‘Top Gear’: What Do You Do With a Problem Like Jeremy Clarkson?

‘Top Gear’: What Do You Do With a Problem Like Jeremy Clarkson? March 10, 2015


I will admit to being rather entertained at hearing that Jeremy Clarkson, longtime host of BBC 2’s venerable “Top Gear”  (which airs here on Monday nights on BBC America) punched Piers Morgan in 2004. He stood in as proxy for all the times I’d love to have popped Morgan in the nose during his CNN tenure (although I quite liked him during “America’s Got Talent” and stopped watching when he left).

Here’s Clarkson’s explanation:

Truth be told, I’ve never punched anyone — and I’m not likely to, unless I’m attacked — and thankfully no one’s ever punched me. I like a good boxing match, and I like my football to be played fast and hard, but the couple of times I’ve witnessed fisticuffs taking place in front of me (and yes, I know how lucky I am that it’s only a couple of times), it was terrifying.

Unless you’re in the ring or on the field — and you’re following the rules — physical fighting, other than in defense of your own or another’s safety, is an ugly thing and best avoided.

In the video, Clarkson said he’d gotten to the age of 43 before ever hitting someone, but he may not be able to say it was the only time.

The BBC just suspended Clarkson from his wildly popular aut0-centric show, and the remaining three episodes of the season have been pulled while the investigation is ongoing.

Said the Radio Times:

A statement from the BBC said: “Following a fracas with a BBC producer, Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending an investigation. No one else has been suspended. Top Gear will not be broadcast this Sunday. The BBC will be making no further comment at this time.”

The BBC would not confirm whether the producer it refers to is executive producer Andy Wilman, Clarkson’s long-term colleague on the show or whether the incident occurred during the filming of the studio inserts on the show which was due to air on Sunday March 15th at 8pm.

It’s been a rough few months for Clarkson, after a “Top Gear” road trip to Argentina went rapidly downhill when protesters took umbrage because they saw the license plate on Clarkson’s car as a veiled reference to the 1982 Falklands War between Argentinia and the U.K. It’s still a very sore point for a lot of Argentines, and the “Top Gear” crew wound up being pelted with rocks and expelled from the country.

Clarkson has also been criticized for things he’s said.

Per another Radio Times piece:

He was also put on what he claimed was a final warning from the BBC after a racism row when he was allegedly caught on camera mumbling the n-word while reciting the nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny Moe during filming of the BBC2 programme.

Other controversies include protests from mental health charities after he branded people who throw themselves under trains as “selfish”.

And he was forced to apologise for joking on The One Show that striking workers should be shot.

The current fad for forcing people to apologize for jokes and verbal missteps has gone way too far, and if it continues, we’ll wind up with a load of mealy-mouthed, boring, entirely unoffensive and totally uninteresting people in the media. Or, we’ll have only people who freely and gratuitously insult whatever group is considered fair game at the time (like Catholics, for example) while delicately avoiding bruising the tender feelings of whatever group is currently off-limits.

On the other hand, as satisfying as it might be to sock somebody, there are very few instances where that’s acceptable. And between grown men, there should be a better way of settling a dispute.

I guess I’ll have to add wanting to see Piers Morgan clocked upside the head to the list of things I’m giving up for Lent … or permanently.

As for Clarkson, I don’t want him to stop being himself — because his lack of political correctness is one of his charms — but if he did indeed hit somebody who wasn’t a danger to himself or anybody else, I’d have to ask him to refrain from that in the future and manfully accept whatever discipline is meted out.

One does wonder though, why the BBC is so hard on Clarkson’s misadventures while also cracking down on those who exposed the massive and longstanding pedophilia scandal involving BBC presenter Jimmy Savile and many others.

As Lent serves to remind us, we are all sinners in need of grace and repentance.

Image: “Top Gear” hosts James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson, Wikimedia Commons

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