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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The three lots of people who will miss Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear

If this proves to be the end of the road for Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear then it will leave a hole in the lives of three distinct sets of people.

First of all, there are the people who love him and the programme and never miss it.

Then there are the people like me who miss it all the time but rather enjoy it when we happen to catch it.

But the people who will miss him most of all are the ones who hate him and seem to use him as a handy instrument to calculate their position on the attitudinal spectrum.

The first set of people will follow him to whichever broadcaster puts most money in his pocket.

The second set will catch him even less frequently and will be dimly aware that it isn't quite the same on another channel.

The third lot will be desolated and will have to go hunting for somebody else to disapprove of, which is getting harder and harder in a BBC gelded by Compliance Culture.

Clarkson's a proper TV personality but what made his shtick work was that he was doing it on the BBC.

Not only did that give him access to the biggest audiences and, thanks to BBC Worldwide's success in selling the brand, the biggest budgets, it also gave his stunts a legitimacy they wouldn't have had anywhere else and at the same time made it seem that he was just about, by the skin of his teeth, getting away with something he shouldn't be getting away with.

Guys like Clarkson are always on the points of being fired. That's their standard operating position. Wherever you paint the line, they go and stand just six inches the other side of it. It's a way of proving to themselves that they are who everybody seems to think they are. The downside is they get fired from time to time. It's the cost of doing business.

In the case of Clarkson and Top Gear that firing would be very costly and messy for both parties because they've built the brand around him. Stories of actual or threatened punch-ups suggest that the relationship was reaching its natural end anyway. The problem is that people no longer do the natural thing, which is just walk away. TV shows nowadays can make so much money in syndication that they're kept going long after their energy has run out.

Much like rock bands.

15 comments:

  1. Inevitably I read of Clarkson's inevitable suspension on Twitter.

    I clicked on a link at random and was inevitably taken to a finger-wagging op-ed piece in The Guardian - a paper that I have lost all respect for precisely because its stock trade these days seems to be pieces exactly like this.

    I wondered what these people would write about in the absence of individuals like Jeremy Clarkson to stir their ire.

    I find their moral posturing more offensive and more socially corrosive than Clarkson's occasional puerile comments.

    I will miss Top Gear on Sunday.





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  2. Clarkson is not Hawkeye Pierce or Danny Baker. He's not as good or cavalier as either.

    His 'spectacularly un-PC' attitude seems false, and planned in committee around a conference room table. A few years ago the 'banter' on Top Gear descended to flat-out bullying of his co-presenters, that was the time I turned off. He should stick to making those WWII documentaries, which were good and serious.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with political correctness. It has been a hard fought battle to get the likes of Clarkson, Jim Davidson and Bernard Manning (to name a few) off our TV screens and we are better and nicer people for that.

    Clarkson's 'edgy' character always felt like an act, and this is Act 3.

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  3. Clarkson is a knob, but he's a self-aware knob. Many of those who hold him up as the paragon of right-wing buffoonery don't seem to understand this.

    I'm in the same category as you w.r.t. Top Gear, but caught most of Sunday's show. Man, it was poor. There was half-arsed test of a new car with one joke (too heavy), a trip 1/2 way around the world which also had one joke (keep Hammond cold) and only the star guest (Gillian Anderson) provided anything slightly interesting. Nothing snappy, or witty or fun. They all just looked unhappy and knackered. I turned off before the chase around the Rockies had finished as I was bored.

    Maybe Clarkson was simply upset as he'd seen the broadcast of that show? It was like watching The Simpsons Series 17.

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  4. You're right about people not 'walking away' any more.

    But then why would they?

    There appear to be a significant number of people in society c. 2015 (the one I go out of my way to avoid) who earn millions for doing what people simply just did 50 years ago.

    Name any Premier League manager who's managed for more than six months in the last ten years.....that guy, whoever he is, probably earned more in that six months than Busby, Shankly or Nicholson (or should that be Busby, Shankly AND Nicholson) earned in their entire careers.

    Mind you, I wouldn't swap those men's eras and experiences, compared to Clarkson's, for all the tea in China.

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  5. If they're looking for a replacement, might I suggest John Inverdale!

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  6. I take Clarkson with a pinch of salt. He says things designed to outrage people and that keeps him in very lucrative work. He got away with it because Top Gear was also entertaining. Anyone who has seen the current series will know that has rarely been the case recently. The show is looking tired and is just going through the motions. Maybe the producer in the fracas pointed this out?

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  7. Simple soul that I am, I think there are more than three groups of folk.
    I was chuffed to bits when I passed my driving test and even more chuffed when I managed to buy my first car, but beyond that “motoring” and “cars” have never been of any interest. And after “Genevieve” and “Bullitt” I’d had enough of car chases forever.
    “Top Gear,” in any of its thousands of incarnations has never drawn me in. And in recent times, even adverts for the thing make me vomit, almost.
    It’s popular, or was, so go or stay, but tears from me? No.
    It’s never once been a conversation topic among me and the other simple souls that I knock about with, so there we are.
    Clarkson was one of the better guest hosts on Have I Got News For You, but beyond that ho hum. So, I couldn’t care less about Top Gear or Clarkson.

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  8. Good to see that (a) the Prime Minister had time to comment on this story, we're clearly not giving that boy enough to do, and (b) Clarkson was able to get to the Chelsea game last night.

    Odious, greedy, arrogant, lacking any class.....has an individual ever been more compatible with the team they support?

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  9. Like a lot of other people, I sniggered along occasionally. Good clean fun. No harm.
    But.. If it proves that he has actually hit someone- what then?
    We condone actual violence because people are going to miss him on a dated tv program? Or at least Cameron seems to be.
    I heard one of his co- presenters calling it a 'dust up'. Really?
    Is it me?

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  10. It's a classic media feeding frenzy, a 'celebrity in a fracas' of the kind the tabloids can't believe their luck with. This will keep them going for weeks, as every detail, real or imagined, is analysed and pored over with forensic scrutiny. And we are all supposed to get sucked in, and almost forced to have an opinion, in order to demonstrate our position on this because, you know, you must have one. In the end it is not that important, but if any employee resorts to violence, he should know what to expect. Top Gear can reconfigure, it wouldn't be before time, treating a presenter like an untouchable asset isn't good business.

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  11. Isn't it amazing that so many people can sign a petition for his reinstatement or express support for him (including the Prime Minister for God’s sake) without having any idea about the details of the incident? It doesn’t matter what he did, they admire his talent and won’t let anything including, apparently, physical violence get in the way of their enjoyment.
    I fall into “rather enjoy it when I happen to catch it” category and have no desire to see him removed permanently but there are limits to what any organisation can accept. Very few of the thousands of people expressing opinions on this matter can have any idea if that line has been crossed.

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  12. Isn't it amazing that so many people can sign a petition for his reinstatement or express support for him (including the Prime Minister for God’s sake) without having any idea about the details of the incident? It doesn’t matter what he did, they admire his talent and won’t let anything including, apparently, physical violence get in the way of their enjoyment.
    I fall into “rather enjoy it when I happen to catch it” category and have no desire to see him removed permanently but there are limits to what any organisation can accept. Very few of the thousands of people expressing opinions on this matter can have any idea if that line has been crossed.

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  13. I don't remember the 'hard fought battle' to get Manning et al of our screens. I tend to presume that the times change and their natural 'stage life' came to an end. Out goes Bernard Manning and in comes The Young Ones.

    As things now stand I think that historians will look back upon these times as being highly pious and that the country's pre-eminent cultural institution, the BBC, and its 'High priests of PC' were the arbiters of conventional reverence.

    In this way the very meaning of language and thought was controlled. So much so that when racism used to mean stating 'the assertion of the superiority of one race over another', then the flabbily defined 'incite hatred' to what we have now which is to say anything that 'might offend someone, somewhere.'

    Surely if a battle was fought - real battles - it was so that we had the freedom to have a few chuckles at the expense of Mexicans - Did the TG presenters say that Mexicans were racially inferior or were they laughing at the stereotype? - and that we could live without a Kommissar* or kommondant reading our minds to fathom what we really think.

    Sanctimony has become the defining characteristic of the Guardianista/BBC cultural axis and its high and low brother (and sister) Abbotts. I declare quite openly that nothing Clarkson has ever said has 'offended' me. His persecutors should be honest too; should Clarkson and The Unoffended be shot at dawn or sent to Thought Correction camps? Come on, tell us what you really think.

    *Pity poor Rubishev. Once hero of the revolution he went to his death convinced that night was day and truth was error and that his death sentence really was justified.

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  14. Sanctimony USED to be the defining characteristic of the BBC and, I must say, I rather miss their 'we are making this Pinter play, pipe down plebs and watch it, it's good for you' attitude of yesteryear.

    The fact was that the Pinter play invariably was good for us!

    The BBC's chief characteristic today is that it's scared of its own shadow and needs to grow a pair.

    If it were an individual, it would be one of the few occasions where the line 'do you know who I am?' would be a viable option. Instead, the once great corporation seems prepared to roll over and let others, including Clarkson, tickle them.

    It's really unbecoming.

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