A bloke, but not as we know him

PETER YORK ON ADS NUMBER 254: GRANADA TV
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The Independent Culture
When, exactly, did Jeremy Clarkson become "Clarkson"? Does that make him like "Littlejohn"? Whatever; Clarkson is clearly at critical mass, his combination of bloke and more-than-bloke has hit a nerve. We like his terrible jeans, seriously kneed, his Simon Rattle-style early forties curls. (Will Alan Davies look like him in a few years?)

When thoughts like this are in the ether - I could go on - then people appear in commercials. The mise-en-scene for the Clarkson Granada TV rental commercial is a sleek TV-studio-type non-room, with one of those Castiglioni modern Italian sofas, decorated with two very late 20th-century sexy girls, one white with long dark hair, one black with a silver synthetic wig.

Clarkson, sitting between, is definitely not modern; he's got those jeans, an open shirt and a blazer. While the girls drape and ooze he walks across the set actor-style. He says, the old reprobate, "you know when you fancy something but you're not sure you want to make a commitment". Meanwhile, on screen, the small print says dense legalistic things about the satellite and cable systems you can have which are "subject to", "excluding" and so on. "I'm talking about TV with Granada. You can have anything from an exquisitely proportioned 21-inch Nicam to a drop-dead gorgeous, 32- inch wide-screen." The girls continue to pout, drape and ooze. The black blonde carries a satellite dish like a parasol - "if you fancy a bit of digital it's yours for just two pounds a week". Talking about commitment - not - is all the rage in ads these days.

More dense small print, "subject to" again, "minimum 12 months contract", "pounds 15 administrative advance". "Future-proof TV from pounds 4 a week" is the final hook.

The thing is that Clarkson appears to be a real man, of a type at least 20 years out of date. He's such a survivor as to be disarming. A very wide range of people can identify with the kind of person whose own car, so they imagine, is even more squalid than theirs. I suspect that on closer examination Clarkson is posher than his bluff bigness suggests. Next thing you know he'll be moving out from those Twickenham curry houses you see as his natural home and dining up in Big London.

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