Monday, August 25, 2008

Jeremy Clarkson: politically incorrect and nonconformist

(Since there has not been much activity on this blog for a very long time, I thought it was now high time I wrote a special blog entry on one of Britain’s cultural icons, Jeremy Clarkson. Unlike other blog entries, this one is more than 500 words long, but after all this is precisely a special blog entry.)

Jeremy Clarkson was born on 11 April 1960 in Doncaster, England. Thanks to good sales of Paddington Bears (stuffed toys) his parents were able to send him to Repton, a public school. As a turbulent teenager, Clarkson was expelled because of his disrespect for rules, noticeably for smoking and drinking. Later he first worked as a travelling salesman for his parent’s business, but soon decided to make a living by writing articles in local newspapers. Afterwards he created the Motoring Press Agency, which was specialised in conducting road tests.

In October 1988 Clarkson joined the TV motoring programme Top Gear, which he presented until February 2000 – this was the programme’s original format. After a brief interruption the show was relaunched from 2002 onwards, but some things were changed to enhance the programme and give it a more entertaining aspect: it is now shot in a studio, and Clarkson is helped by co-presenters: Richard "Hamster" Hammond and James "Captain Slow" May. Another big change was that each week a guest is invited for a chat and for testing a reasonably-priced car on a special track. Their lap time is recorded and a kept on a board. Past hosts include Ellen MacArthur, Sir Michael Gambon, Patrick Stewart and Stephen Fry.

Top Gear is now the most-watched TV show on BBC Two and it is rebroadcast in dozens of countries. The programme's success is due notably to Clarkson’s rather criticising style, his cynical approach and his outspoken views about a wide range of controversial subjects (e.g.g. the London congestion charge). Jeremy Clarkson is (in)famous for his disregard for environment and for 'killing' numerous 'hateful cars', which means that he regularly destroys all sorts of low performance vehicles. For instance he shot on a Yugo 45 with a tank canon, he organised a crash test between a locomotive and a Renault Espace at a level crossing and he split a Lada 2105 in two:

Here is a compilation of the most impressive destruction clips by Clarkson:

For the record, only one car managed not to be 'killed' by Clarkson: the Toyota Hilux, dubbed 'the world's toughest vehicle'. (Watch parts 1, 2 and 3 of the programme to witness this motoring miracle.) The car is now kept as a museum artifact on a plinth in the Top Gear studio.

Each week, Clarkson and his ‘goons’ test vehicles ranging from the reasonably-priced (e.g. the Volkswagen Fox) cars to expensive supercars (e.g. the world's fastest and most expensive car, the Bugatti Veyron), as well as peculiar cars (e.g. the Peel P50, the world's smallest car – Clarkson, who is 6,5 feet tall, could even fit in it). From time to time he challenges Hammond and/or May on an 'epic race': basically the latter have to go faster than Clarkson who is driving some supercar. For instance, Clarkson drove an Aston Martin DB9 from the Top Gear base in England to Monaco, while May and Hammond were taking the train; Clarkson arrived first. Another time he headed for the Magnetic North Pole driving an equipped Toyota pickup truck, racing against Hammond who used a dog sled. Once again Clarkson won, incidentally becoming the first man to reach the Magnetic North Pole with a car.

Of course Top Gear is not Jeremy Clarkson's only occupation: he married his agent in 1993 and got three children. In 1994 he created Top Gear Magazine, for which he regularly writes columns and reviews – most of which are collected and published as books later on. In the 1990s he took part in several other programmes such as the UK version of Robot Wars, he was the advocate of engineer Brunel for 100 Greatest Britons, and was was invited to many popular programmes like Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Parkinson, Grumpy Old Men – Clarkson is precisely the epitome of a grumpy old man – and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. He also presented Top Gear specials (e.g. Jeremy Clarkson Meets The Neighbours and Apocalypse Clarkson) and his own chat show, Clarkson, between 1998 and 2000. He also presented several programmes about great engineering inventions and military deeds, such as Jeremy Clarkson: Greatest Raid of All Time, a documentary about a raid in Saint-Nazaire during WWII). In 2007 he was awarded the National Television Awards’ Special Recognition Award.

PS. Do not forget to browse through the Top Gear website and have a go at the 'Stupidly hard quiz'.
PPS. Most of the hyperlinks will redirect you to a YouTube video.

Jeremy Clarkson on the Dutch

1 comment:

pierre-yves said...

Finally something to read in here!
Anybody visiting your blog would know of course of your worship of Clarckson. About the video with Gambon, I must admit he's got a sense of humour but I can't forgive him for not having read the HP...and bragging about it!