As the suspension of co-presenter Jeremy Clarkson leaves the fate of the top-rated, globally adored BBC show Top Gear controversially in the balance, an unnamed source at the broadcasting corporation has revealed to the Mirror that co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May were given the option to continue broadcasting the current series — but refused to do so without their suspended comrade.
The current season of Top Gear has three episodes remaining, but these have been temporarily shelved while the BBC investigates the latest incident to involve Jeremy Clarkson. In withdrawing the episodes, the BBC has not only incurred a substantial loss of over four million Sunday night viewers, according to the Guardian, but also risks a multi-million-pound compensation bill from foreign broadcasters.
As he was already on his “final warning” — after numerous disciplinary issues in the past — Jeremy Clarkson was suspended by the BBC after reports of an altercation with Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon. It is alleged that the presenter was angered by the offer of cold food at a hotel in North Yorkshire — where the Top Gear team were filming segments for the show — and in the ensuing “fracas,” a “single punch” was thrown by the presenter.
While a petition was initiated by fans, demanding the reinstatement of Jeremy Clarkson, a second petition has since appeared with the request for the fictional character Alan Partridge — created by Steve Coogan — to take his place. The remaining co-presenters, Richard Hammond and James May, have made their position clear, however — and that position is one of solidarity with their colleague, according to the source in contact with the Mirror.
“They didn’t want to do it without Jeremy, so the talks didn’t get off the ground.
“There is a feeling that it is all of them or none of them.”
Jeremy Clarkson joined Top Gear in 1988 and was an integral part of the show’s re-launch in 2002. The combination of Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May is continually cited as the main reason for the success of the series — which has become one of the BBC’s top-rated properties and airs in more than 100 countries worldwide. Clarkson has long been one of the more controversial figures to be employed by the broadcaster, however, with complaints regularly received about his conduct onscreen — including allegations of racism and sexism. This latest incident is not the first claim of physical violence to be made against the presenter, either, with reports that he allegedly punched Piers Morgan at an awards event in 2004.
The allegations against Jeremy Clarkson are now the subject of an official BBC inquiry, led by the Head of BBC Scotland, Ken McQuarrie.
When an update was requested by the Telegraph, a spokesperson replied that, “We have an investigation ongoing and we won’t comment further until that is concluded.”
It is clear from the polarized reaction of the public, however, that there will be no satisfactory outcome — as reiterated by the unnamed source in contact with the Mirror.
“We must play everything with a straight bat, but it is very frustrating while Clarkson’s friends continue to pour pressure on the BBC.
“Our priority has to be the person who has allegedly been attacked, but we are between a rock and a hard place in all of this.
“There is no way everyone is going to be happy, whatever is decided.”
Those decisions ultimately lie with BBC Director General Lord Tony Hall, and with Jeremy Clarkson and Oisin Tymon having reportedly already appeared before the inquiry panel, an announcement regarding the future of Top Gear should be expected soon.