There’s been lots of talk about Jeremy Clarkson and his behaviour, but this post is about the Top Gear brand itself and BBC’s ownership.
Back in 2009 Andy Wilman, Executive Producer, Clarkson’s mate and Old Reptonian school chum said he thought the series was nearer the beginning than the end. He also said that the three presenters were playing to their cartoon characters a bit too much. So the end of the series and the current format in the UK is hardly a surprise. I stopped watching in around 2011, when it became totally formulaic. 22 years with little change is just too much for any brand let alone a TV format. Madonna has had at least four reinventions in the same period and a bit of a slip at the Brits to keep her front of mind.
So the BBC have a decision to make. Start the next series with a new lead presenter and the other two presenters, or reinvent the whole thing?
For me, they have to let the current series and the current format die. Let Clarkson walk away and give the chance for the brand in the UK to regenerate. Clarkson no longer has any form of ownership as he sold his shareholding back to the BBC in 2012, he hardly needs the money anyway, and we all need a break from him and his cronies.
It’s the TV version of crop rotation. Let the brand lie fallow for a few years to find a new format again and spring back brighter than ever, having been created for a new audience.
For the BBC, their income is reasonably secure as the brand is already licensed to the US, Australia, Russia and Korea and there are plenty of licensed spin-offs generating income. I’m sure the repeats will grace our screens for many years to come. But if they keep flogging the current format, like the Golden Goose, it will whither and die anyway.
Go on BBC, do us a favour. Come out and confidently tell us that you are resting the brand and will recommission it in the future with a new format. I believe it’s the only way Top Gear can regain any credibility and build an appeal to a new, younger audience. After all, the car market is not the same as 22 years ago and it’ll certainly be very different in another 22 years. So take the chance to create something new and every bit as fresh as this used to be.