Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What's Next When You Fire the Host of the Most Popular Show in the World?

I admit it...I'm a big Top Gear fan. It's got the right mix of zany and informative plus three hosts that mix together very well and entertainingly.

It's the most viewed show on the planet with more than the equivalent of the entire population of the United States tuning in each week to see reviews of (mostly) exotic cars, field trips to far flung destinations, projects to build weird and wonderful...while mostly crap...vehicles, seeing major A list stars take a spin around the race track in an econobox, and - most of all - to see the interplay of the three hosts.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
IDS.Photos under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond have found that oh-so-British way of getting on each other's nerves while also bonding over shared automotive adventures. It may seem like they hate each other with their constant picking apart of each others personalities and driving styles but once in a blue moon, a flicker of the genuine warmth they have for each other peeks through such as the time Hammond almost killed himself while driving a rocket powered dragster.

It's highly entertaining and even people who don't care one wit about cars will find themselves absorbed with the show.

Since it's so darn popular, other versions have American Top Gear, an Australian version, and so on...but none have clicked the way the original has.  That massive popularity has enabled the show to do things no one else can do, such as test drive a half million dollar super car provided by the manufacturer and proclaim it utter crap; putting hybrids up against gasoline or deisel powered cars to show that those gas mileage claims can be suspect; making stars look like fools when roped into some of their antics.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Tony Harrisson under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

This independence...sometimes at great odds with the parent company, BBC...has also led to some feeling they are above criticism and punishment, especially Jeremy Clarkson.

In attempting to be edgy and funny, Clarkson has referred to truck drivers as prostitute killers, Mexicans as lazy, Asians as slopes, made fun of BMW cars with a Nazi salute, and saying strikers should be executed in front of their families...and that's just the highlights.

True, the producers and the other presenters are not above blame.  They drove cars in Alabama with slogans painted on the sides guaranteed to piss off the locals (it did, they were pelted with rocks), the other presenters joined in making fun of Mexicans, what admittedly looked like some miscommunication over a car's license plate...set off a riot in Argentina where police had to escort them so they could escape the country.

All of the above, however, was tolerated to an extent, sometimes people were warned or suspended, but finally a line was crossed. At the end of a long day of shooting, Clarkson verbally abused and then physically attacked a crew member when his food was not ready yet. 

Even that was too much for the lenient BBC and their top presenter on it's most valuable show was shown the door.

Hammond and May have said they won't go on without Clarkson. The BBC has cancelled the rest of the current season. TV channels and networks around the globe will have to hash out a settlement with the Beeb to compensate them for pulling their most valuable syndicated show but Clarkson will find somewhere to land and it's a good bet the BBC will find a way to continue the world's most popular show.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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