Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 25, 2015
A question of identity

I don't blog much about my TV watching habits, but one of the shows I like to watch is Top Gear. That is a British show about three middle-aged guys behaving like immature teenagers while playing with often very expensive cars. That has a huge appeal to the predominantly male audience, so Top Gear is the BBC's biggest hit. But it was never a comfortable relationship: The loudest of the three presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, has strong right-wing opinions and isn't afraid at all to say things which aren't politically correct. That led to a series of "scandals" where Jeremy said something which offended somebody, and the BBC got complaints.

That could have gone on forever if Jeremy Clarkson at one point hadn't completely lost it. He wanted a hot meal after a day of shooting, only got offered sandwiches by a production assistant, and that enraged him so much that he hit that production assistant to the point where the guy had to go to the hospital to get his split lip stitched. Now many fans, used to that endless series of "scandals", were ready to forgive Clarkson. But the BBC fired him. Which was probably the right thing to do, as I think most employees from most companies in the world would much prefer if their boss hasn't got the right to beat them. Unless you are a professional boxer there aren't many places where you can seriously hit a coworker and not get fired.

But that situation is now leading to an interesting question of identity. The BBC holds the right to the Top Gear brand, and announced that they will continue the show with completely new presenters. Mean Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, are going to host a new car show, presumably on Netflix. So which one of the two shows is the "real" Top Gear successor? The one with the brand name, or the one with the presenters who made the show such a hit? My guess is that the Netflix show will have far more success than the BBC show. Clarkson, Hammond, and May have a special love/hate chemistry going on between them which the BBC can't possibly reproduce. The rest of the show, expensive cars and crazy races, is easily enough reproduced. And there is no copyright on the format of a TV show. So Netflix will be able to produce a show that resembles the old Top Gear far more than the BBC can.

Which only leaves one question open: Which show will have The Stig?

Oh... Now I get it. "Jeremy Clarkson" was used in a derogatory manner recently in the online comic strip "Does not play well with others." While I find the strip hilarious, I doubt Tobold will, so feel free to strike this comment if you don't want the strip mentioned.

The guy actually punched a guy for refusing to bring him a hot steak dinner, instead offering him sandwiches? What a douche! And the other two stick up for him by also quitting so they can take their "talent" to a new show? Douches by association!

People that don't even have the impulse control to NOT punch people for shit like this need to be fired and then be brought up on charges. Impulse control hell, the inner anger of simply wanting to punch someone over this is frightening.

That aside, there is a US version of the show that is just as entertaining as the UK one. I had never heard of the UK one until stumbling onto it, I had no idea the UK one was the original. Netflix needs to have their heads examined to even consider this. It's the vehicles and crazy stunts that make the show, not a princess like Clarkson.
The guy actually punched a guy for refusing to bring him a hot steak dinner, instead offering him sandwiches?

He didn't refuse, there just wasn't any hot food. Middle of nowhere and the hotel kitchen was already closed.

I really liked the show for all the reasons Tobold mentioned (US version pales in comparison) but the BBC did the right thing suspending him. After all it's still a workplace and employees have the right not to be hit.

I think it doesn't really matter how their new show is named and where it airs. Also irrelevant if the BBC does a new version. The viewers decide which show survives. The BBC will probably not let go of The Stig just to spite them.
"He didn't refuse, there just wasn't any hot food. Middle of nowhere and the hotel kitchen was already closed."

Right, he arrived late (Spent 2 hours drinking with the other hosts at a pub.) and everyone else had gone to bed, the kitchen was closed. The producer stayed up late to greet him.

no one will make THAT mistake ever again.
I feel a bit hypocritical about this myself. I do think Clarkson went to far and deserved to be fired. If Clarkson had hit one of his co-presenters (or more likely one of them had hit him) I would have laughed it off but he hit a lowly underling in a blatant abuse of power. On other hand I am pretty sure that I also know that if comes down to a choice of the same laddish formula on Netflix and a politically correct version on the BBC I will almost certainly tick with Clarkson and Co.
Just reading this makes me want to term my Netflix subscription and tell them why. Jackasses like this are not entertaining to me.
I didn't care to get involved in the scandal over the Clarkson debacle, however I don't think the show will be the same without those hosts. I also agree with you that it's likely the Netflix Original show will be the more successful of the two.

Case in point, Top Gear America (and there's an Australian version as well) has its moments, but it pales in comparison. Despite not knowing a whole lot about British culture, I managed to pick up a bunch of slang and the UK show appealed to a world-wide audience. The US version has a cast of characters but the chemistry just isn't the same, despite the shows being similar in scope.

I guess we'll see what happens.
Clarkson deserved to get fired for assaulting a subordinate, but I'll still watch the show on Netflix if it returns, it was more entertaining to me than almost anything else on offer these days.

P.S.: The Stig is a guy in a full body costume and helmet who never speaks... Not that difficult to replace with a different driver and claim it's the Stig.
All I'd add is that Clarkson was given a clear ultimatum before the incident that he needed to cut the crap. The BBC was getting tired of constantly having to play the Clarkson Roulette of Fuck Ups every month. Clarkson was the one who turned himself in after doing it, he took full responsibility, he was (by all accounts) quite remorseful, and the producer who was hit didn't necessarily want anything done to Clarkson but...their hands were basically tied by then. You can't give ultimatums and then not follow through, certainly not for something as egregious as getting drunk and hitting a producer.

Clarkson is a wanker, but I was sad to see the show go. And I say "the show" because, like most people, I can't really conceive of how the show will function without that trio. Still, I totally understand why the BBC did it and even support their choice. It hurts, but this is probably the proper outcome.

Anyway, an interesting situation that is comparable is happening in gaming! There was a splitting of the Harvest Moon series last year as the developers of the game decided to use the services of their own American publishing and translation arm to bring the game to international market instead of using Natsume, a publisher who was a bit of a legacy relationship but had been the ones to translate and publish all previous Harvest Moon games in international markets.

Natsume didn't want to sell the rights to the "Harvest Moon" name to the studio since they built up the name brand and felt they could still use it. They contracted another developer to make a farming game, and late last year they released Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, a game which has no relationship to the previous Harvest Moons beyond the name. And of course the developer of the original series brought their latest games to international market under the name Story of Seasons.

IIRC, Story of Seasons is generally considered the better of the two games, but fans of the series tend to enjoy both. It will be interesting to see if Top Gear and Not Top Gear can both be enjoyed while being different.
Top Gear & the Top Gear brand existed long before it made Clarkson famous and will continue long after.
The British blokes I've spoken with all consent that "Jeremy Clarkson is a major wanker" and as a result a lot of people flat out refuse to watch Top Gear, since it's a "shit show". Can't really blame them, I could barely tolerate him for 2 episodes.

I wouldn't be so fast to say that the Netflix show will be a huge success. Not all countries have access to Netflix, whereas your local TV station could buy Top Gear to air and as a result they are cutting off a lot of their audience. Also, I doubt Netflix has the budget and the pull to get supercars in the show, whereas BBC is a brand name across the world.
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