‘Out of a biplane and into a spaceship’

31 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Clarkson & Co wade into Amazon’s jungle.

Former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson has signed a deal with Amazon to present a new motoring show alongside his former co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May.

Despite being shocked at the broadcaster’s decision not to renew his contract, Clarkson had said he was confident he would do another car show eventually. In the world exclusive interview Andy Wilman reveals to radiotimes.com the new Amazon Prime Show will launch next Autumn, the truth about their BBC contracts and how they were prevented from going to ITV and why they are signing to Amazon Prime. “They’ll give us the freedom to make the programmes we want – and you know how we love that freedom – there’s a budget to produce programmes of the quality we want and this is the future.” Jay Marine, Vice President of Amazon Prime Video EU, said: “Customers told us they wanted to see the team back on screen, and we are excited to make that happen. “Millions of Prime members are already enjoying our ground-breaking original shows. Amazon said the new show, to be overseen by the trio’s long-time executive producer Andy Wilman, will be available on its subscription streaming service Amazon Prime next year and will run for three seasons. We can’t wait to see what Jeremy, Richard, James and the team will create in what is sure to be one of the most globally anticipated shows of 2016.” Fans have reacted to the news on Twitter, with several conveying their disappointment that they will have to fork out £79 a year for an Amazon Prime subscription. Prime TV, which comes at an annual cost of around €99 and which also includes such things as free delivery on Amazon purchases (depending on your territory) is Amazon’s rival to the better-known Netflix and allows users to watch both movies and TV shows.

Clarkson, 55, was replaced as lead presenter of the globally popular Top Gear show — aired in more than 200 countries and watched by 350 million viewers worldwide — by television presenter and DJ Chris Evans. Clarkson changed his Twitter bio to “I am a presenter on an Amazon motoring show” and said of the move away from terrestrial television: “I feel like I’ve climbed out of a bi-plane and into a spaceship.” The deal is a coup for Amazon, although the presenters were hamstrung by the fact a clause in their old BBC contracts prevented them hosting a car show for a UK television channel for the next two years.

After leaving the BBC in March, the trio were forced to change the name of their live show to Clarkson, Hammond & May Live – and strip all Top Gear branding from it. Clarkson had generated both controversy and profits for Britain’s publicly funded broadcaster, and had been on a final warning over accusations last year he had used racist language while filming the show.

It has been reported that Richard then nearly told the 15,000 strong audience but was stopped by his fellow presenters, and then teased over the American accent. It has already produced such critically acclaimed programmes as the transgender drama Transamerica and has commissioned Woody Allen to write and produce a new series (a project which he says is the hardest thing he’s ever worked on). A Top Gear television crew was forced to flee Argentina after driving a Porsche 928 GT with the registration number H982 FKL, which some people suggested could have referred to the Falklands conflict.

Explaining the attractions of Amazon after years with the BBC, Wilman told Broadcast: “Everyone we have talked to has said to us, ‘They leave you alone to make your show.’ In a separate interview with Radio Times, he said: “No-one telling us what we can and can’t do, just us hopefully producing great programmes – it feels really liberating.” The format will be familiar to Top Gear viewers, with a mix of studio-based chat and international adventures. Wilman said the three presenters would have “more time to yak” and their friendship would remain the show’s central element. “You can’t reinvent the sideways, Last of the Summer Wine-type relationship they have because that is outside of television, that is theirs. Amazon Prime, as with Netflix, does not publish viewing figures but is estimated to have as many as 50-million Prime subscribers worldwide, according to the Geekwire website.

Some Amazon series, including the comedy drama Transparent, are made available all in one go so subscribers can “binge-watch” an entire series if they choose. Amazon is also estimated to be losing significant amounts of money on Prime and is reckoned to be about to increase the price, possibly by as much as €30.

Asked if he would like the show to go head-to-head with Top Gear, Wilman admitted: “The child in me probably would,” but said there was room for two motoring programmes. Amazon doesn’t sell cars but it is still a commercial organisation so it will be interesting to see if Clarkson’s wings are metaphorically clipped. It’s currently being rebuilt by a team surrounding new lead presenter and producer Chris Evans but there has been little news since his appointment as to other presenters or the format of the show.

Car-nut couch-potatoes will shortly have to make a choice – watch an untried but free to air Top Gear on the BBC, or stick with the tried and tested crew of Clarkson, Hammond and May but fork out a significant annual fee for the privilege.

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