With great reluctance, it would seem, the BBC took the decision not to renew Jeremy Clarkson’s contract this coming summer.
For those who may not know, Clarkson is a fifty – something, jeans sporting, man child, who fronts the very popular, thus lucrative, motor show Top Gear. Viewed in over one hundred and seventy countries around the world, Top Gear has been a massive cash cow for the Beeb. This is in no small part down to the rapscallion wit, ensuing of political correctness and general laddishness of Clarkson.
Whether you are a petrolhead or not, or maybe have just a passing interest in cars, amidst the plethora of car shows Top Gear stands out. With its three contrasting presenters; Clarkson; lanky, smart alec, raconteur. James May; bumbling, foppish, petrol geek and Richard Hammond; personable ferret – like, chuckler, the show appealed to a certain demographic, that of the forty plus, white male, harking back to a world before mobile phones and social media.
Clarkson was the star. By no means a handsome man, or even a man who tried to pass himself off as ordinary. He just was good at television. He was relaxed and spoke eloquently on motor cars, whilst not alienating people with technical specifics.
His buddy chemistry with his co presenters helped as well, the three generally acting like overgrown school boys who had stolen their dad’s car.
Like school boys, or any child, Clarkson, as his popularity – and power – grew, tested the boundaries of his power. He had already some years before, as many stars before him have, forced a salary rise out of his employers. He knew he was the draw and so did they. They paid him. And so it began.
He was embroiled in inappropriate racial and insensitive slurs, always sailing close to the wind – almost a kindred spirit to Charlie Sheen – he managed to ride the storm. Then came the incident of steak and chips.
After a day of filming, followed by several hours of drinking, Clarkson and Co returned to a pub at which they were staying the evening. Clarkson wanted steak and chips but was told that the kitchen was closed. At this point he berated the producer and punched him.
Clarkson was immediately suspended pending an investigation. An online petition in support of Clarkson gained several hundred thousand signatures. How dare the BBC punish Clarkson! The fact that in any other walk of life, were. he not a public figure, he would be facing prosecution or arrest did not matter to his supporters. They wanted their Top Gear on.
The victim of the assault, as is the modern way, became the subject of a social media witch hunt. How dare he massage dear Jeremy’s fist with his face and complain about it! Jumped up little….!
Clarkson used his status and position to bully and harass people. Undoubtedly a great presenter and perhaps, to his friends, a fine fella, but he is still, regardless of position or popularity, subject to the law of the land. He had already managed to avoid unemployment from situations most would not have survived. He never showed any sign of curbing his rancour or even acknowledgement that he had done anything wrong. Clarkson was deservedly sacked for this misdemeanour and though he will not struggle to find future employment, one can only hope that this episode might give him pause and time to reflect on the boundaries he pushes and whether it is right.