I don’t always agree with what Jeremy says – but then oft times, neither does HE.
The thing is, most people miss the POINT with Clarkson. Because he comes from a journalistic background and appears on what USED to be a serious motoring magazine programme, they get in an awful tizzy every time he says something “inappropriate” – failing to realize he is a COMEDIAN.
And therein lies the dilemma. The BBC airs numerous satirical, topical and standup shows where comedians say FAR more “inappropriate” things than Jeremy would ever DARE to – and get away with it, because people recognise the comedians are merely being humourous and do not actually MEAN their words to be taken seriously.
But with Jeremy, people expect DISCIPLINE.
For those outside Britain who do not know WHAT I am talking about, some history…
“Top Gear” began in 1977, as a serious motoring magazine programme. Every week, William Woollard and a bunch of oxygen thieves would compare the merits of family saloons (“I found the ride of the new Cortina to be firmer than the previous model, but the cupholder…”) and visit motor shows and… I’m boring MYSELF just THINKING about it.
But then in ’88, Clarkson joined the crew. And soon, his forthright views and casual humour began to get noticed. Ratings soared – and the BBC had an idea.
They allowed the series to LAPSE for two-and-a-half years – but they were playing the Long Game. When it returned, it was totally revamped.
There was “The News” – where Jeremy would begin reading a press release about the latest Cortina (or its modern equivalent) and a few words in, start snoring, throw the report over his shoulder and begin talking about the latest $500,000 supercar.
Then they would cut to his test-drive of the beast – involving him belting around a test-track in it, on opposite-lock – and doing doughnuts across the stop line.
In those days, they still did SOME serious bits. Like…
But eventually, they abandoned ALL pretence at Top Gear EVER being a serious motoring magazine programme again. They began presenting it in an aircraft hanger-sized building, with a “Cool Wall” – upon which pictures of cars nominated as cool and not were displayed.
Then they invited guest stars – many “A” list – to take a turn around their (usually WET – this was in BRITAIN) test track in a family saloon. Tom Cruise held the lap record for a while.
And then there were the “challenges” – Clarkson and his two cohorts would be given a few grand to go out and buy three old bangers (US – klunkers) to pit against each other, in a series of “tests” – the vehicles would be made to SUFFER.,
By now, the ratings were SKY-HIGH. This was FUN.
Of course, the budget for the show became ENORMOUS. The actual road tests (for supercars only) were filmed with state-of-the-art technology – resulting in visual masterpieces that were less reports than pieces of ART. And their various Wacky Races covered the WORLD – even the Magnetic North Pole.
However, the BBC soon discovered they needed a special letters department just to answer the “I wish to complain in the STRONGEST terms…” rants from those who still thought Top Gear was a MOTORING show.
And the gutter newspapers joined in too: their journalists HATED Jeremy for doing what they would have LOVED to have done – speak their MINDS.
However, Auntie was not about to be railroaded into firing their cash-cow over a few complaints. They recognised Clarkson for being what he is – a brilliant and erudite COMEDIAN. And so they laugh off the brickbats and hope Jeremy can keep it UP.
And for what it’s worth – so do I.