It’s the most successful magazine programme the BBC has produced, making millions for BBC Worldwide, it’s commercial arm.
So when the BBC announced that Top Gear’s lead presenter Jeremy Clarkson had been suspended and forthcoming programmes wiped from the schedule, it became the most talked about subject in both traditional media and social networks.
Clarkson, it has to be said, is no stranger to controversy. Usually, he manages to upset a right-on left winger who knits their own lentils by talking about an amusing stereotype as the rest of us would do with our friends. No one is spared: not his friends, certainly not politicians and he has even managed to upset entire countries.
Other times, it’s been accusations of racism,most notably when he mumbled a traditional children’s verse which contained the word ‘nigger’ and collectively sent the BBC and the Guardian offices into fits of palpitations.
But Clarkson and the team have a huge following precisely because they are not politically correct: it’s the only programme on the BBC which isn’t biased towards the left and which challenges, ney openly goes against the green mantra that all cars are bad and climate change can be prevented by everyone driving a Pruis and going caravanning to avoid long haul flights.
And that it is essentially a factual programme which attracts the likes of Cameron Diaz and Simon Cowell as well as Formula 1 drivers to take a spin in the ‘reasonably priced car’ must stick in the craw of the diversity and environmental awareness managers.
So in celebration of someone inside the BBC challenging their own guidelines, here’s a countdown of our top ten Clarkson moments:
10) The ‘sensible Fiesta’ test
Never let it be said that JC and the Top Gear team don’t listen to audience feedback. When one viewer wrote in to complain about the number of ‘sensible cars’ the programme road tested, the team decided to take a Ford Fiesta out for a spin before subjecting it to the traditional car tests of being chased through a shopping centre, landing on a beach surrounded by helicopters.
9) The DB9 vs Eurostar
Clarkson takes on Hammond and May in a race to Monte Carlo: him in an Aston Martin DB9, them on public transport. Audiences are left cheering as Clarkson and the car win the race while the state funded eurostar and impressive French railway network come in last. Cars 1, Public Transport 0.
8) The Race To Olso
Because travelling across one country wasn’t enough, the next challenge which must have caused Caroline Lucas to reach for her ethically resourced pen and paper to complain was the race to Oslo. This time, Clarkson , driving a McLaren Mercedes SLR races James and Richard who make the 1,320 mile journey by plane, boat and bus. Car 2, public transport 0.
7) The Botswana Special.
The team mock the ‘Chelsea Tractors’ used for driving up and down leafy lanes and delivering children to school by taking three cars, bought for not more than £1500 which had to be two wheel drive and not designed for off road use and travel 1000 miles, starting from the Botswana – Zimbabwe border. James accidentally drove towards Zimbabwe, somewhere the BBC is not especially welcome and Clarkson and Hammond were hid a cowbell as well as several cuts of meat (including a cow’s head) inside May’s car, to attract wildlife.
6) The Reliant Space Shuttle
Despite being a joke since its conception, Top Gear see if the Reliant Robin has the makings of a space ship. “It’s light, it’s cheap and it tapers to a point” A successful launch unfortunately does not lead to a successful landing, although the Robin did return to earth in true Top Gear style: in a fireball. As Hammond said “He could almost hear Jeremy’s smugness”.
5) The Amphibious cars
Clarkson and friends decide to build amphibious cars in a feature which mainly demonstrates that boats are better on water than cars are. Clarkson’s ‘Toybota’, Hammonds ‘Dampervan’ and James’s ‘Mayflower’ result in an impromptu swim in a lake.
4) India Special
The team decide to help David Cameron build trade relations with India as well as promoting the UK amongst the Indian people as well as highlighting how good cars are. A diplomatic party goes wrong when all the fireworks go off at once and no one can get away because Hammond has thrown the car keys in a bucket and Clarkson himself adapts his vehicle to feature a loo, claiming it would be “perfect” for tourists because “everyone who visits the country suffers from diarrhoea. The Indian High Commission complained.
3) Polar Explorers. In Cars.
While Richard Hammond tries to reach the North Pole using the traditional means of a sledge being pulled by dogs, Jeremy and James decide to drive. Gin and Tonic in hand, (they are technically sailing, not driving) with wine served with their evening meals. The complaints flooded in, with the BBC saying it could “glamourise the misuse of alcohol” and a spokesman from Greenpeace condemning the feature as “highlighly irresponsible.” “Perhaps Clarkson and his cronies felt that climate change wasn’t destroying the Arctic quick enough, so they decided to do this”, that “Top Gear doesn’t take seriously any of the issues facing us on transport” and that “Clarkson is a problem because he has represented some climate-sceptic views”
2) Communist Cars
The Top Gear team seek to discover if communism has ever produced a decent car. And where better to test their specimines than at the Greenham Common Airbase, home in the 1980s to US nuclear missiles and, in the words of Mr Clarkson, “several hundred lesbians”.
1) Peel P50.
But the best has to be when Clarkson took the smallest production car ever made into the very heart of the public service broadcaster with his Peel P50. Not only did he drive around the offices, instead of walking, but he took the piss out of his employers by attending a top level internal BBC seminar on ‘How to reduce the carbon footprint of our ethically diverse disability access policy for single parent mothers’ as well as suggesting the car parking spaces in the BBC car park are only big enough for ‘ethnic peace bicycles’.