Thursday, March 26, 2015

Top Gear is Dead

A while back, Jeremy Clarkson was on some program, talking about the general failure of the US-based version of Top Gear. His summation on the failure: Americans simply “didn’t get” the show.

Oh, we get it. We get it just fine.

What Clarkson doesn’t get is that what we get is them – himself, James May, and Richard Hammond. It’s the trio that makes the show work. We didn’t need a US version of the show. We already have a show we love.

After the famous “fracas” with a Top Gear producer over the absence of hot food after a filming, the BBC has decided not to renew Clarkson’s contract.

That in of itself won’t kill the show. But Clarkson, flawed and bombastic as he is, is a big part of the show. May and Hammond could choose to continue the show. The BBC could bring in a third host. But my guess is without Clarkson, May and Hammond won’t stick around. Thus Top Gear is dead. James May seems to have said as much here.

It’s like what makes the Sherlock Holmes stories, the Jeeves and Wooster stories work. It’s not the stories themselves. The stories are rather ordinary. What we like about the stories are the characters. Holmes’ keen observation. Watson’s wingmannishness. And the gormlessness of Bertie Wooster counteracted by the intelligence of the man Jeeves.

The charm of May, Hammond, and Clarkson working together is what makes Top Gear great. Otherwise, it’s a rather boring car show. And with due respect to US hosts Tanner Foust, Adam Ferrara and Rutledge Wood, well, you’re no Clarkson, May, and Hammond.

I tired watching the US version. I really did. But I quickly realized that while there was plenty to “get” about the version, there was no need for it. We have Top Gear, the original version, to watch. Why watch a substitute?

I can’t give Clarkson a pass on his penchant for being a bully. That’s part of his character, an ugly part that sometimes he controls rather well. There’s no reason, however, to lay into a producer over something as petty as the absence of hot food. There’s no reason to lay into anyone about anything. You talk it out. You don’t yell it out or punch it out.

But the pendulum has a tendency to swing wide both ways.

I like what James May had to say: “I’m sorry that what ought to have been a small incident sorted out easily has turned into something big.”

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