Should Top Gear UK Continue Without Jeremy Clarkson?

I can’t believe I’m actually writing this post. Jeremy Clarkson was fired (his contract was not renewed) this week because he punched a producer of the show Top Gear. If you need a refresher on the details, you can read the BBC statement here. I am a longtime fan of Top Gear (since 2004), but I can’t condone Jeremy’s actions. He is brilliant but also quite rubbish in real life. The BBC isn’t like a TV network in the US, they are funded by tax dollars and can’t allow inappropriate things like this to happen while being funded by the government. After Jeremy is let go from the BBC, it is expected that the other hosts James May and Richard Hammond will also leave. Therefore questioning the future of the show that was the most watched factual programme in the world. 

Its a small world after all.

Its a small world after all.

You may already know that Jeremy Clarkson resurrected TopGear in 2002 from a sleepy little car review show and turned it into one of the biggest TV show franchises ever. I discovered TopGear many years before it was broadcast on US TV while on a quest to find all the Eddie Izzard TV appearances. (of whom I was fascinated with at the time) After seeing Eddie’s appearance on a dvd recording of TopGear, I looked up the show online. I spent about half of my day at work the next day watching TopGear clips on YouTube. The first episode I remember was Series 7, episode 3. The one where they take a Ford GT40, a Ferrari and a Pagani (panini) Zonda to Paris and almost get them stuck in a parking garage on their way to shoot some scenic car p#rn on the Millau bridge.

There I was in my cubicle laughing with disbelief when they almost scraped up these 100K+ super cars on the exit ramp from the garage. It was pure un-planned reality TV at that time, and far more entertaining than anything on US network TV. The OMG humor in the garage situation was contrasted with the amazing and majestic panoramic views of the cars on the Millau bridge. TopGear was brilliant because early on they decided to embrace the things that went wrong and have a sense of humor about it. They were also great about balancing the humor in the show with genuine moments of awe. (especially in many of their travel shows). The production quality and editing was also really good for a car show and with that they singlehandedly changed car commercials forever.

Stig is quite proud of this. He might get a producer credit.

Stig is quite proud of this. He might get a producer credit.

At that moment I saw the show in YouTube, I was hooked. I had a family that appreciated cars even though we didn’t have enough money to do anything stupid with them. (Buick!) My brother spent high school and college rebuilding and street racing an IROC camaro (and a bunch of beaters) and my dad was one of those people who could name any make and model of car (1930-present) pretty much on sight. I got the car humor on TopGear immediately and identified with the sort of friendship that the three hosts had on the show.

I’ve posted before about the contrast in the hosts personalities making the show great. The love of cars might be the only thing that they had in common when they started working together. Even if they amplified their personalities to the point of becoming a character on the show, it worked. I saw the same kind of humor and silliness in my brother’s friends all those years that they were taking apart their Camaros and Mustangs in an effort to make them faster, cooler and in some cases, just function. I was fascinated by the TopGear hosts and the fact that they had found a way to make a living messing around with (other people’s) cars. How do you get that gig? And then how do you live up to the expectations of everyone watching you muck about like a teenager? It was really unbelievable. Part teenager’s dream, part improvisational reality TV and part relationship drama. Oh yea, with cars. After seeing TopGear, I never ever wanted to see Motor Week  again. TopGear found a way to bottle that energy that I knew existed within the gearhead/streetracing communities here in the US and sell it to the world. Brilliant.

After initially discovering the show I had to share TopGear with my family, and after a while I was able to get a region free dvd player and some dvds from the UK and we would watch the show together. (later we found other ways of getting the shows on to our US television) My mom even thought it was a funny show even though she didn’t care about cars.

We watched TopGear on most Sundays when I would go home to visit my parents and have Sunday dinner together. TopGear was a fixture in our lives from about 2004 until 2012. Those were really good times spent together. My dad passed away in 2013 at about the same time that I had a baby. I haven’t been able to watch much TopGear since. (we’re about 2 years behind on the dvr) My brother is still a loyal fan, and isn’t 2 years behind on episodes because he doesn’t have a toddler. We have introduced our son to one or two shows of TopGear and he does like cars. (but he would prefer that it was hosted by Elmo) Maybe some day when he is older we will get the old dvds out and show him all the seasons of TopGear and have that kind of family time again. Why do I bother to tell the story about my family watching the show? Because it illustrates the kind of connection that TopGear had with so many people all over the world with this particular formula.

The story doesn’t end there though.

I have told a very long story without answering the initial question in this post.

Should TopGear live on without Jeremy Clarkson, James May & Richard Hammond presenting? 

I think TopGear can live on without them because the BBC owns the rights to the concept, the name, the production. Everything. The BBC has the distribution network and the rights to keep selling a car show to the world. They can hire new hosts, write new content and keep producing. That said, I don’t know if the BBC should continue to produce TopGear without Jeremy, James and Richard. It doesn’t really make sense.

Some logistics for the BBC to consider: New hosts take at least one season to get their bearings set and develop a rapport with eachother. Sometimes you pick the wrong people and it takes longer. The TV watching public expects an amazing amount of humor, production quality and entertainment from TopGear because of its reputation. There is no way to meet the expectations of the public before they abandon a show (maybe 2-3 episodes?). The viewers had a relationship with Jeremy, James and Richard. It developed over years of inviting them into our home every Sunday. Its awkward to have someone new over to replace someone that has been a regular guest for so long. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

camaro n mustang

The IROC in all its glory. Note the burnout patches on the street. Also note the date-stamp.

If the BBC wants to continue the TopGear UK show my suggestion is to do a franchise re-boot and not a continuation of the current show.

1. Start with 3 people that are very well versed in cars but rather unknown personalities. (not all of them have to be men)

2. Make sure they are young, but they appreciate and know a lot about automotive history.

3. Make sure they have very different personalities, yet don’t hate each other.

4. Take them to some improviser workshops. Make sure they’re OK taking direction and comfortable on camera.

5. Introduce them to the Stig. The Stig stays. (Like many Stigs before him.)

6. Possibly rename the show.

7. Possibly add some different segments or twists to the segments.

And what will happen to Jeremy Clarkson, James May & Richard Hammond? I am sure that they will continue to make entertaining shows elsewhere in the world after TopGear. The viewers still have that relationship with them and the hosts take it with them wherever they go. I think a US network/company would be perfectly fine with a host that punches people occasionally, but Jeremy isn’t a fan of the US all that much. So, we will see if he considers working on this side of the pond. James and Richard could follow Jeremy wherever he goes because they are an automotive triumvirate and car companies will still trust them with 250K cars.

It doesn’t mean that things will be easy starting over. Jeremy, James and Richard aren’t getting any younger. I actually thought that the show would end someday because one of them was seriously injured or because they were too old to get insurance for those kind of stunts. (they have taken so many chances with pushing the limits over the years) They have to really think about how they can muck about and have fun in an age appropriate way. Going to the North Pole may not be a safe option anymore. Maybe they need younger sidekicks to mentor or kids to teach about cars. Maybe they broaden the scope of the show beyond cars? Maybe its traveling that they are into now? Maybe its new car innovations? Who knows, I am sure that they will have some ideas and may already be working on something.

Whatever happens, we will survive with or without Top Gear. (We have the archives right?) It was a great time in TV history and we will remember them for their innovations and their humor. We will still have cars as an interest in our day to day lives. After all, I still drive a 300 hp turbocharged Volvo and my husband has a cutting edge electric Chevy Volt. (its faster than you think) My brother drives a V8 Buick Lacrosse Super. My brother in law drives a white hybrid Audi Q3. (I don’t know what’s up with that.) And we will enjoy many more years of interesting cars because of TopGear.

Advertising and Economic Growth Dissertation

advertising-and-economic-growth.pdf

Ok, back to the serious stuff again… (ugh) I have been reading this study on advertising on economics, while I am on the train. (it keeps the crazy people away) Advertising and Economic Growth by Maximilien Nayaradou and prepared by the World federation of Advertisers. (I guess there is a federation for everything) It is very interesting, and as always I am looking for clues and insight into my own market and analysis category by way of these theories and research. I am only 1/2 way through it but 2 things have struck me thus far.

advertising economics correlation

1. The consumption trend for the US is crazy high compared with the rest of the world. The people here are really living on thin ice financially. There is very little saftey net if you spend 70% of your income (considered consumption in the chart). The formula is More Advertising $ Spent = More Consumer Consumption. But notice the law of diminishing returns, and how high the spending had to get just to move the needle that little bit between the UK and the US which are already at the highest end.

2. The correlation they talk about between higher advertising rates and higher economic growth rates are not really true in my opinion. I do not think extra advertising raises growth rates, I think it speeds up and condenses a product life cycle in a shorter time. The result is that things get old faster, out of fashion faster and people want new stuff faster. Therefore excessive and mass advertising would condense a product’s lifecycle from 5 years to maybe 2 at best. You train people to want something new every 2 months and your product won’t sell at all in 3. It all leads to a faster churn of companies growing booming and later failing and going under. That’s not new growth, that’s growth that would have happened anyway, you just made it faster, and it will drop off just as fast when people get tired of it and stop buying. No one talks about the downward slide on the other end, or how this creates a turblulent economy where people get laid off from jobs every 2 years and companies have to get bailed out all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I like advertising in general. I have always been fascinated by it and love it’s news like ability to reach consumers and inform them about new priducts, information and entertainment when it is relevant and benificial. But I HATE over-advertising spammy companies that think that with enough money spent plastering their name on everything that moves, they will be able to keep that upwards growth trend going. You have to realize that people are over sensitized and will block it out after a certain point, and if they have a bad experience with the product they are not going to be very willing to give it another chance. Unless they aren’t that smart, but then as a country we have even bigger problems.

Feb 17, 2009 Analog TV ends – Digital Converter Boxes

Do you still only watch analog free network TV like me? Do you either not have the money or the need for Cable? Well only about 20% of households are like mine in that they don’t have cable but that apparently amounts to around 70Million people. Yes, there is still some frugality in this blingy world. What the rest of us have to do is either buy a new Digital TV or buy an adapter for your existing TV when the analog signals are shut of forever on February 17, 2009

Digital TVs have been around for a while but if you haven’t bought a new HDTV flat screen lately yours probably isn’t going to be set for this. I have a 27 inch TV bought in 2002 that still seems new to me. I don’t want to get rid of it so I am going to have to find an adapter. What I don’t know is where to find these adapters? I could benefit from them right now.

In Chicago the digital broadcasts that are free have more channels available that I would like to see. Like 2, 5, 7, 9 and 11 all have variations with decimals in the channel number. 5.0 is regular, 5.1 is wide-screen, 5.2 is high def and 5.3 is a special channel with just breaking news and weather 24/7. Same with the others. Channel 9 has a music video channel called Tube that just does an old school MTV 24/7 and Channel 11 has a Spanish language version and a just do it yourself channel called Create with all house, cooking, gardening and craft shows all day and night.

So, where are the adapters? Why don’t I see anyone selling digital-to-analog converter boxes?

I think they are not producing them on purpose. They want to force people into buying a new TV for $1,000.00 rather than a converter for $100.00. It’s all on purpose to not tell people until the last minute and have the only option be the expensive one. Well guess what? Those 20 Million that have no cable and may not buy a new TV? They all have the internet. I even have netflix. I predict that they will just loose the TV all together and get all their news and entertainment via the internet (and netflix) if they don’t want to get dicked around by the electronics makers. It’s their loss, not mine.