I like Top Gear. There, I’ve said it.
And as of today I might have to say I liked Top Gear, because Jeremy Clarkson has been informed that his contract, which expires this month, won't be renewed. Even though the show is set to continue - albeit not until 2016 - without Clarkson it surely won't be the same.
Now, I expect the comments section below to fill with derision from car enthusiasts on two fronts. Firstly, plenty of people will say that if you hit someone at work, you deserve to get sacked. And, secondly, they will say that they stopped watching Top Gear long ago, because they can’t stand watching a) a show about cars that has become an entertainment show that happens to feature cars, b) a once great show that has run out of imagination and c) a show whose host(s) appear to have become so rich that they expect to live in a very different reality to the people that have made them so rich.
Perhaps there is an element of truth in each of those statements. It's true, you can't go around hitting people and expect to get away with it, although I'd question what good comes of this outcome in the cold light of day. And, Lord knows, when yet another Stig-shaped bubble bath fills my Christmas stocking each year I’m first in line to curse the show for providing an outlet for unimaginative aunties’ and uncles’ gift ideas. But I can’t help myself: I like Top Gear, and I hope today’s announcement doesn’t spell the end of what I like.
First and foremost, I like the fact that Top Gear makes me laugh. Better still, it makes my seven-year old son laugh. There are, I’m sure, more wholesome bonding experiences for a father and son - and plenty that don’t require a deft finger hovering over the fast forward button at all times - but here’s a show that appeals to both of us on all sorts of different levels that Noddy and Peter Rabbit just don't reach.
I like the fact there are three extra members of our household, discussed and described as Jeremy, James and Richard as though they have just popped out of the room, but will surely be back soon. I’ve never met them, and nor has anyone in my family. Frankly, I’m not sure I’d want to, because the blokes we talk about so familiarly are well-loved as we imagine them, stupid, exaggerated personalities and all. That doesn’t happen by chance; it’s one of the many, many skills of the people who make the show.
Another one of those skills, I suspect, is that they all work extremely hard - as do the team behind them. I’m a great admirer of good, old fashioned hard graft, and I know enough to state that you can’t make a show as consistently good as Top Gear - same old recurring jokes or otherwise - without burning the midnight oil. The few people I’ve met who work for the Top Gear brand in some shape or form are, without fail, brilliantly talented. Combining talent and hard graft so successfully for so long is nothing short of admirable. Applying those principles to everything associated with the show - from live performances to websites and print magazines - requires a depth of talent that is scarcely imaginable. Yet it happens.
But then I also like the fact that, from time to time, they screw up. The most recent example was the dissection of modern day Peugeot, which probably looked hilarious as a script, but which came across as a naive, crass and very, very stupid way of making a point. But then it was so badly done, that there was a certain irony about it all: if you’re going to call an entire car company out for being relentlessly rubbish, you need to be at the top of your game. On this occasion, they weren’t. In failure came a certain satisfaction in knowing these guys are human too..