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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.