After the BBC dropped a bombshell yesterday with the announcement that it would not renew Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson's contract, speculation about what will happen to the show has begun. While on screen they showed little love for the co-host they sometimes referred to as "the orangutan," Richard Hammond and James May showed support for Clarkson, and cast doubt about whether Top Gear can continue in its current format without him.
"Gutted at such a sad end to an era," Hammond said on Twitter, "We're all three of us idiots in our different ways but it's been an incredible ride together."
"It's a tragedy," May told Sky News in front of his house, apparently not long after getting the official word of Clarkson's firing. He jokingly said that he was off to write an eBay listing for his Ferrari.
May also said he was "sure" that Top Gear would continue, noting that it existed before the current trio. However, he suggested that the show can't continue in its current format without Clarkson.
"We're very much, the three of us, as a package," May said. "It works for very complicated reasons that a lot of people don't fully understand."
Top Gear started in 1977, adding Clarkson as a presenter in 1988. While viewers got a taste of his strong opinions from that point on, Top Gear was much more staid in its original format, focusing on consumer-oriented car reviews for the most part. It wasn't until Clarkson--along with producer Andy Wilman--redesigned the show in 2002 that the stunts, jokes, and heavy emphasis on performance cars and car culture that have made the show so popular were introduced.
The BBC does plan to continue Top Gear. In his statement yesterday announcing Clarkson's terminated, director general Tony Hall said the network was looking into airing the last episodes of the current season, which have been in limbo for the past few weeks. He said the show could return in 2016.
Clarkson certainly doesn't have a monopoly on power-sliding supercars or comic crashes, but now that he's gone it might be time to try something new. As the many attempts to create Top Gear clones in other countries show, the original's balance of humor and genuine enthusiasm for cars is hard to replicate.
Top Gear is more than three middle-aged men being idiots. It's a clear expression of why people love cars, and why they should.