One of Auntie BBC’s more annoying practices is squeezing every last drop out of her successes – particularly the comedy series.
How many have featured a Final Episode – only to get picked up again, the following year? Then again and again…
The old cow can obviously be very seductive when she wants to be – or coercive.
Either way, artists and writers have time and again been persuaded to forgo artistic integrity, in the interests of her ratings.
And thus it has been with Top Gear.
Although said programme has seen a lot of CHANGES since 1977. Thirty-eight years ago it was hosted by newsreader, Angela “Legs” Rippon – and would go on to feature guys like Willie Woollard who would bang on about how many cupholders the latest Ford Disappointment had.
Jeremy Clarkson joined the show in 1988, by which time the format had already changed significantly a number of times.
And it was he who, in 2002, relaunched the show.
It SHOULD have been renamed NEW Top Gear – however, it had a rival in Fifth Gear (where a number of its “serious” presenters had migrated) and MERCHANDISING under the Top Gear name – so the original moniker had to remain.
This turned out to be a millstone around Jeremy’s neck, since even after YEARS of the high-jinks Top Gear has become famous for, some viewers were still grumbling about the lack of serious features.
More worryingly, they were criticising the presenters’ antics – still categorising them as serious REPORTERS. Thus they were chastised for things conventional comedy performers would never have been.
Anyhoo, after numerous “controversies” – which on comedy shows would have passed unnoticed – the death knell was eventually sounded when Jeremy popped a junior producer.
BUT HOW MUCH LONGER WOULD TOP GEAR HAVE LASTED ANYWAY?
As with the matter of discretion (cover-ups) no-one seems to have addressed THIS issue either (see other pieces in these columns). But the fact is, this latest series had barely distinguished itself.
It kicked off with the now-infamous Patagonia Special.
However, in the kerfuffle produced by that blasted NUMBER-PLATE, no-one seems to have noticed that the intended climax would merely have been a game of “car football” – which they have done before. Meanwhile, the bulk of the piece merely trod – with far less interest – the territory the boys had already trod in Africa.
And the references to Butch Cassidy were lame too.
There then followed seven normal episodes where the only memorable happening was Hammond getting the front wheel of his bicycle caught in some tram tracks in St Pete’s – and getting propelled over the handlebars, onto the unforgiving street.
It had mini-cameras on board, which caught the action – but the best bit was the AUDIO. As the Hamster dragged his bruised body and broken techno-bike onto a convenient bit of grass, the noises he made sounded like he was being RAPED (close your eyes while listening to it – hilarious).
However, that was the only good bit in over seven hours of material. And it looked like the highlight of the last three eps would be a race between three supercars – if the manufacturers could get their ducks in a row in time.
So where does this leave us?
Well, Auntie’s stated intention is to assemble the already-filmed bits of the three remaining episodes into something transmittable – WITHOUT Jeremy’s presence. However, given the show is a THREE-man format, I would NOT like to be the editor given THAT job. I suspect that said editor will tell Auntie it is impossible.
Which leaves us with Top Gear 2016 – which Auntie has declared WILL HAPPEN.
Right now, Hammond and May’s contracts are coming up for renewal. And there is more than just Top Gear at stake for them. While the Hamster has done Richard Hammond’s Crash Course (and earlier, the Mythbusters rip-off, Brainiac) – Captain Slow has presented a whole slew of “sciencey” programmes, like his Man Lab.
Therefore, they do NOT want to piss off Auntie.
Meaning they will likely knuckle down and follow Auntie’s bidding; do next year’s Top Gear with a new third presenter – making it with just the two of them would be like Wise appearing without Morecambe.
And the chances of a Top Gear CLONE launching with all three are REMOTE. The cost would be gigantic and the technical backup hard to find. In any case, Auntie owns the format and would SUE if said clone approached the original.
But this will be a gigantic MISTAKE. Top Gear may currently have those FIGURES Auntie loves so much, but the format – in Britain – is FINISHED.
Back in 2009, the producer (the MAIN one, Andy Wilman – not the little prat who caused the “fracas”) said the show was “nearer the end than the beginning” – and that now, his job was “to land this plane with its dignity still intact” – which given it began in 2002 and it is now 2015, means that NOW IS THE TIME.