The BBC has finally done it. The Director General of the BBC has announced that the contract of Jeremy Clarkson, allegedly the highest paid ‘star’ of the BBC (a middle aged man with a beer-gut and—let’s face it—without much of a face, will not neatly fit into your idea of a ‘star’, if your idea of a ‘star’ is someone with stunning good looks), will not be renewed after it expires at the end of this month. In other words ‘beebs’ has sacked Clarkson.
Clarkson was suspended following a fracas in a hotel in Yorkshire. This involved Clarkson (allegedly) subjecting a man (one Oisin Tymon)—allegedly the producer of a show, allegedly about cars, which Clarkson allegedly fronts along with two other blokes (one of whom bears a striking resemblance to a chipmunk while the other looks like a reluctant receiver of Care in the Community who has missed his appointments with the care-workers for a month, and urgently in need of a bath and a hefty dose of Thorazin)—to physical attack which lasted allegedly for 30 seconds, and which was allegedly brought to an end by the alleged intervention of a nearby man. After the alleged attack the said producer allegedly took himself to an institution which was allegedly a hospital, where he was allegedly treated for a cut and swollen lip. The alleged physical attack was allegedly preceded by sustained verbal abuse by Clarkson, which allegedly lasted much longer, during which Clarkson allegedly called the producer a lazy Irish C**t. Clarkson allegedly also threatened to have the alleged producer sacked. (That’s irony for you.) The reason for Clarkson’s ire? After a day-long shooting Clarkson wanted steak and chips, and got, instead, a cold platter. Naturally, the only reasonable course of action available to Clarkson was to use gutter language, threaten the producer, and sock him in the jaw. Would this have got Clarkson what he desired? He must have thought so. Clarkson is an intelligent man. He is also a reasonable man. (If you don’t believe me, ask Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, who declared that his, Boris’s, natural instinct, whenever he heard that Clarkson has been involved in (yet another) fracas, was to side with Clarkson. Why? Because Clarkson, in his political views, is so good at getting under the skin of the lefties—like a maggot boring its way through a long forgotten potato— that he has won life-long admiration and support of the fat Tory.)
The show (Top Gear) allegedly has a massive fan following, and Clarkson, allegedly, is its main attraction (doesn’t say much, does it, for the other two blokes—the chipmunk and the other bloke who, I am sure, has nicotine-stained fingers and a passion for fried sausages). He obviously brings the much desired star quality to the programme about cars which, from what little I have seen of the show (and it’s very little), are beyond the means of the likes of me. The show is viewed by more than 350 million viewers across the world and brings the BBC in excess of £ 50 million revenue every year.
Clarkson is allegedly the highest paid employee of the BBC (let’s do away with the controversial ‘star’). He is also allegedly a racist, a homophobe, a mocker of disabled people, a hater of other European nations, and a baiter of Pierce Morgan. Clarkson once described Gordon Brown, the former British prime-minister, as a ‘one-eyed Scottish idiot’. (Clarkson was indubitably right on two counts: Brown, regrettably, has only one functioning eye, and even he would be hard pressed to deny that he is not Scottish. Is Brown an idiot? I don’t think so. You don’t get to become the country’s prime-minister if you are, in the current-day parlance, a learning-disabled person. When Clarkson described Brown as an idiot, he was probably giving vent to his strong feelings about the financial policies of the Scot which (and I guess Clarkson was not alone in thinking this) brought the financial ruin of the country.)
Clarkson did seem to rather revel in his bad boy image and antics in the past few years. He has managed to insult quite a few nations including Mexico (he described the Mexicans as lazy and quite a few other things) and the Argentines (I think Clarkson and his crew were chased by irate crowd when they were shooting in Argentina because of some confusion over the number-plate of the car they were using). Last year, in one of the programmes, he deliberately used a derogatory word to describe Asians. He was seen to be using the N word to describe black people in a video clip of another programme, which was edited from the broadcast, but which was leaked. If you read Clarkson’s columns, brimming with spiteful, vinegar-doused (and, I hate to say this, witty) prose, you will be left in no doubts that he is not a fan of the Americans, Russians, French, Germans and Indians. He caused a furore a couple of years ago by declaring that he would have the public sector workers, striking for higher pay, shot, or something to that effect. (If some of my acquaintances working in public sector in Britain are anything to go by, these guys are not exactly breaking their backs by overwork, and they all seem to have yearly incomes above the average per annum income in Britain, and their sense of entitlement is breathtaking. However, when someone who collects a pay-cheque in excess of £ 3 millions from BBC, which is partly funded by tax-payer’s money, dares to question public sector employees, none of whom—thank God!—earns anywhere near him, using language that is (calculatingly) provocative, it is going to send the tree-huggers into frenzy.)
I don’t think I have brought myself to watch even a single programme of Top Gear from beginning to the end. This is not because I have a low view of the programme (it is impossible to form a view on a programme you have not watched) or because I have chosen not to watch any programme which has Clarkson in it on matters of principle (because I don’t have any), but because I am just not into cars. And spending an hour in front of the box, watching three blokes exchanging jokey banter (all of which allegedly scripted by Clarkson himself) in a studio, surrounded by a gaggle of people, and talking about various cars with enthusiasm that calls for a gagging order is not my idea of entertainment.
I am more acquainted with Clarkson the writer, having read a few of the collections of his newspaper columns. In these columns Clarkson gives the world the benefits of his wisdom about anything that happens to be annoying him at the time of writing, which, judging by the astonishing array of subjects he fulminates about, is pretty much everything that has a whiff of political correctness about it. Clarkson’s columns have the intellectual level of two drunks ranting about things over pints of lager, in some hole in the wall, in a seedy part of the town, which specialises in grim décor, damaged looking bar-maids the size of the cab of a long-distance truck, food which inevitably leads to bypass, and clientele that looks like they are on a day-release from the nearby high security asylum. Clarkson, let’s admit, is not what you’d call a deep thinker. But he does know how to turn an interesting phrase, and makes abundant use of hyperbole and sarcasm. And such is the deplorable level of newspaper columns in the country that that is enough to make Clarkson one of the most popular columnists in the country. If you are one of those who passionately hold sanctimonious views about political correctness then Clarkson is definitely not for you. If you want just to have a bit of a laugh then he is your ticket, in small doses. You’d also be well advised to take a break after reading a collection of his newspaper columns. His manic-depressive humour does tend to get a tad repetitive after a while.
Coming back to the sacking business (although, strictly speaking, Clarkson is not sacked; his contract will not be renewed once it finishes) what I find interesting is that the BBC did not sack Clarkson when he was going around being oafish and crude and was saying derogatory, racist things; and were content to issue him with final warnings. However, when he socked the producer of the show—who probably is not good enough of anything other than arranging decent meals; and, evidently, not good even at that—in the jaw, he was deemed to have crossed the line, and the Director General was left with no choice but to sack him.
There are many self-righteous prats who are rubbing their hands in glee, and, in the time-honoured British tradition of kicking a man in the goolies when he is down, pouring vitriol (read Independent & Guardian) on Clarkson (who, lest you forget, deserves no sympathy). The producer of the show has issued a statement reminiscing about the good times he spent with Clarkson and their creative output (where is my barf-bag?), as if he had anything to do with the creativity of the show.
So what next for Clarkson? I don’t know, but I suspect he will be back. They all do. And Clarkson, whatever you might say about him, has one thing that many of us don’t have. Wit. It’s a commodity in short supply these days. Clarkson is imperious, shallow, vain, smug, uncouth (this is a partial list), rude, spiteful, insightless; but not a bore. He will live.