Six hours after a petition was created demanding that the BBC bring back suspended Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, more than 100,000 signatures had been collected from impassioned/furious fans worldwide.
The BBC said today it has suspended Clarkson, host of the BBC Two car series Top Gear since 2002, after “a fracas” with a show producer. “No one else has been suspended,” the UK pubcaster said today in a statement. “Top Gear will not be broadcast this Sunday. The BBC will be making no further comment at this time.” (BBC America, meanwhile, hid under the bed, referring press inquires to BBC’s statement but conceding that this week’s Top Gear — which it airs stateside on Mondays — will be replaced by a previously aired episode.)
Clarkson and the popular show itself have found themselves in the BBC equivalent of the principal’s office for most of the past year or so; at one point BBC said it would sack Clarkson if he made “one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time.” Which is, of course, an absurd threat to make to a host you have hired in large measure because of his talent for blurting outrageous things at the most inopportune times. And then there’s his fans. Really, it’s like throwing raw meat to piranhas:
“because f*ck you, that’s why i’m signing this. BBC NEEDS CLARKSON. EVERYONE NEEDS CLARKSON. #TeamJezza,” wrote one such fan, from Budapest, in the box on the Change.org petition were people are encouraged to explain why they are signing.
“Freedom of speech, freedom of expression!! ‘Je suis Clarkson’ !!!,” chimed in an irked fan in Watford, UK.
“Whoever he punched I want to punch him again,” weighed in a pugilist from Brighton, UK.
“Americans love Top Gear because of stuff like this! Please don’t make me watch the US version! “whined a viewer in Philadelphia.
The BBC reported, of itself, this afternoon that sources had told its reporter — again, still writing about itself — Clarkson had taken a swing at a producer last week and the remaining three episodes of the current “series” (aka season) might not be broadcast.
In its online report on itself, the BBC only confirmed this Sunday’s episode would not be shown but gave few further details.
Clarkson has not commented but has tweeted, as have his co-hosts, as to what movie each hopes will be used to plug the time slot on BBC’s schedule.
In its report as to what BBC is doing to decide the on-air fate of Clarkson, the pubcaster was able to confirm the now-scrubbed episode was set to feature Clarkson — who the Beeb confirmed has fronted the show since 2002 — and his on-air colleagues at a classic track day. UK sports figure/pundit Gary Lineker was to have guest-starred as the week’s “star in a reasonably priced car.” When BBC pulled the episode, Lineker tweeted, “I don’t think I’m ever meant to appear on Top Gear!”
Top Gear airs in about 200 countries.
While the BBC reporter who did the legwork in re finding out what’s going on at BBC did not appear to have great sources as to whether Clarkson might survive the inquest, he was able to come up with a pretty exhaustive list of ways in which the show has greyed the hair of BBC suits in recent days. This is the BBC’s list of Top Gear Controversies.
“With Clarkson at its head, Top Gear has been no stranger to controversy,” the BBC wrote today:
- October 2014 – The show’s stars and crew had to abandon filming in Argentina amid angry protests over a car number plate that appears to refer to the Falklands War.
- July 2014 – Ofcom ruled a Burma Special in which Jeremy Clarkson used a racial slur broke broadcasting rules. (The BBC used the slur in its write up on Clarkson, by way of describing this incident)
- May 2014 – The programme drew complaints when video footage leaked to the Daily Mirror appeared to show Jeremy Clarkson using a racist term while reciting the nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe. The presenter later apologised for the incident – which was never broadcast – in a video statement where he “begged forgiveness.” (BBC did not, in its write up of this incident, mention that Clarkson explained in his video statement he’d done multiple takes of the scene, mumbling over the word in the first few instances, subbing it for a word that had been used to replace the slur in the well-known nursery rhyme for the final take and was “horrified” when an outtake was leaked. After that leak, BBC issued a statement saying, “Jeremy Clarkson has set out the background to this regrettable episode. We have made it absolutely clear to him, the standards the BBC expects on air and off. We have left him in no doubt about how seriously we view this.” BBC did not use the slur in its write up of this incident. But you can read all about the various iterations of this nursery rhyme on Wikipedia, if you care.
- October 2012 – The BBC Trust ruled comments by Clarkson which likened the design of a camper van to people with facial disfigurements breached disability guidelines.
- January 2012 – Indian diplomats complained about a 90-minute India special in which a car fitted with a toilet in its boot is described by Clarkson as “perfect for India because everyone who comes here gets the trots.”
- February 2011 – The BBC apologised to Mexico after Clarkson and his co-hosts characterised Mexicans as “lazy” and “feckless”.
And, in conclusion, while we have been writing this post, another 16,000-plus people have signed the petition to bring back Clarkson.