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Andrew Reid

Fisticuffs end new "Top Gear" series - how the BBC risked biggest franchise over catering fracas

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Suppose you've got a TV show with 350 million worldwide viewers. It's sold around the world for £50m. One of the most watched BBC shows in the world.

Do you decide to protect the content, sorting out disagreements behind closed doors or do you cave into a vocal minority and the press, taking it completely off air, before launching a month-long investigation?

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These times of over sensitive, full of politically correct hypocrites are utterly annoying. You over protect kids so much that when they are by themselves in the jungle they are unable to deal with any issue, as minor as it can be, everything becomes a life and death drama. I hate the feeling of not be able to make a joke because I have to be aware of whatever, that's why I only surround myself with people that can easily understand the difference between a joke and my serious opinion about something, that seems trivial but nowadays, it's really hard to find people like that, at least the ones I find usually become close friends of mine.

One a side note, I don't really think that the US are really the place for Top Gear.

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These times of over sensitive, full of politically correct hypocrites are utterly annoying. You over protect kids so much that when they are by themselves in the jungle they are unable to deal with any issue, as minor as it can be, everything becomes a life and death drama. I hate the feeling of not be able to make a joke because I have to be aware of whatever, that's why I only surround myself with people that can easily understand the difference between a joke and my serious opinion about something, that seems trivial but nowadays, it's really hard to find people like that, at least the ones I find usually become close friends of mine.

One a side note, I don't really think that the US are really the place for Top Gear.

​Well said.

We are being molly coddled.

I know it's a cliche, but it's true. Too many people are offended about offence.

The US networks have their own version of Top Gear. It would be interesting to see the difference. I very much doubt it is edgier.

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UKIP is possibly racist?  You're a blind fool.

Hopefully the fact you are offended is ironic given the subject matter!

​Call me blind but I did recently watch a BBC documentary on UKIP, where one party member (reasonably high up) brought one of her friends into her living room, who then in full view of the camera started talking about how she didn't like people with "negro features".

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Pretty sure indianajones was being sarcastic... I mean, surely he must be!

Thankyou for this post! I know the british public have to pay for the BBC, but surely that doesn't give them the right to have this level of transparency? I enjoy Top Gear very much and surely it is obvious that they are playing characters, I mean, these people who believe that Top Gear is a factual program don't believe that The only way is essex is real, and they say far more offensive stuff than that. I've worked with Jeremy Clarkson, and he was a genuinely decent chap, nothing like the caricature he presents of himself on the show. What's nice is that he cares about the production so much, he wants the product to be quality and works hard to help however he can. Whatever the truth of this situation, I can say without any qualms that it must have been an extraordinary situation, and I can't imagine he wouldn't have made right however he could at a later time. We all know how it feels to have worked hard and then faced disappointment, we've all made huge mistakes when stressed and we've all done things we regret, probably more frequently that we care to admit. Only difference with us is that our laundry isn't thrust into the public eye for every idiot to judge us on.

And I agree with so much else that you wrote - I'm all for better representation of women, ethnic backgrounds et al, bring it on, but instead of shoehorning it into entertainment made for a different audience, make quality content that the demographic you wish to represent would like to watch. I'm sorry, my wife still isn't going to watch QI just because you force a woman onto every show. Make something she actually wants to watch, you'll actually solve the problem like that, rather than ticking the "diversity" box in your "have we avoided criticism" checklist.

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Well said. I can understand Jeremy thinking about leaving with the BBC acting the way they do. Political correctness kills creativity and also intrudes into essentially private spats.

Don't agree with the UKIP comment (it contradicts the not freedom from offense argument) but everything else you're right on.

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If I had to guess, they can't take the name elsewhere but they can take themselves and their type of show elsewhere.  If they really want to I'm sure they could figure out a way to underwrite the program independently.  Or, an American network would love to spend their money on these guys doing their show.  And they could still do it in the UK if they wanted.

I'd be curious to see what intellectual property belongs to the BBC and what belongs to the gents at (formerly) Top Gear.

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Andrew, love your diatribe 

This world of being politically correct is very disheartening.  It's already difficult enough trying to create compelling content as it is and now you have to worry about offending all sorts of people.

 

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2) You seem to conveniently paper over the fact that he was caught saying nigger on camera and also called an asian guy a "slant'. Two of numerous offences that went unpunished and led to his final warning.

Or did he? ​

So you can take outtakes just out of context and get your panties in a bunch? How many years has Clarkson done that show? And this is the worst? That's fucking stupid:

 

 

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Or did he? ​

So you can take outtakes just out of context and get your panties in a bunch? How many years has Clarkson done that show? And this is the worst? That's fucking stupid:

 

Well, yea, he did. Off camera, on camera, out take... What's the difference, he said it, he apologised. It shows the mindset of the man.

I'm about as hard to offend as possible, I'm not offended by Clarkson. I don't even dislike the guy (other than being a chelsea fan)... I laughed out loud when he said he was "off to the job centre" yesterday.

I just don't believe that huge stars should be given different rights to anyone else. If the producer had punched Clarkson, do you think he would be working today?

This diatribe is hiding an ugly point behind an indie/creativity mask.... That big stars should be able to do whatever they want, without consequence... Because they bring in money and entertain. It's the opposite of the indie mindset.

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Well, yea, he did. Off camera, on camera, out take... What's the difference, he said it, he apologised. It shows the mindset of the man.

I'm about as hard to offend as possible, I'm not offended by Clarkson. I don't even dislike the guy (other than being a chelsea fan)... I laughed out loud when he said he was "off to the job centre" yesterday.

I just don't believe that huge stars should be given different rights to anyone else. If the producer had punched Clarkson, do you think he would be working today?

This diatribe is hiding an ugly point behind an indie/creativity mask.... That big stars should be able to do whatever they want, without consequence... Because they bring in money and entertain. It's the opposite of the indie mindset.

I agree. I read a quote that the BBC need to learn how to handle larger than life characters. Nonsense. Punching someone is not larger than life.  You can't send out a message that "it's ok...it's clarkson being Clarkson!" 

 

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I'm not offended by your post, but I do find it a load of tub thumping nonsense.

1) If a lead star on a production punched a producer, there would be consequences, even if it were Tom Cruise.

2) You seem to conveniently paper over the fact that he was caught saying nigger on camera and also called an asian guy a "slant'. Two of numerous offences that went unpunished and led to his final warning.

If you want to move into this sort of editorial you need to put down both sides of the story, especially when your followers are not all UK based.

This isn't bending over to political correctness, it is very lightly punishing someone for a constant stream of problems. Most other presenters would have been kicked in to touch long ago. You cannot let someone go unpunished, time and again, just because he is a creative asset and pulls in big bucks.

I don't mind Clarkson, he can be funny, entertaining, no nonsense and clearly knows his cars. But that isn't a green light to do absolutely anything.

​Andrew, While I do understand where this post is coming from, I still applaud you for the sentiment and for having the guts to state how you feel. I understand your frustration having worked in TV for almost thirty years. I now call TV 'The Great Mediocrity Sieve', meaning it turns most things into porridge. It's almost impossible now to have strong authorship, strong ideas/views, be risqué, daring, confronting or even be too affecting because a committee of exec producers will step in to tone things down for fear the film may be 'too much' for their audience. I recently had this happen to a show I worked on in which the true events were deemed too 'dramatic'. Of course their ratings ended up being nowhere near as strong as they could have.

But I fear TV is just a reflection of our wider modern western society in which an epidemic of 'political correctness' aimed at protecting ourselves from ourselves has raged rampant. One can hardly move these days without encountering some legal requirement or having to fill out paperwork, pay a tax or levy, or need permission from a government department. What we're witnessing is the rise of the bureaucratic class that generates laws that then require even more bureaucrats to administer (reminding me of Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil'). It's part of the reason most western nations are so hopelessly in debt. I don't live in Britain but I know over the last few years public sector economic activity there has been greater than private sector, the place from where the tax monies come to pay for public spending. This means that Britain's national debt has ballooned out to over 5 Trillion pounds and rising. This is the reason things we took for granted twenty to thirty years ago can now no longer be afforded, including decent budgets for investigative and educational documentary. The UK is one of the last places in the world to have government funded television - you're lucky. 

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What I find quite funny is that this blog style seems to be very much inspired by Charlie Brooker, even down to the final sentence... Brooker, a person so far from politically correct, so creative and so willing to break down the boundaries of our nanny state. Who is he employed by? The BBC.

*Non UK members, if you do not know of Charlie Brooker, you should try and find some of his shows, some of it will be hard to follow, as it discusses alot of English news and shows... But his scathing satire and ranting style is fantastic.

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I have to agree with Jimmy and Philip. This has absolutely nothing to do with creative freedom or artistic independence, it's simply a staff management issue. Much as enjoy Top Gear from time to time, Jeremy Clarkson's off-screen persona is troublesome. It's not the first time he's been involved in a public brawl (he tried to punch Piers Morgan at a gala, I believe) and he's been warned repeatedly about his behaviour.

If he had been suspended because of an unfortunate joke on screen -and let's face it, he IS funny as hell though bordering bigotry-, I might agree with some of Andrew's remarks. But it was due to his inability to be civil with his coworkers, and frankly, any staff manager or PR manager would have fired him long ago. Imagine he were a well-kown representative for Nike, Coca-Cola, etc. Add the fact that the BBC is a publicly owned state-run company, which increases the level of scrutiny and means it is not guided by the most profitable choice or a 350 million audience, but by politics.

Perhaps this could also raise the issue of whether there should be a publicly owned TV station (when private initiative fully covers the market needs for entertainment and information). I personally feel those 350 million consumers are being unlawfully "snatched" from private competing TV Stations that don't have the luxury of trial and error backed with taxpayers money. Still, if the BBC were privately owned they would probably be suspending him anyway. He caused a PR storm that has to be weathered, and then he'll come back.

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