It seems that Jeremy Clarkson is unable to save himself. He was suspended tonight after what the BBC described as a "fracas". Later on Twitter, there was a tweet from him inviting applications for a new Top Gear presenter. Fair play for the gallows humour mate.
I say "mate", not because Clarkson is one personally (and one suspects with our differing political views, every likely to be one) but because the relationship between the three presenters embodies an ideal of male friendship. It is easy to see that the bond between Clarkson, May and Hammond isn't manufactured. When one has a success, it is naturally denigrated by the others. When they are genuinely annoyed at each other, especially during the Top Gear adventure specials, it shows. While being intensely British, it is friendship that gives Top Gear franchise its international appeal and, of course, turned it into a huge money maker for the corporation.
Now though, all of that hangs in the balance tonight. The remaining three episodes of the season have, for the time being, been taken off our screens. All because, according to reports, one of the mates threw a punch at a producer. It would have to be Clarkson. If May or Hammond had done it, it would have been awful but probably survivable. Nope, it was the bad boy who was already drinking in the Last Chance Saloon. Striking somebody in a junior position is particularly despicable. If true, I cannot see how Clarkson can come back from this.
So if Clarkson goes, what happens to the others? Can a new presenter be really introduced into the long-standing dynamic? I doubt it. What may happen is that the current series becomes the last. I don't think it will be a total end to Top Gear, just it will be reincarnated into a new form, with new presenters. A bit like Blue Peter.
Why do I say this? It is kind of hard to see where the current format with the existing presenters can go from here, even without the latest incident. They have driven the finest machines across the face of the globe from the North Pole to the Amazon rain forests. The only thing left would be to recreate Scott's expedition to the South Pole - but even that would be a bit like their Arctic adventure. Besides, the guys are getting old. Goodness knows, I travel a lot in my job and I know how damn exhausting it can be, never mind all the hacking at jungly tendrils and bridge-building across the River Coq. Even if it is the magic of television and others do the really hard work, some of the latest season has reminded me less of high adventure and more Last of the Summer Wine.
It is quite possible that the BBC high command might make a clean sweep: leave the format fallow for a year and return under a new regime with new faces.
It might be time.
[previous blog: Clarkson, Childhood and Eenie Meenie.]