans wouldnt want him to change as it is exactly that verbose and blundering approach he has that made the show work so well. Its just a shame that a man who is clearly talented and garners such support from a huge fan base should care so little about the very people who have elevated him to the position he enjoyed. The BBC announced the findings of Ken McQuarrie can be read here and below is the full statement from Director General Tony Hall. 

"Tony Hall, the BBC Director-General, has today released the following statement regarding Jeremy Clarkson.

It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts and after personally meeting both Jeremy and Oisin Tymon.

I am grateful to Ken MacQuarrie for the thorough way he has conducted an investigation of the incident on 4th March. Given the obvious and very genuine public interest in this I am publishing the findings of his report. I take no pleasure in doing so. I am only making them public so people can better understand the background. I know how popular the programme is and I also know that this decision will divide opinion. The main facts are not disputed by those involved.

I want to make three points.

First – The BBC is a broad church. Our strength in many ways lies in that diversity. We need distinctive and different voices but they cannot come at any price. Common to all at the BBC have to be standards of decency and respect. I cannot condone what has happened on this occasion. A member of staff – who is a completely innocent party – took himself to Accident and Emergency after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature. For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.

Second – This has obviously been difficult for everyone involved but in particular for Oisin. I want to make clear that no blame attaches to him for this incident. He has behaved with huge integrity throughout. As a senior producer at the BBC he will continue to have an important role within the organisation in the future.

Third – Obviously none of us wanted to find ourselves in this position. This decision should in no way detract from the extraordinary contribution that Jeremy Clarkson has made to the BBC. I have always personally been a great fan of his work and Top Gear. Jeremy is a huge talent. He may be leaving the BBC but I am sure he will continue to entertain, challenge and amuse audiences for many years to come.

The BBC must now look to renew Top Gear for 2016. This will be a big challenge and there is no point in pretending otherwise. I have asked Kim Shillinglaw to look at how best we might take this forward over the coming months. I have also asked her to look at how we put out the last programmes in the current series."

The response to this announcement has been predictably rabid and although many have commented, intelligently, about the situation, some of the social media fan reaction has been ludicrous. Whilst most level headed fans will be gutted that Top Gear will not exist in the format they have enjoyed for years, I'm one of them, they seem to realise that Clarkson's behaviour is unacceptable and he left the BBC with no other option. Clarkson thought he could do what he wanted and behave in any way he saw fit, the BBC needed to send a clear message to the diva element of its staff that this is not the case. It doesn't matter how highly you are regarded, how much money you contribute the Corporation Coffers or how many fans clamour for your reinstatement verbal and psychical abuse will not be accepted. Oisin Tymon was subjected to a sustained verbal and physical attack by oafish Clarkson that was sparked by the absence of hot food. Get over it Clarkson and get a pizza or have a sandwich like most normal people! I can imagine, as part of his tirade, Clarkson yelling "don't you know who I am?" oh yes we know who you are Clarkson and sadly its not pleasant. In my opinion, you are a loud mouthed, self obsessed and huge ego inflated buffoon who thinks nothing of resorting to physical violence. Too harsh? Is that not the definition of a bully. The rabid elements of Top Gear fandom who are currently foaming at their collective mouths should remember two points. This sort of behaviour is not acceptable in any area of our society and companies, irrespective of their size have a legal responsibility to protect their staff. Clarkson assaulted Tymon, he's fired and never works in the company again. It's cut and dried and so it should always be the case. Secondly, put your own selfish feelings aside and spare a thought for Tymon and his family. They have been caught up in a media storm which was none of their making and all because Clarkson is unable to control his temper. Damn right the BBC made the right decision and Clarkson should count himself lucky he isn't facing criminal charges.

Fracas was it James May and Richard Hammond, really? no it was assault and that is a crime, plain and simple. Kudos for backing your mate but, in my view, you haven't escaped this sad debacle unscathed either. As to the fans that are still pouring scorn on a Corporation that conducted itself with decorum and respect and especially those that are clamouring for Clarkson's return. Switch off the TV and go and do something less boring instead! And on that bombshell.... goodnight Clarkson. Anger Management course beckons I think! Fans should be angry as a great tv show has now been terminated because of one man's inability to control himself off screen. Be angry, but direct your anger at Clarkson and not the BBC who acted, on this occasion, to protect a member of it's staff.

Sadly, no more!

Follow David Martin On Twitter at @ventspleen2014

1 comment:

  1. The BBC have announced that Clarkson is to be taken out and shot in front of his family.