Why Guardian Readers are Praying Top Gear Will Bomb on Amazon Prime

BBC automobile program Top Gear presenters James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond pose outside 10 Downing Street in London
REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

The Guardian‘s readership have been giving their views on whether they’d pay £79 a year – $99 in the US – for a subscription which gave them exclusive access to Amazon Prime Instant Video’s new £160 million recruits – former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

Can you guess how the Guardianistas feel about all this?

Yes. That’s right. Here are a few sample comments.

As long as I am no longer paying to not watch them I am happy!

I wouldn’t watch them if you paid ME.

I’ve watched a few episodes and I can honestly say such patronising, racially and culturally offensive, technologically ill-informed and uniformative light entertainment has made me reassess my opinion of Benny Hill. He was a genius; Richard and Jeremy aren’t, and James May is one of the nastiest bigots I’ve ever seen on TV…

Arguably, Hammond is mentally around 14, in awe of being able to hang around with older boys and Clarkson is living out his days in the body and mind of 120-year-old Colonel.

Clarkson likes to boast about being the biggest car show in the world, well he can’t anymore can he? How many people actually have amazon prime? 11, 12? Good luck coping with nobody paying any attention whatsoever guys!

Can you add a tickable box that says “I’d rather stick hot pins in my eyes”? Ta.

That’ll be a no then. (Well sort of: a quite surprising 47 per cent of those polled admitted – no doubt through gritted teeth – that actually the old Top Gear team would be worth the money).

Which is, of course, one of many things that is so thoroughly, deliciously gratifying about this remarkable surprise deal that Clarkson’s producer (and schoolmate: they were at Repton together) Andy Wilman has managed to pull off.

It is a defiant two fingers to all those progressives who would like to think there is no place in broadcasting for overgrown public schoolboys who rejoice in the size of their enormous, throbbing carbon footprints, see nothing wrong in describing a dodgy-looking motor as being “pikey” and who regularly get themselves into hot water with their disgracefully xenophobic views on the silliness of foreigners.

I was looking just now on the internet for a handy guide to Top Gear’s most notorious gaffes. Needless to say, it was the Guardian that obliged:

‘Special needs’ jibe (October 2010)

On the Ferrari F430 Speciale: “it was a bit wrong … that smiling front end … it looked like a simpleton … [it] should have been called the 430 Speciale Needs”.

Mexico insults (February 2011)

Richard Hammond joked that Mexican cars reflected national characteristics, saying they were “just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat”. May described Mexican food as “like sick with cheese on it”. Clarkson predicted they would not get any complaints because “at the Mexican embassy, the ambassador is going to be sitting there with a remote control like this [snores]. They won’t complain, it’s fine.” The BBC was forced to apologise to the Mexican ambassador but also defended the show’s presenters, saying national stereotyping was part of British humour.

George Michael jibe (July 2011)

In a review of a Jaguar XKR-S: “It’s very fast and very, very loud. And then in the corners it will get its tail out more readily than George Michael.” In response, the singer branded Clarkson “homophobic” and “pig ugly”.

Indian incident (January 2012)

While driving a Jaguar around an Indian slum with a toilet fitted in the boot: “This is perfect for India because everyone who comes here gets the trots.” He also made jokes about Indian clothes, trains and even the country’s history.

Thai ‘slope’ controversy (March 2014)

As a man walked towards himself and Richard Hammond on a Thai bridge, Clarkson said “That is a proud moment – but there’s a slope on it.” Hammond replied: “You’re right, it’s definitely higher on that side.” Media watchdog Ofcom found that Clarkson had deliberately used an “offensive racial term” that caused offence and breached broadcasting rules.

Of course, these Guardian types want the classic Top Gear team to fail on Amazon Prime. If they succeed (though you could argue that they already have: even if the three series bomb, the presenters’ share of that £160 million is sure to put paid to any retirement worries they might have), it will be about as close an approximation to Guardianista hell as were Rupert Murdoch to head to the Arctic Circle on a leaking oil tanker and wipe out the entire polar bear population with non-organically sourced phosphorus shells made by starving slave children on the sinking island of Tuvalu.

That’s because till now, the deal has been this: if you want to make it in British broadcasting you can only do so on terms set by the achingly right-on metropolitan liberal types who work at Britain’s quasi-monopolistic broadcast provider – the BBC, who were recruited in the pages of the Guardian, and who have next to zero tolerance for anything in the way of opinion or tone which doesn’t conform with their bien-pensant world view.

This all goes back to the Nanny-knows-best traditions of Lord Reith and the ruling elite’s decision in the early stages of TV and radio that something as liberating as broadcasting was far too dangerous to be left in the hands of the free market.
The problem with this antiquated, producer-led model is that Nanny (or ‘Auntie’ as the BBC infatuatedly calls itself, though nobody else ever does) doesn’t always know best.

A classic example of this are the BBC’s current flailings as it tries to recreate Top Gear sans Clarkson, Hammond and May.

So far it has recruited Chris Evans and, reportedly, ex F1 driver Jenson Button. It has also been bending over backwards to try to find a woman to join its presenters team, with contenders including ex-model Jodie Kidd and BBC F1 correspondent Suzi Perry.

Perhaps it will work but this just the sort of politically correct box-ticking Clarkson himself lamented when in 2009 he complained to Top Gear magazine:

“The problem is that television executives have got it into their heads that if one presenter on a show is a blond-haired, blue-eyed heterosexual boy the other must be a black Muslim lesbian. Chalk and cheese they reckon, works. But here we have Top Gear setting new records after six years using cheese and cheese. It confuses them.”

And also – again typically of the BBC – it completely misunderstands what it was that made Top Gear such a hit with audiences. No more was it a car show than Sweeney Todd is a hairdressing show or I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here is a jungle survival show, which is why paying gazillions to Chris Evans to front it just because he has a collection of Ferraris is such a spectacular waste of the licence fee.

Classic Top Gear was popular, above all, because of its flagrant and repeated refusal to play by all the politically correct rules which have now ripened to peak lunacy in this era of the Social Justice Warrior.

If the new version fails on Amazon Prime then so will the causes of liberty, puerility, white male privilege, tasteless racial jokes, anti-environmentalism and free consumer choice. No wonder Guardian readers are praying so fervently for it to bomb.



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