Jeremy Clarkson is – was – an engaging broadcaster. And he was – is – well in touch with his boorish side. Both side of his personality were intertwined in Top Gear, his star vehicle which finally ran out of petrol and spluttered to a halt on BBC 2 last night.
BBC2, 8.00pm, Sunday 28th June
“Welcome to what’s left of Top Gear,” said co-presenter James May, seated with partner Richard Hammond in a dead studio: no audience, no music, no attempt at any kind of spirited farewell – and no Clarkson.
A plastic elephant lurked in the shadows behind them. It was called Jeremy – the ‘elephant in the room’.
Hilarious. A headless chicken would have been a better mascot.
May and Hammond went through the motions, screening a couple of film packages made before Clarkson got the elbow – one a dull feature of the rocketing prices of classic cars like Aston Martins, Ferraris and e-type Jaguars – and the joys of tinkering around with what are called ‘practical classics’, the other a routine look at some SUVs – sport utility vehicles, as the Americans call them, involving off road high jinks and a lot of mud.
The cars looked good, but the presenters looked clapped out.
They did their links in a perfectly professional way, – but you could see their hearts were no longer in it. They were just going through the motions.
It all felt hollow, and as much fun as clearing up after the end of a very messy party.
Like the back of the show’s old MGB GT, the stuffing had been knocked out of them, No spark, no va-va-voom, nada.
“I’m 54! Why am I doing this,?” wailed Clarkson from his mud spattered SUV as he barrelled along a muddy track somewhere in Yorkshire. It was a rare moment of self-awareness.
Can the old gang recover their mojo, perhaps on some internet channel, in an automotive retread of New Tricks? Not on this lacklustre showing.
They are just too old. Lads’ TV made by the oldest swingers in town doesn’t work – and feels a little creepy.
Too many miles on the clock, chaps.
Time to let someone else have a go.
Ave atque vale.
Watch the episode here on BBC iPlayer