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Former BBC Director Admits Firing Clarkson Was A Mistake

It’s not surprising. With its ratings tanking, the show-runners at the BBC’s long-running automotive franchise Top Gear gave Chris Evans, the heave-ho. Evans, a popular TV professional, was brought in to lead a renewal of the Top Gear brand following the firing of Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson was fired for his involvement “in a fracas” with one of the show’s producers, said the BBC shortly after the incident. The BBC assembled a completely new cast of presenters to work alongside Evans. The cast included Matt LeBlanc, former star of Friends and a certified car crazy, Eddie Jordan, an F1 expert, Chris Harris, a YouTube automotive star,  Sabine Schmitz, a driving professional, and Rory Reid, an automotive journalist.

Soon after the new team began shooting its reboot episodes, reports began to filter out about problems. Stories circulated about Evans behavior with the rest of the cast. Apparently, his behavior was brought to the attention of the new BBC entertainment head, Kate Phillips. The Daily Mail, quoting an unnamed source, said that Evans was called on the carpet about his behavior toward the crew. Though there was no comment about the meeting from the BBC, it is apparent that something was amiss because Evans announced he was pulling out of the show shortly thereafter.

The very public upheaval at the valuable BBC property brought a strong comment from a former head of the network. Mark Thompson, former director-general of the British Broadcasting Network told The Sunday Times that it was a mistake to have fired Clarkson in the first place. He said that   though Clarkson has a “deeply objectionable character … I would say his pungent, transgressive, slightly out-of-control talent was something the BBC could ill afford to lose. He spoke to people who didn’t find much else in the BBC.” Thompson was chief of the network for eight years. Clarkson was lead Top Gear presenter for more than two decades.

Jeremy Clarkson, Chris Hammond and James May will be running around the world soon on Amazon Prime's Grand Tour. (c) Amazon

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May will be running around the world soon on Amazon Prime’s Grand Tour.  Amazon

Interestingly, once the BBC recognized that Evans was not a great fit, it could not have turned around and re-hired Clarkson.  The ever-active lead host and his Top Gear colleagues Richard Hammond and James May had already signed a huge – reportedly $160 million —  deal with Amazon. Amazon Prime users will have access to the new show starting in the fall, possibly as early as next month. Each weekly episode will be filmed in a new locale. It’s like a grand tour. In fact, that’s the name of the show the name of the new show: Amazon Prime Grand Tour. Like as not, the format will be similar to the old BBC vehicle.

 

 

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