Top Gear’s main men have now been ruled out of a new series of the BBC show. We know Jeremy Clarkson is gone, and so, it seems, is James May, having confirmed he will not return to Top Gear without his co-host because “it just wouldn’t work”.
And Richard Hammond has also announced that he is not deserting his “mates” on the show – a day after the programme’s leading off-screen creative force, executive producer Andy Wilman, also stepped down.
Wilman, a close friend and former school pal of Clarkson, said he had handed in his notice “quietly and calmly”.
He appears to be done with the BBC, having made his anger felt in a piece for Top Gear Magazine in which he berates the Corporation for dispensing with Clarkson.
Wilman writes: “It hasn’t just lost a man who can hold viewers’ attention in front of a camera, it’s lost a journalist who could use the discipline of print training to focus on what mattered and what didn’t; it’s lost an editorial genius who could look at an existing structure and then smash it up and reshape it in a blaze of light-bulb moments.”
He goes on to lament the “BBC Meddling Dept”, which he claims attempted to interfere in the original decision to have an all-male line-up of “middle-class public schoolboys” presenting the show.
But pictures of Wilman and all three presenters enjoying a drink yesterday were accompanied by suggestions that the four friends may be cooking something up.
We know they can’t go off and make Top Gear elsewhere without the BBC. In 2012, the Corporation’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide paid £8.4 million for Clarkson’s stake in a joint venture which owned the commercial rights to the Top Gear format, name and intellectual property.
But what about a new car show for a rival broadcaster? Or for an on-demand service like Netflix, which would surely love to take advantage of the 350 million Top Gear fans worldwide dedicated to the show when it was fronted by the trio?
Sky has already ruled out going for Clarkson’s services, as RadioTimes.com revealed last month. And so has Channel 4.
But neither ITV nor Netflix have commented officially on any potential interest they may have.
Clarkson has made it clear he will make another show at some point.
“I have lost my baby but I shall create another,” he wrote in a newspaper article. “I don’t know who the other parent will be or what the baby will look like, but I cannot sit around any more organising my photograph album.”
He may have to wait to do it. One BBC source has indicated to RadioTimes.com that the presenters’ contracts could contain non-compete clauses which would potentially constrain them from creating a new motoring show in the immediate future (the BBC has declined to comment on this officially, insisting that all contract negotiations are confidential).
Meanwhile, Wilman tells RadioTimes.com that there are currently “no irons in the fire” – but it seems it’s more a case of when, not if, Clarkson and co will be back in the driving seat…
A spokesman for Jeremy Clarkson declined to comment on the terms of his contract or his future plans, while a spokesman for Richard Hammond had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
A spokesman for the BBC’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide said: “We never comment on or discuss contractual details. That applies to contracts that have expired too.”
A spokesman for the BBC executive also declined to comment.