As you might have noticed, I am a massive fan of Top Gear. Did the website give it away? But sadly, I strongly believe Top Gear in its current format simply cannot and will not survive without Jeremy Clarkson.
His chemistry on-screen with Richard Hammond and James May was the very glue which held the show together in the early years, and then solidified it as time passed and made Top Gear so utterly fantastic to watch. To replace Clarkson with a new presenter and attempt to soldier on would be a catastrophic mistake.
Hammond and May already know this, I’m sure, and I expect we’ll see their contractual obligations with Top Gear lapse at the end of the month too. They’ll likely continue to be involved with the BBC and work on their own shows separately, but I’d say their Top Gear days are most definitely over. Expect to hear more about that soon.
What’s happening right now?
Well, the studio is currently being packed up. Don’t cry yet, this is not an unusual thing – in fact it happens at the end of every other Top Gear series. The hanger is rented and it makes no sense to continue renting it for the rest of the year if you aren’t going to use it. What makes this pack up different though is the fact that it’ll probably be the last time we’ll ever see the studio looking this way. It may also be the last time Top Gear uses Dunsfold Park as its base, for reasons I’ll mention further down the page.
The battered and bruised Toyota Hilux, James Majorca rally car, Top Gear’s convertible people carrier… these are just a few of the items that will probably never see the light of day ever again. The stage might be retained for a potential 2016 series, but those dark green leather chairs bring back far too many memories…
So, what will happen next?
Well, for Top Gear to survive from here on out, I believe the show will need to be stripped right back to its roots, and return as a (slightly) more serious car show. No more “Ambitious But Rubbish” mantra, staged accidents or clichéd characters, like May as Captain Slow, or Hammond as the Secret American with expensive teeth. Or Jeremy “POWERRRR!” Clarkson.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting it should revert back to being a run-of-the-mill motoring show where men with moustaches stand around discussing fuel consumption or boot space. Top Gear will need three new presenters who can bounce off each other and be genuinely entertaining in their own right; without trying to replicate all the silly stuff we’re used to. They’d need time to gel together and work on making Top Gear their own creation. I might even suggest that the show would also need some new blood in the production team, to help take it in a new (and hopefully entertaining) direction.
And Clarkson? I know he’s getting on a bit, but we definitely haven’t seen the last of him. I predict he’ll be back on our screens by next year, with new hips and a new project. I think he’ll either launch a new motoring show on a rival network (Changing Gear on ITV, perhaps?) which may or may not involve Hammond and May. Or he might go in the opposite direction completely and pursue that Countryfile style show he has been threatening to do. Either way, I’m sure it’ll be thoroughly entertaining.
You can be assured that whatever he does, I’ll be watching. Will you?