Rumors now are a possible NetFlix show
Former Top Gear
producer Andy Wilman has criticised BBC “meddling” in the show and described Jeremy Clarkson’s axing by the corporation as a “tragedy”.
Wilman, who quit the BBC
in the wake of Clarkson’s departure, fuelling speculation that the pair will reunite on a rival broadcaster, described Clarkson as an “editorial genius”.
Wilman, who reinvented Top Gear with Clarkson in 2002, is expected to join Clarkson on a new motoring show, likely to be with fellow Top Gear presenters James May and Richard Hammond, with US on-demand service Netflix
the frontrunner to land them.
In an article for the new issue of Top Gear magazine, Wilman said BBC executives had initially insisted on having a woman among the programme’s presenters and were worried it was “three middle-class public schoolish type blokes of a similar age”.
He also told how racing driver the Stig was originally going to be called the Gimp.
Wilman said it was a “tragedy … what the BBC has lost in getting rid of Jeremy”.
Departure of long-time colleague fuels speculation that team will reunite on a motoring show for another broadcaster
Wilman met with Clarkson and the show’s other presenters at Clarkson’s west London flat on Thursday, on the same day that the BBC confirmed the producer’s departure.
Wilman said: “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 light-bulb moments.”
Wilman told how Clarkson had come up with a new vision for Top Gear after the then BBC2 controller Jane Root axed it 14 years ago.
He said Root gave her full backing to its new incarnation, even when Wilman resisted efforts by senior BBC management to put a woman on the show.
“I’m a big, big fan of the Beeb but, my God, they do stretch your patience when they start applying logic, or to use another word, meddling,” said Wilman.
“Their theory behind a female presenter was that if you want women to watch something, you need women presenting it. I pointed out many times that I was an avid viewer of What Not to Wear, despite Jimmy Nail not featuring in the line-up.”
Of the 6 million viewers who watched Top Gear on BBC2 before its remaining episodes were shelved following Clarkson’s suspension and subsequent axing, around 2 million were women.
Wilman said the programme had interviewed “lots of excellent girls” but “bloke banter was going to become an important part of the show”. He said Root told him: “Fine, do what you think’s best. I’m not fussed either way.”
Current BBC2 controller Kim Shillinglaw, who put many more women on screen during her time as the BBC’s science and natural history chief, has said women will be considered for the show’s reinvention next year
Wilman said the “BBC meddling department” was also responsible for James May initially losing out on a presenter’s role to Jason Dawe, despite Clarkson backing May, who came on board soon after.
It was also Clarkson’s idea to call the show’s anonymous racing driver “the Gimp”, but Wilman said the first occupant of the white helmet, Perry McCarthy, “told us exactly where we could stick our notion of calling him the Gimp, so we settled on the Stig”.