In private, the BBC bosses must be kicking themselves for sacking Jeremy Clarkson, because it is now quite clear that they shot not one golden goose, but the entire flock.
At the time of Clarkson’s dismissal they no doubt felt fully justified because he had assaulted a colleague. No-one condones aggressive or violent behaviour, but you only have to watch a premiership match to see how ‘sportsmen’ treat each other on a weekly basis and no-one ever seems to get fired. Well, Clarkson got his marching orders and off he went to Amazon Prime.
Desperate to keep the lucrative Top Gear bandwagon on the road the BBC offered Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc the chance to pick up where Clarkson, Hammond and May had left off. The transition was anything but smooth. Within days of filming the show was in trouble; not only were there rumours that Evans couldn’t drive and present at the same time, there were also reports of friction between the presenters. Following an ill-conceived stunt around the Cenotaph, Evans was forced to offer a formal apology.
Then. the show launched and we all waited in anticipation to see if the BBC executives were right with their view that no-one person should be bigger than a show. I am sure that Clarkson, Hammond and May were beside themselves as the opening sequences rolled and the familiar soundtrack played. What had they done with ‘their’ show?
The new series might have been called Top Gear, but from the get-go, as the Americans say, the show lacked that sparkle and that je ne sais quoi that Clarkson and his gang brought to the show each and every week. The first show opened with a very nervous Evans in what was clearly the Top Gear hangar, but it had the same feeling that you get when the sales have finished and the shelves are bare. The best analogy for me is that the Evans-led Top Gear was like a cup of weak, instant coffee, which could not compare to Clarkson’s rich, full-bodied double espresso.
The show’s ratings started at 4.4m (about 1m fewer than when C, H and M were at the helm) and they dropped every wekk to a nadir of 1.9m on the day of the last show.
Chris Evans resigned from the show, via Twitter, a few days later and the future of the show hangs in the balance.
The saying has it that you only miss something when it’s gone; well, for all their faults, pratfalls and often relentlessly childish behaviour, we miss Clarkson, Hammond and May.
Now, where do I sign up to Amazon Prime…?