Top Gear’s former executive producer has said the BBC has lost an ‘editorial genius’ in Jeremy Clarkson, calling their decision to axe him from the show a ‘tragedy’.
Andy Wilman, who has just quit the long-running series in the wake of Clarkson’s departure, has written an article for the latest issue of Top Gear magazine, telling the story of how the motor show came to be developed in its current form by the outspoken presenter.
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) April 23, 2015
Wilman revealed that around 2001, the then controller of BBC Two, Jane Root, had decided to axe Top Gear, so Clarkson arranged to meet him to discuss his ideas to revive the show.
He wrote: “And as I sit here now in April 2015, in a completely empty office, I think that faraway lunch absolutely encapsulates the tragedy of what the BBC has lost in getting rid of Jeremy.
“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 lightbulb moments.”
Jeremy Clarkson with his Top Gear co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond (Ellis O’Brien/BBC Worldwide)
Wilman said that while searching for presenters, the BBC were ‘adamant a woman should be in the line-up’.
He said: “Their theory behind a female presenter was that if you want women to watch something, you need women presenting it.”
The producer said that he and Clarkson ‘auditioned lots of excellent girls who were more than up to the job of presenting a car show, but Jeremy and I had already started to realise that bloke banter was going to become an important part of the show’.
And so, on their insistence, Root allowed them to have an all male line-up.
The Top Gear line-up as they were (BBC)
Wilman also recalled how Richard Hammond’s original audition tape featured the presenter ‘doing a terrible car review while dressed for some reason as Batman’.
And he said that after they struck upon the idea of using an anonymous racing driver in a helmet to test drive the cars but never speak on camera, Clarkson wanted to call the driver The Gimp, after the character in Quentin Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction.
But after hiring original team member Perry McCarthy, he refused to be called The Gimp, and so they agreed on The Stig.
(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Top Gear presenters Clarkson, May and Hammond met up yesterday for the first time since Clarkson was suspended for attacking producer Oisin Tymon. They were pictured walking to the pub after meeting for several hours in Clarkson’s home.
Hammond tweeted today to clarify his position.
To be clear amidst all this talk of us ‘quitting’ or not: there’s nothing for me to ‘quit’. Not about to quit my mates anyway.
— Richard Hammond (@RichardHammond) April 24, 2015
The full article, The Story Of Top Gear Telly, Part One, appears in Top Gear magazine, on sale now.