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Day: March 11, 2015

On being a liberal and not rejoicing at Jeremy Clarkson’s suspension…

Jeremy Clarkson is a sacking away from becoming the most valuable free agent in the history of UK television. Should the BBC bite the bullet and part ways with one of the three presenters of Top Gear then they will have struck a decisive blow for the majority of people that I follow on twitter. The outpouring of sheer delight has been overwhelming. I’m pretty sure the Pupil Premium didn’t get as much praise as Jeremy Clarkson’s suspension and that is because the biggest problem with liberals is that anything they don’t like, they believe that other people should not like as well. It is the most frustrating thing I’ve found with a lot of (predominately young) liberals. They are right. What they like is right. Anything else is wrong.

We don’t know the full story behind Jeremy’s suspension but we do know the BBC are in a very tight spot. They have a presenter who they can sack and move on from pretty easily. The problem is that all the talent that make one of their most popular shows worldwide will in all likelihood go with him.

My timeline is full of suggestions for who the BBC could use to replace Jeremy Clarkson but they have failed to grasp that should he leave, in all likelihood Richard Hammond and James May follow him out of the door. Andy Wilman most certainly would. This means that Top Gear would essentially cease to exist in its current form and I’ll tell you this, so many liberals would rejoice at this because it would mean more money for Doctor Who (well actually it wouldn’t as Top Gear earns the BBC an inordinate amount of money but still, facts…)

We aren’t that used to TV suspensions over here but I’m used to it as I watch a lot of American TV and ESPN dish out suspensions all the time to on screen talent, sometimes with no rhyme or reason. When a journalist (Keith Law) called out a pundit (Curt Schilling) on twitter for saying that creationism should be the only thing taught in school then yes, the journalist got suspended. When a presenter (Tony Kornheiser) mocked what a colleague was wearing on his radio show, then he got suspended.

Every time Bill Simmons makes a run at Roger Goodell (which happens all the time) then he gets suspended. Stephen A. Smith got suspended for his comments on domestic abuse and Keith Olbermann got suspended just a week or so ago for his attack on Penn State students for raising money for cancer research (yes this actually happened – a presenter attacked a school for raising money for cancer research). So on-air talent suspensions is nothing new. People go away for a while and come back. It is no big deal.

When it comes to Top Gear and the BBC though, the BBC have backed themselves into a corner. They desperately don’t want to sack Jeremy Clarkson. They know that his worth to the corporation is probably more than any single other individual they have. Should they get rid of him then they are walking away from the best part of £150million a year in profits. So that is a significant chunk of change. Yet if he was on his ‘final warning’ and he has indeed punched a producer then they have no choice. They have to be seen to do the right thing and watch Clarkson go to a rival network, create a similar show and make a tonne of money whilst they watch their biggest worldwide asset wither.

Zoe Williams in the Guardian has written an interesting piece on the subject. She says herself that she, ‘stayed up late last night trolling Jeremy Clarkson’ in writing the piece, like Jeremy Clarkson really cares about what someone who clearly doesn’t watch the show thinks about him but still. The long and short of it is basically she thinks Top Gear should be focused on car reviews and not light entertainment.

She obviously doesn’t remember why Top Gear disappeared from our screens in the first place or why nobody watches Fifth Gear but her piece is full of factual errors and shows that it is just an attack on someone she doesn’t like because she can. Living the dream. For example she attacks the show for being stuck in the past and not reviewing cars of the future, saying, ‘The coolest car in the world right now is the BMW i8, a part electric, part petrol dreamscape of silent majesty.’ She obviously didn’t watch Jeremy reviewing it and giving it the big thumbs up this season.

This though is typical. People will attack the show because they want it to be something different and they want different presenters because they think their version of Top Gear would be better. The problem with this point of view is that everyone’s tastes are different. I saw a well-known member of the liberal twitterati (basically those liberals who do considering themselves better than everyone else – heck there are lots out there) yesterday on twitter going on about how Sky didn’t understand her because they spent money on football. Well I’d argue that Sky aren’t catering their whole business plan to her (I mean how self-centred would you have to be to think that?) but also has she not noticed that Sky’s whole existence and business model is based around football? I mean it isn’t exactly a secret… Another member of this ilk tweeted about how he’d not seen anyone on his TL do anything but rejoice at Clarkson’s suspension and that it showed the quality of person that he followed. I mean really…

Sometimes people like things that you don’t, instead of changing that thing to suit you, maybe you should look elsewhere to find something that you like. I don’t like many TV shows but I don’t think, ‘well if they changed this, this and this about a show then I’d like it and if I like it then everyone else should.’ Liking Top Gear is something you whisper in hushed tones around some people. It isn’t clever enough and people who enjoy it are simply not smart enough to know any better. If they ran Top Gear it would be more informative and it will appeal to those people, the problem is the ratings would plummet and no-one would buy it overseas. It is a similar scenario to those people thinking The Sun should base its business model around those people who don’t (and would never) buy The Sun. Yeah, like that makes any sense…

I hope Jeremy Clarkson survives because I enjoy Top Gear. If he goes though he probably can’t complain should the rumours be correct. The thing is though he will be fine, he’ll get whatever he wants from ITV or Sky and all the Top Gear talent would follow him. He won’t disappear from our screens so victory would be hollow for those rejoicing in his demise. This isn’t Ron Atkinson folks, he won’t become persona non grata in the broadcast industry, the truth is it would be quite the opposite, he would be the biggest free agent to ever hit the marketplace and broadcasters would be crushing into other broadcasters’ lorries full of cash ready to back up and dump it on his front lawn. Jeremy Clarkson may survive at Top Gear, he may not but whatever happens he’ll certainly survive on TV and if he goes to a commercial station then he’ll arguably be a lot better off.

Top Gear isn’t popular because its about cars, its popular because of the three presenters and the back stage team who put together a show that has morphed into something far bigger than anyone could have predicted a decade or so ago. Still if he goes the outpouring of joy will be quite something and it’ll be chalked up as one for the good guys whereas in reality he’ll be relatively unscarred no matter how it plays out.

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