The producer friend of Jeremy Clarkson who is widely credited with much of the success of Top Gear has insisted he’s not quitting the BBC, despite reports to the contrary.
An e-mail that Andy Wilman sent to past and present Top Gear staff, which was leaked on Monday night, has been interpreted as his own letter of resignation.
But he told RadioTimes.com: “It’s not me leaving. It’s me saying a private thank you to lots of people who worked on the show over the years and someone didn’t understand the word ‘private’.
“It’s definitely not a resignation e-mail.”
Executive producer Wilman, who relaunched Top Gear in 2002 and steered it to new heights of success, says in the e-mail (reproduced below) that the show has become “one of the most iconic programmes in TV history”. And he predicts that it will carry on, despite the sacking of its star presenter and his former Repton school friend Jeremy Clarkson.
“For those of you who still rely on it for work, don’t worry because the BBC will make sure the show continues,” reads the email.
And while Wilman expresses patriarchal pride in both the series and his colleagues, he can’t resist a mischievous dig at other programmes in the TV schedules.
“Anyway, when you’re feeling low in your working day at any point look around at some of the crap on TV then have a think about Top Gear 2002-2015 and say to yourself ‘I made that”.
Though he says he isn’t about to quit the BBC, it’s uncertain whether he will want to be involved in relaunching Top Gear again – certainly without Clarkson, and possibly minus James May and Richard Hammond as well.
What we do know is that Wilman will be sitting down with BBC2 controller Kim Shillinglaw to discuss how any future series might work.
A Top Gear spokesman said: “Andy’s email was intended as a heartfelt message to people who had worked with him and Jeremy, to recognise the fact that with Jeremy leaving it was the end of an era.
“It was not a farewell but a thank you to people who have been important to the show over the last 12 years. It was bringing down the curtain on the Clarkson era, not announcing his own departure.”
Here’s the e-mail Wilman sent to former and current Top Gear staff:
Well, at least we left ‘em wanting more. And that alone, when you think about it, is quite an achievement for a show that started 13 years ago. I know none of us wanted it to end this way, but for a moment I’d like us to look back and think about just what an incredible thing you all had a hand in creating. When Jane Root gave us the green light in 2002, the brief was to reinvigorate a car show and get an audience of three million. What you all ended up making was one of the most iconic programmes in TV history, a show about cars that went global, won countless awards, was devoured by non car fans and ended up in the Guinness Book of Records.
We had a lot of laughs, we had a lot of tiffs. We went to amazing places and we went to some ****holes. We nearly killed a presenter, we had to run for the border. We started off with whoever we could get in the Reasonably Priced Car, and ended up with Tom Cruise. Throughout all this we made television that was beautiful to look at and beautiful to listen to. The work ethic never slipped, the desire for everyone in this dysfunctional family to do right by the show never faltered. Jeremy, Richard and James, as the visible tip of the iceberg, got most of the attention and praise, but you all in your own fields had such an immense hand in weaving this unforgettable tapestry. I would love to single out everybody by name to thank them for what they did, but it’s impossible and I’d forget someone I shouldn’t have and that would be crap, so I’ll just say Jim, I’m sorry we never got a bear to drive an automatic.
For those of you who still rely on it for work, don’t worry, because the BBC will make sure the show continues. Our stint as guardians of Top Gear was a good one, but we were only part of the show’s history, not the whole of it. Those two words are bigger than us.
Anyway, when you’re feeling low in your working day at any point, look around at some of the crap on TV, then have a think about Top Gear, 2002- 2015, and say to yourself: “I made that.”
A big, big, big thank you, which will never be enough.