Yesterday it was announced that Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May have signed with Amazon TV to do a show that will essentially be “Top Gear” in all but name. The continuity “Top Gear” meanwhile will be hosted by Chris Evans and in competition for viewership with the new Clarkson show, and one has to think the Evans programme stands little chance against it (although it does remind one of the Van Halen v David Lee Roth battle in the 80s, and that turned out to be the polar opposite of what was expected). Anyway, whether Evans or Clarkson, the Beeb or Amazon, ultimately triumphs in the war over viewers isn’t what interests me (I find anything to do with cars unbelievably uninteresting – I have likened watching Formula One to staring at traffic before – so I won’t be watching either). No, I find the debate fascinating because it clearly asks this question: what is the BBC for, and more to the point, what should it be for? Given we’re the ones paying for it, it is worth considering.
On a related note, I read that Ricky Wilson, a judge on the BBC’s “The Voice” programme (for those unaware of the show, think of X-Factor but even less interesting), was upset because he felt there might not be another series produced due to “government nonsense” (his words). Yes, it’s all very fashionable to join in on the Tory bashing in regards to slashing BBC budgets – but before we jump into that comfort zone, I have to ask you once again: what is the BBC for? And more pointedly, what is public broadcasting for? Because, actually, if the Tories cutting funding to the Beeb means they keep producing highly important informationally television while having to lose a new version of “Top Gear” destined to flop and a bad knockoff of one the worst, most empty headed TV shows in the history of the medium, then I’m sort of glad taxpayer money is being spared. If that’s not too Tory of me here.
Turning back to the “Top Gear” thing to prove my point: they sacked Clarkson because the corporation felt he wasn’t living up to some sort of community standard of behaviour. Now, I want to stress, I’m neither defending nor demonising Clarkson’s actions that led to him leaving the BBC’s employ, I’m just trying to get the facts straight. Thing is, no commercial network would have done what the BBC did to one of its absolutely bankable stars – he would have been deemed too valuable, and the bottom line would have spoken. The reason the BBC went through with letting him go is because they see themselves as more than just some racket a la ITV (who, incidentally, look set to inherit “The Voice” post Whittingdale “savaging”) – they are an institution, sir.
Fine, so if that’s the case, shouldn’t we be annoyed that they are willing to let one of the nation’s best loved shows (again, not by me) get ruined, all over some judgement of one of its star’s behaviour, while trying to flog the not only dead but decayed horse by inserting Chris Evans into the mix? Given you lot keep the whole thing financially ticking, again, you should be interested in this debate. Does the corporation exist strictly as a public service? Why then does it try and compete for big time ratings with crap like “The Voice”? What is the BBC for, I ask a third and final time, and this isn’t a loaded question? Discuss.