Jeremy Clarkson born from the mining town of Doncaster, South Yorkshire has a no-nonsense approach to broadcasting. He is a controversial, outspoken and opinionated man who is often in the papers.
The Yorkshire broadcaster and writer has many achievements, one of these being changing the face of motoring journalism. He continues to remain one of the most influential figures in the industry.
- Growing Up
- Motoring Press Agency
- Top Gear
- Top Gear Hiatus
- Revamp of Top Gear
- A New Format
- Maintaining His Writing Roots
- Sacked by the BBC
- Where is Jeremy Clarkson Now?
On the 11th of April 1960, Jeremy Clarkson was born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire – originally West Riding. He spent much of his early life helping his parents within their family business of selling tea cosies and Paddington bear toys.
It’s known that Jeremy has been rebellious from a young age. While he was attending Repton School in Derbyshire where he was deeply unhappy due to extreme bullying, he was expelled for, as he said in his own words, “drinking, smoking and making a general nuisance of himself”.
Jeremy Clarkson managed to forge a career in local journalism. He also wrote copy for local publications such as the Rotherham Advertiser, Rochdale Observer and Lincolnshire Life amongst others.
In 1984, Jeremy and a like-minded writer called Jonathan Gill set up the “Motoring Press Agency”. The business road-tested different cars for local papers and industry magazines.
Their reviews of different vehicles were becoming increasingly popular and people were looking forward to reading the next. Eventually, their column became a regular feature in the industry magazine called “Performance Car”.
Producers of the BBC Top Gear programme were looking for a new presenter to revamp an ailing show and Jeremy’s work caught their eye. Clarkson seemed the obvious choice as someone who was younger, brasher and willing to drive the show in a new direction.
Jeremy made his Top Gear debut in 1988 with a remit to help modernise a show whose previous presenters included Angela Rippon and Noel Edmonds. Clarkson co-presented the show along with Vicki Butler-Henderson, Quentin Wilson and Tiff Needell throughout the 1990’s on BBC2.
Top Gear was made up of several on-location features about motoring issues such as transport congestion in London, motorways, maintenance, and car reviews. The show quickly became the most popular on BBC2 pulling in 5 million viewers per Sunday night episode.
During this period of the show, Jeremy’s influence on the motoring industry heightened. In one episode he described a Vauxhall Vectra as a box on wheels which is said to have had a negative impact on the sales of that car.
The show was to be driven off-track by the turn of the Millennium. Several of the show’s leading presenters including Needell and Butler-Henderson had gone to Channel 5 in order to make their own car show called “5th Gear”.
Jeremy Clarkson himself also decided to leave the show for a number of reasons. One of these included having to film the show at Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham:
“Much as I liked Pebble Mill, I really did grow to hate, with unbridled passion, the city that surrounds it. Until you have driven through King’s Heath on a wet Wednesday in February, you have not experienced true horror.”
In truth, Jeremy felt that he had taken Top Gear as far as he could. He’d transformed the show from a niche programme for car enthusiasts with viewing figures in the thousands to the most watched show on its channel with around 6 million views.
The timing of his break from Top Gear is possibly influenced by another factor. During this time, Jeremy had his own chat show in the pipeline.
The show “Clarkson” ran for 23 episodes between 1998 to 2000 which roughly coincided with his Top Gear hiatus. He interviewed famous people and then underwent a wacky activity with them such as making melon rockets for example.
Top Gear was left in the hands of Quentin Wilson, Kate Humble and James May. Ratings for the show halved and by 2001 the series was cancelled.
Top Gear was left in the hands of three presenters – Quentin Wilson, Kate Humble and James May. By 2001, the series was cancelled as the ratings for the show halved which is argued to have been because of Jeremy’s departure and its old-fashioned format which had barely changed since 1977.
In 2002, a new producer called Andy Wilman along with Jeremy Clarkson joined forces to totally revamp the format of Top Gear and effectively save the show. The two were old school friends who had both grown tired of the show’s staid format.
It was decided that Top Gear should be a studio-based show with three presenters which would be Jeremy, Richard Hammond and Jason Dawe. Jeremy and Richard would do the stunts, challenges and reviews while Jason would present bargains for cars. After one series Jason left and was replaced by James May.
Much to Jeremy’s delight, filming had switched to a different location. It was to be done at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey which was complete with its own runway and race track.
The new format created by Jeremy and Andy also included a mysterious helmeted presenter known as “The Stig”. This presenter would speed test the cars around the studio’s track during the new “Power Laps” feature.
Top Gear also included new segments in the show. These included the “Cool Wall”, “The News” and “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” where a celebrity would be timed driving an everyday car around the studio’s tracks.
The segments were also accompanied by more extreme races and challenges taken on by the show’s presenters. Usually, Jeremy Clarkson is in a very high powered car and the others are using another form of transport.
Throughout the 2000’s, the new format proved to be a hit and once again Top Gear became the most watched show on BBC2 with Jeremy very much at the forefront. The three men built up personas on the show with the larger than life Clarkson taking on the role of alpha male.
The appeal of the “new” Top Gear was that you didn’t have to get into cars in order to enjoy it. A viewer could be entertained and also understand the show without having to know the nuances of a 16 valve engine.
Viewers could watch their favourite celebrities driving an everyday car around the track or wonder which presenter was going to make it across London first on their chosen method of transport. The comedy that came from the presenters was a bonus too.
By the end of the decade, Top Gear was watched by an impressive total of 50 million people. It was found that 83% of the population had watched it and the show also had international versions in several other countries including Australia, Russia and the USA.
Despite presenting Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson has continued to maintain his writing roots. He provided columns for several publications including The Sun and the Top Gear magazine.
Top Gear was continuously increasing in popularity and raising the profiles of the three presenters who had become more famous than the show itself. Inevitably, there were controversies.
Jeremy has been at the coal face of many controversies related to Top Gear. He’s landed himself in hot water after jokes about lorry drivers murdering prostitues, using homophobic descriptions of cars, Nazi salutes and made comments that have upset Godron Brown, the Mexican ambassador, mental health charities, the Welsh, Asians, the people of Alabama and the entire Argentinean nation.
The presenter even has his own club called “We Hate Jeremy Clarkson”. This was created after he made derogatory remarks about the county of Norfolk.
Another controversy was his use of a racist word in a rhyme which forced the BBC to take action. These slurs forced the Corporation to place him on a final warning so if he “made one more offensive comment anytime anywhere” he would be sacked.
In March 2015, Jeremy Clarkson was back in the headlines once again on the front cover of many newspapers. At a hotel in Yorkshire, Jeremy punched one of the Top Gear producers in a row over food.
The presenter was sacked by the BBC and the popular show was taken straight off the air during the middle of the series. As of 2022, Chris Harris, Paddy Mcguinnes and Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff took over Top Gear and became the presenters for the show.
Shortly after being sacked by the BBC, Jeremy along with Richard Hammond and James May were given the opportunity to create a series with Amazon Prime called The Grand Tour. This proved to be extremely popular as viewers wanted to see the much loved trio back together again doing what they do best.
In March 2018, Jeremy Clarkson was given a prestigious opportunity. He became the presenter of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” however this has had mixed reviews.
The presenter also decided to start up his own farm called “Diddly Squat Farm” in Norfolk. A TV show about Jeremy and his farm has since been aired.
Although Jeremy Clarkson is a controversial figure, he continues to appear on our screens. He’s had a very successful career with Top Gear which is the highlight of his career so far. This Yorkshire Born lad, although not loved by everyone, is here to stay.