Barely a week after the BBC called time on Top Gear, it appears that the Amazon-backed spin-off that sought to mimic its format has also bitten the dust. Or at any rate, it won’t continue with its current presenters: the Sun reporting that Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have collectively decided that the episode they just finished filming in Zimbabwe will be their final outing. The BBC reckons that ‘options are being explored for a new incarnation of the show’ but that it will not continue with the three presenters that triggered its creation.
Asked to comment, Clarkson subsequently told The Times: "We’re done. I have reviewed cars on TV since 1989. That’s 34 years. And after next year, I won’t be doing that anymore.” The confirmation presumably brings the curtain down on a 20-year working relationship, May having joined Clarkson and Hammond on Top Gear back in 2003. According to an unnamed source quoted by the Sun, the decision marks the ‘end of an era’ but all three presenters “felt like the time was right and [they] wanted to go out on a high when the show remained popular.”
While it abandoned the studio format after the third season, the team returned to make a series of extravagant, often exotically located feature-length ‘specials’ that recalled previous Top Gear films of similar style and outlook. Most recently, this included the rally-inspired ‘A Scandi Flick’ and ‘Eurocrash’, a road trip across Central Europe in ‘strange cars that nobody buys’. It is understood that two additional episodes - one filmed in Mauritania, the other just completed in Zimbabwe - will draw the fifth season to a close next year.
Certainly, the presenters have no shortage of other work to devote their time to, some of it - most notably Clarkson’s Farm, which is due to return for a third season - also produced by Amazon. Nevertheless, the Grand Tour’s apparent conclusion, coming so close to confirmation of Top Gear’s (probably lengthy) hiatus is lamentable for anyone who enjoyed the spectacle of big-budget, car-themed TV - which, let’s face it, was most of us at some point in the last two decades. And while it’s probably true that the format itself needs rethinking, we can only hope that whatever comes next lives up to the unlikely legacy of three middle-aged blokes cocking about in cars.