Jeremy Clarkson couldn’t resist a jibe at his old employer, the BBC, as he announced plans to reunite with his former Top Gear presenting colleagues and create a new car show for the internet giant Amazon.
“I feel like I’ve climbed out of a biplane and into a space ship,” said Clarkson, in a pointed reference to the BBC, which fired him earlier this year following a fracas with a member of the Top Gear staff. Clarkson, along with James May and Richard Hammond, chose to align themselves with the retail and entertainment behemoth despite competition for their signatures from Netflix and ITV.
The Amazon deal was negotiated by Andy Wilman, for years the executive producer of Top Gear, and the hidden power behind the most watched car show in the world. Wilman, like May and Hamond, parted company with the BBC in the wake of Clarkson’s severance in March.
Things you never knew about Top Gear
Things you never knew about Top Gear
1/14 Top Gear isn't really for adults
It's 'aimed at people with a mental age of nine', according to executive producer Andy Wilman.
2/14 Planet Earth loves it...
Top Gear is screened in more than 100 countries worldwide and has millions of fans.
3/14 ...but not all motoring hacks do
You might think Jezza was a hero of the motoring hack world but that's not strictly accurate. Telegraph journalist Neil Lyndon summed Top Gear's 21st birthday last year up well: 'Does that mean Billy Bunter and his gang finally get forced out of the Fourth Remove and into long trousers?'
4/14 The Top Gear theme tune is a classic rock song
Seven-minute instrumental 'Jessica' by The Allman Brothers was a hit in 1973. Top Gear has recorded its own version now but used part of the original recording at first. One for the road trip playlist.
5/14 Jeremy Clarkson couldn't get much more controversial if he tried
The presenter is currently suspended from the BBC following a 'fracas' with a producer over a steak dinner. Past scandals include a string of racism allegations.
6/14 This Porsche caused all sorts of trouble in Argentina
The Top Gear team were forced to flee Argentina after locals took offence at the car's number plate - believing it was a deliberately provocative reference to the Falklands War of 1982.
7/14 If it's car-buying advice you want, look elsewhere
It's an in-joke in Top Gear that they don't do car tests. You would be mad to make a purchases based on Jezza's verdict.
8/14 Richard Hammond had a near-death experience filming Top Gear
The 'Hamster' was filming a Top Gear segment in a dragster called Vampire when its front-right tyre burst at 288mph. Hammond spent two weeks in a coma but luckily went on to make a full recovery. He requested that no mention of the crash was made in future Top Gear episodes.
9/14 Jeremy Clarkson is more than a little bit taller than Richard Hammond
Nine inches, to be precise.
10/14 Top Gear used to offer real advice
Before these lads took over, it was a real car-reviewing show with presenters such as Angela Rippon, who gave practical reviews of down-to-earth workhorses such as Cavaliers or Mini Metros.
11/14 Those 'reasonably priced' cars take quite a battering
Denis Chick, of Vauxhall, is brave to have lent the show a fleet of his Astras. He said: "Vauxhall Astra sales would not improve if everyone drove like Jimmy Carr around the Dunsfold track." The comedian hilariously took his test car's front off-side tyre clean off its rim.
12/14 Jeremy Clarkson is a YouTube star
Stray down the motoring internet hole and you'll find lovingly posted videos of 'Clarkson the early years' with incredibly loud hair reviewing 1990s cars in an oddly sensible manner. Very disturbing viewing.
13/14 There have been multiple Stigs
Racing driver Perry McCarthy was stuntsman The Stig on the first two series of Top Gear - here's the man under that famous helmet.
14/14 Ben Collins was The Stig for eight years
Ben Collins was The Stig on Top Gear for eight years. He left amid a clash with the BBC when he unmasked his identity and published an autobiography. Collins thinks Top Gear has 'lost some of its sparkle'.
The as yet untitled show is a major coup for Amazon and represents a marketing prize which will be offered exclusively to its Prime customers, who pay a subscription for an enhanced service. From 2016, the former Top Gear trio will join a roster of television talent on Amazon’s Prime Video line-up, where producer Ridley Scott and actor Gael Garcia Bernal are among those already plying their trade. Earlier this year Amazon won its first Golden Globe for the show Transparent, featuring a father-of-three who identifies as a woman. The show’s writer, Jill Soloway has spoken of being “blown away” by the creative freedom given to her by the Internet giant.
It is not clear whether the new Clarkson will be made available to viewers week by week – similar to Amazon’s British drama Ripper Street - or in a cache of shows which can be watched back-to-back, as was the case with Transparent.
The BBC Radio 2 breakfast host Chris Evans has been chosen as the new lead presenter of Top Gear and has begun work on the next series.
Although the Amazon online show will not compete with Top Gear in scheduling terms, insiders have spoken of the great ambition of Wilman and his team. Coupled with the considerable financial backing of Jeff Bezos’s company, which is set to generate $100 billion in revenues this year, the project puts great pressure on the BBC and Evans, who has already described the role as “the most challenging thing I have ever done in my career”. The BBC is likely to respond with the announcement of Evans’s co-presenters, with model Jodie Kidd and Formula 1 driver Jenson Button among the favourites to take the jobs.
With the previous incarnation of Top Gear having generated £150m-a-year in global sales, the financially-pressured BBC will be anxious to maintain that income by continuing to offer the world’s premium motoring show. The question is whether the personalities of the presenters are more valuable than the name and format of the programme.
“Customers told us they wanted to see the team back on screen, and we are excited to make that happen,” said Jay Marine, Vice President of Amazon Prime Video EU.
To critics who were pleased to see the back of Clarkson, Top Gear’s tone was xenophobic and past its sell by date. But James May suggested that the old presenting trio had had the last laugh. “We have become part of the new age of smart TV. Ironic, isn't it?” he said.
Jeremy Clarkson and his unique brand of television presentation represent the latest in a whirlwind of inducements to fork out for a subscription to Amazon’s Prime service.
Only 24 hours earlier it has been the UK version of the Prime Music service, offering free streaming and downloads of 1m songs by artists ranging from Madonna to Mark Ronson. Now it’s the new show by Clarkson, Hammond and May.
Not content with domination of entire swathes of the retail sector, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wants more Amazon users to pay £79-a-year for a shopping experience that includes options for delivery on Sundays and, for those in London, in the space of one hour. Bezos has described Prime, which launched in the UK eight years ago and has several million customers in this country, as “the best deal in the history of shopping”.
Prime now extends way beyond the rapid transport of a cardboard parcel. The elite service is almost continually adding new perks. Its Kindle Owners Lending Library made 800,000 book titles available for free loan to those owning an Amazon digital reader – provided they were Prime customers.
Then came Prime Instant Video, offering unlimited streaming of 15,000 film and TV titles. The success of shows such as Transparent, now nominated for 11 Emmys, and Bosch, created by American crime fiction writer Michael Connelly, has helped create a new platform for television and made Amazon a great rival to Netflix in the growth of online video entertainment.
At the end of last year Amazon introduced another inducement, Prime Photos, offering unlimited storage in the cloud. Its Prime Music service has been running for a year in America and has already overhauled established streaming services including Deezer, Rhapsody and Google Play. It represents a threat to the newly-launched Apple Music. The UK service is bespoke to the local market and is expected to make similar inroads.
Amazon’s rare posting of a quarterly profit earlier this month sent its share price soaring and the company is now being described as bigger than Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest bricks and mortar retailer.
For many independent book shops, small record stores and other retail and entertainment enterprises, the irresistible tornado that is the rise of Prime has left a terrible trail of destruction. But for Jeremy Clarkson and his chums, Bezos and his billions offer an open road, away from the strictures of the BBC.Reuse content