Jeremy Clarkson’s firing over punching Oisin Tymon, a Top Gear producer, made big headlines in March 2015. Now Andy Wilman, former Top Gear executive producer and the man who revived the Top Gear brand alongside Jeremy Clarkson back in 2002, has finally opened up about the incident and moments leading up to Clarkson being let go by the BBC.
The Daily Mail reported that Wilman opened up in a conversation in Edinburgh TV Festival about “old” Top Gear, its popularity, and its demise:
“I think it was a perfect storm that was coming. That show got bigger and bigger by accident, we never adjusted to that and were collapsing under the weight of the work we were doing. We got to series 22.
We had s**t like Argentina go wrong, so it was all building. I’m speaking as someone who loves the BBC and there were a lot of people who were great with us and some people there weren’t great with us and didn’t want us there so it became a battle.
It became personal and confrontational and when everything went to s**t in March, that was critical because it was going to be a victory for somebody.
It wasn’t going to be a resolution because I think some people didn’t have the will to make it work on the management side, and I didn’t have the maturity to make it work either. Everyone had taken their position, we were all entrenched.”
Clarkson’s punishment over the situation has the Top Gear/The Grand Tour community split. Many believe the punishment was appropriate given he assaulted a fellow coworker, and anyone in any working environment would have been dealt similarly. While many others believe the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, given the self inflicted wound it generated for the BBC. When Andy Wilman was asked what punishment was appropriate, he joked:
They should have delved into him, big fines.
We had been investigated internally, there was a finding we had a broken relationship, that was obvious to everyone, but there was no point killing the show.
It was sad, but my point is, we were to blame too, I was entrenched, I was throwing my toys out of the pram, I was vicious in my reaction to everything and it became thumping heads, which was sad.”
“I didn’t leave to go with Jeremy, we had nothing to go to. Nobody had called, it was just ‘go’.
The show compensated for everything. If we had a good show and good viewers, we were protected, but without that we were just left with this divorce hanging over us, so it was ‘Let’s just go our separate ways and see what happens’.
It’s a matter of public record that the BBC made a play for Richard and James but we wanted to stay together.”
After the old Top Gear trio left, the BBC was left shuffling for a replacement cast for series 23. Eventually they signed BBC Radio broadcaster Chris Evans, TV star Matt LeBlanc, Formula 1 pundit Eddie Jordan, Queen of the Nürburgring Sabine Schmitz, and Youtube stars Chris Harris and Rory Reid. The rebooted show failed to attract many viewers, with most of the six episodes failing to beat the ratings generated by Clarkson’s Top Gear. When Andy Wilman was asked if he had watched the new show:
I never watched it because there was a lot of pain for me, it was everything that I did. We gave everything to it. Also because I wanted to be able to say when I was asked if I had watched, that I hadn’t.
Chris Evans and everyone went to work to make it, I wouldn’t wish them one second of ill that they wouldn’t succeed. You can have two car shows and I hope they crack it.
Upon leaving the BBC, Clarkson, Hammond, May, and Wilman went ahead and formed the W. Chump & Sons, an independent television production company that dealt with Amazon Video to produce 36 episodes of the upcoming The Grand Tour over a period of 3 seasons. Leaving the BBC also meant that the Top Gear format and intellectual property (like the Stig) had to be left behind:
The biggest thing we had was those three, that thing is those three doing their thing.
It’s not a great format like The X Factor or Strictly, that you can just move around. We had those three and then the lawyers come in, which gets hilarious.
It’s like, ‘Can James May still say c**k, or will the BBC sue?’
If we get sued for James saying c**k, that’s brilliant.
Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, paid a handsome amount to bring the W. Chump & Sons on board the Amazon Prime streaming ecosystem. He has previously mentioned that the deal was “very, very, very expensive” and that “They’re worth a lot and they know it.”
The Grand Tour will premier in Fall 2016, ditching Top Gear’s studio format in favor of a giant tent. But a few questions still remain such as the air date and how it will be streamed (weekly or binge)? Even Wilman is not willing to shed any light:
“That’s their call. I would prefer weekly, I don’t think there is a box set binge quality to it.
It’s those three do something retarded and next week they do something else retarded.”
We can’t wait to see what those three will be up to either. If you want to watch The Grand Tour, you will need to be an Amazon Prime subscriber. To get more details about the show and how you can watch it, click here.
(Source: The Daily Mail)