Some vindication is coming Jeremy Clarkson’s way—besides his hotly anticipated £160 million Amazon show, of course. More than a year after Clarkson was fired from the BBC for punching a Top Gear producer, the network’s former boss concedes that the host was a talent they couldn’t really afford to lose.
This comes direct from Mark Thompson, the BBC’s former director general and current Chief Executive Officer of The New York Times Company. (Update: I should clarify that Thompson left the BBC for that job in 2012, so he wasn’t involved in Clarkson’s termination, but as someone who knew the brand and company that well, his opinion certainly matters. I have updated this headline to be more clear on that fact as well.)
Thompson admitted as much in an interview in the Sunday Times Magazine that is currently behind a paywall, but you can read the relevant part of what he said pretty much everywhere, because that is how the internet works. Via The Guardian:
“Clarkson can be a deeply objectionable individual, and I say that as a friend,” Thompson told the Sunday Times.
“I don’t think people should punch their colleagues. It’s hard to keep them if they do.”
He added: “But 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.”
Sure, the BBC has the market cornered on people who love stodgy and authoritarian news programs, children’s programs mired in sex scandals, dramas about broken alcoholic police detectives and anyone who can still understand what’s happening on Doctor Who, but in losing Clarkson and the incarnation of Top Gear he helmed the network lost a tremendous audience.
As you may recall, Clarkson was fired from the show last year after it came out that he punched Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon during a fit of hunger on a shoot. Clarkson later apologized to Tymon, the network and his fans, but it still cost him his job.
And to be frank, it probably should have! I don’t think there’s any job where you can punch your co-workers and get to keep working. Cage fighter, I guess.
Since then Top Gear has relaunched with some very talented and wonderful people and also Chris Evans, but it suffered from atrocious ratings and a largely negative public response. Evans stepped down and the show will go on with its more likable hosts.
Meanwhile, Clarkson may come out of this on top, especially if his new Amazon show with James May and Richard Hammond takes off. I say the more good car shows out there, the better.