Thursday, March 26, 2015

On the Matter of Mister Clarkson

So, as I'm writing this, I'm skimming through the BBC article announcing Jeremy Clarkson officially being sacked from Top Gear (and listening to a university lecture on Postmodernism, but that's unrelated... maybe). It's sad news, and I'm sure people are expecting me to rage against the dying of the light of a program that I've watched (and re-watched) for several years.

Thing is... they're not wrong. Sure, there were millions that signed the petition to keep Clarkson at the BBC on Top Gear. There were tons of people on the hashtag on twitter. Unspeakable amounts of support for him. But the thing is, the BBC was right to terminate him.

Clarkson had an altercation with a producer. There was a long day of filming, and there was no meal waiting for him when he was done, something that presumably his producer was responsible for. Clarkson is, by all accounts, a complete asshole, and didn't respond well to this. He went off on a tirade against the producer and then physically assaulted him. He even went so far as to turn himself in to his employers to report it. Clarkson did something wrong.

If this were just him saying something stupid again and another neo-puritanical moralistic outrage campaign, I'd be on his side. But it's not. He's still on his “final” warning from the BBC, or was until yesterday. And the thing is, I want the BBC to take responsibility for its talent. It has a terrible history of covering up internal problems. There are literally hundreds of potential cases of child abusethat the BBC covered up for decades in the wake of Jimmy Savile's death. To see them taking appropriate action in a clear case of wrong-doing, even though it may hurt to lose Clarkson, is a good thing.

Thing is, I can't say I didn't see it coming. And I can't say I believe it's not a coincidence that a year earlier, Clarkson sold his share in Top Gear for a frankly ludicrous amount of money. It's also heartening that apparently Hammond and May are refusing to go on without him. I have a sneaking suspicion that within a year or so, at least by the time that Hammond and May's contracts are up, we'll see them socking their own producers and taking off to join Clarkson on some Top Gear-esque production of their own.

This will not be the last time Clarkson's face terrifies us.
In fact, I'm calling it now: some sort of online-only digital streaming network, in the style of Top Gear, with Clarkson, Hammond, and May, putting out regular content, on-demand, for maybe $5 a month or so, with access to behind the scenes footage, specials, and probably 10-12 full episodes per year. With a model like that, the boys are likely to rake in much more than they'd be making on the BBC and have much more creative control over the end product.

In the short-term, it's heart-breaking to lose Clarkson, but I can only see this is a good thing, as it gives us an opportunity to let Top Gear grow beyond the constrains of the BBC. It's one of the biggest shows in the world, and it's not the BBC that made it that.

Top Gear can survive without the BBC. But it can't survive without Clarkson, Hammond, and May.  

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