The Blog

We Want Our Dinner!

What should have been a personal moment between two people, that could have been sorted out to the satisfaction of everyone concerned, in private, has been blown up to a story so huge that you could see it from the Space Station.

Was the most important news story of the week that Boko Haram had pledged their allegiance to ISIS to create an international swivel eyed House of Crazy? Was it that Ed Miliband has two kitchens, or three kitchens as is now alleged? Was it that North Korea has started testing it's rockets again?

No, no and no, in that order.

The most important story of the week was that a fat middle aged man did not get his dinner.

It seems a bit weird sitting down to defend someone who is a multi millionaire and so powerful a figure in the media that a dinner related incident would make the front pages for an entire week and counting, but I have a personal stake in the story. I want to see what they would have done with the remaining episodes of Top Gear.

The story, as it was initially described by a press that was practically beside itself at the news that someone as unreconstructed as Jeremy Clarkson should be about to fall, was that he had kept his transport waiting (rude), drank wine till his fuel gauge registered "full" (inebriated) and then arrived in a hotel (luxury) and demanded hot food from a meek serving staff who had to explain that the chef had gone home (Fawlty Towers style).

The details were exquisite. He was not only drinking wine but it was rose wine, which struck me as a little odd for a man so...real ale-y. It was not a cab he had kept outside in attendance while he let it's meter tick over at the public's expense, it was a helicopter, and the dinner he was offered was a salad and specifically not an 8oz sirloin steak with pan-fried wild mushrooms, grilled cherry tomatoes, peppercorn sauce and fondant potatoes at £21.95. Definitely not chips and precisely not £22.

On a point of order Jeremy, having seen you age on my TV since you started Top Gear, and getting vivid reminders of what you used to be like by the magic of repeats on Dave, perhaps a salad every now and then wouldn't go amiss.

Since the first telling, he has sobered up, in the tale anyway. He is now reported to have been totally un-inebriated but highly stressed after a nightmare of a day filming. He did punch an underling, though. Or he didn't but there might have been pushing, or there wasn't. So that's clear.

We will find out in due course because an inquiry has been launched. They have imported a public servant grandee to oversee his trial which will deliberate over the facts before coming to a guilty verdict.

What seems odd to me is that a show that brings in over £50m a year to the company that puts it out should be catered for so erratically. If the filmed reports from the aerodrome where it is set are true, the team operate from a Portakabin. On location, they appear to operate out of their cars.

If a cinema film was guaranteed to bring in its production company a £50m profit I would expect there to be a catering truck at the very least. There would also be motor homes for the stars of such size and opulence that African dictators would get jealous. For a show that brings in so much cash, it seems to be a bit haphazardly accoutred.

The upshot is that we the public have had our toys taken away from us and we haven't even done anything wrong. How are we going to learn if we get punished for things that are not our fault?

The cancellation of the rest of the series seems to be on the basis that JC might not be a very nice person who might have done something that was not very nice. The problem with that is if we were only allowed to be amused by people who are very nice, there would be almost nothing to watch on TV. Telly people, as a whole, are arrogant, boastful, irritating and demanding (as opposed to radio people who are an unalloyed delight!).

The things that JC has been alleged to have done are not very nice but if we were to be solely entertained by nice people there would only be Philip Schofield and that bloke from The One Show on the box, twenty four hours a day. That would be enough to make me take up reading.

Unfortunately, there would not be anything to read as writers of books are all weird and unsocialised and as for journalists...well, they're beyond the pale. Stand up comedians should, by and large, be in an institution and not allowed free reign to wander about in public.

That would leave sports and if the public were only allowed to watch sportsmen that were nice, we would end up going to watch David Beckham back on the pitch, playing with himself. And who wants to see that?

The stars of the various fields of entertainment have all exhibited behaviour that you would not want your mother to see. WC Fields was a grump, Mel Gibson had several meltdowns, Madonna was ruthless, Tom Cruise is from outer space and Led Zeppelin did things with fish that you wouldn't want to Google. Has anyone called for them to be banned?

Caravaggio killed someone. Are there protesters outside the National Gallery at the inclusion of his works? Are there concerned citizens inside ushering people away from viewing his paintings? No, he is regarded as one the greatest artists of all time, despite his personality crises.

The thing is, what should have been a personal moment between two people, that could have been sorted out to the satisfaction of everyone concerned, in private, has been blown up to a story so huge that you could see it from the Space Station.

Clarkson won't suffer. He has more money than God and his phone must be white hot with offers to go and punch a producer on a every rival channel on the box.

The people that are suffering are the ones that have paid for all this: us. The seven million souls who watch that show, for whom it is the couch based highlight of the week. Not to mention the 350 million others who watch it abroad.

We, the British public, have been forced, under threat of imprisonment, to pay our TV licence, and mostly we have. We have done this on the understanding that, in return, we will be offered many amusements, of which we have selected Top Gear as among our favourites. To have it taken away from us after we have paid for it is so deeply unfair that even rabid supporters of the BBC must be feeling the wind of change blow through their admiration of the institution.

The films have been made that would have filled the bulk of the shows' running time. Guests have been booked, including Keano "I know Kung fu" Reeves. All that was left was to film the links in the aircraft hanger and put it on the air.

On behalf of a giant proportion of the British public, can I say that we want to see the programmes we were looking forward to and which we have already bought.

We want our TV dinner!

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