Friday, 13 March 2015

Petition or not time is up for boorish Jeremy Clarkson.

Controversial Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson is in trouble again, this time for, allegedly, throwing a punch at BBC producer Oisin Tyman in a row over catering. As a result he has been suspended and the show has been pulled from the schedules.

He may be absent from our television screens Clarkson isn’t though out of the headlines, on Wednesday, the day the story broke, it led every TV news bulletin. There has also been a petition set up and signed by over four hundred thousand people calling for him to be reinstated.

I am not it has to be admitted part of the target audience for Top Gear, I’ve never owned a car or been trusted with a driving licence; so I didn’t sign the petition and won’t miss him if he never comes back. You might think that’s a blunt way of putting things, I’d say that someone who made bluntness his stock in trade shouldn’t expect anything else.

He is the sports jacket and badly fitting jeans clad incarnation of what might be called saloon bar bloke; a bore with a dodgy hairstyle and a sack of reactionary opinions who has made a career out of opening his mouth without first having engaged his brain. In the unlikely event of him sitting next to me on the bus I’d get off and walk even if it was raining.

That isn’t to say he’s totally without either intelligence or a certain sort of wit, far from it. When he first came onto the scene twenty years ago Jeremy Clarkson was a breath of fresh air, he brought to the usually staid world of motoring journalism the sort of irreverence and passion, always backed by knowledge, you more often find in writing about the arts.

At a stroke he made the worthy but unexciting Top Gear into appointment television, even for we non drivers.

Sadly fame on a global scale caused his talent to curdle at the same time as it made his ego expand; he took refuge in a self- indulgent comfort zone of opinions so reactionary they wouldn’t get column space in the Daily Express and a juvenile desire to shock. At the same time the programme with which he was so closely identified stopped being a serious programme about motoring and became a playground for his ego and those of fellow presenters Richard Hammond and James May.

There followed years of scandals and ill- judged comments, followed by shamefaced promises that nothing like that would ever happen again; not until the next time anyway. Needless to say there could only ever be one end to all this, a transgression for which Clarkson could never apologise and the BBC could never be seen to forgive, the only surprise is how long it’s taken to get here.

This latest outrage marks the end of Clarkson’s career, with the BBC anyway, the corporation’s management couldn’t be seen to condone his behaviour towards one of their employees and retain their authority.

Like many a performer before him he will probably stomp off in search of pastures new, Sky would almost certainly give him his own show, but they won’t give him the sort of editorial control he’s enjoyed at the BBC. In the event of another incident like ‘accidentally’ saying a racist word on air or making some witlessly offensive generalisation in his newspaper column they’d drop him like a hot brick in the name of keeping the sponsors sweet.

What of Top Gear itself? The BBC owns the rights to the format and so there is no reason why the programme couldn’t go on, although it might be time to change direction. All those silly stunts and forced laddish banter are starting to look dated and more than a little desperate, this could be a good time to go back to making a magazine programme about motoring.

You never know there might even be room for the next Jeremy Clarkson, an informed and irreverent voice sending the whole thing up rotten; this time though auntie shouldn’t let its owner get too big for his or her boots.

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