The end of Clarkson, Hammond and May’s tenureship of Top Gear was, to put it bluntly, a car crash. Clarkson’s well-publicised punching of a co-worker led to the trio leaving the Corporation. While they now have a new show with Amazon – The Grand Tour, due for release this autumn – former producer Andy Wilman believes the show was already in trouble long before then.
Wilman, who moved with Clarkson et al to Amazon, has previously called 2015 Top Gear’s ‘annus horriblis’. He told an audience at the Edinburgh TV Festival about the breakdown in the relationship between the programme and the BBC.
“I think it was a perfect storm,” he explained. “That show got bigger and bigger, and we were collapsing under the weight of the work we were doing. We were into series 22 and you’re thinking ‘are we going to get 10 million a week’ and all that. And we had shit like Argentina go wrong, so it was all building.”
Argentina was one a series of controversies that dogged the show, with a foreign special ending in a hasty retreat from the country after a perceived joke about the Falklands. Nevertheless, Wilman believes the deciding factor was the increasingly hostile relationship with some at the BBC.
“I’m speaking as someone who loves the BBC, and there were a lot of people there who were great with us, [but] some people weren’t great with us. So it became a battle, it became personal, it became confrontational, and I think when everything went to shit March, there was no way back because it was going to be a victory for somebody, it wasn’t going to be a resolution.”
Nevertheless, he believes there was blame to be had on both sides.
“I think some people didn’t have the will to make it work on management side. I didn’t have the maturity to make it work either. To mend it. We were all entrenched.”
In light of this, Wilman was asked about what punishment he believed should have followed the punching of Oison Tymon. He briefly joked “100 lines” before elaborating:
“They should have delved into him, and got, you know, big fines, make us all stop, that kind of thing.”
“We’d been investigated internally and there was a finding that we had a broken relationship, that was obvious to everybody. I think you start from that broken relationship, because there’s no point in killing the show.“
“My point is we were to blame too. I was entrenched, I was throwing the toys out of the pram. I was vicious, in my opinion, in my reaction to everything. Which was sad because there were so many people that actually were willing to make it work, but the key players were doing that. And I was one of them.”