THE STORM following the axeing of Jeremy Clarkson has been whipped up once again after a leaked email from Andy Wilman, Top Gear’s executive producer, seemed to indicate he had quit the show. Wilman has since shot down the reports, claiming it was not a resignation statement and that everyone should “get back to work”.
Wilman, a schoolfriend of Clarkson’s and the man who with the Sunday Times columnist reinvented the show in 2002, said his email was simply a private “note of thanks” to the crew, marking the end of an era.
The leaked email, which is published in full below with Wilman’s response to the leak, was uncovered by the motoring blog Jalopnik. It had the subject line “Au revoir” and began, “Well, at least we left ’em wanting more.” However, as well as thanking staff, Wilman assured them that the show would continue.
“For those of you who still rely on it for work, don’t worry, because the BBC will make sure the show continues. Our stint as guardians of Top Gear was a good one, but we were only part of the show’s history, not the whole of it. Those two words are bigger than us.”
Matt Hardigree wrote on Jalopnik: “This confirms a lot of what we thought we’d here [sic]: the BBC will continue with the show and any staff who wish to stay seem like they’ll be able to do so. Wilman, the man who is as much a part of recreating the show as Jeremy Clarkson, will not be with them.”
“It was not a farewell but a thank you to people who have been important to the show over the last 12 years”
The BBC said Wilman’s email “was intended as a heartfelt message to people who had worked with him and Jeremy, to recognise the fact that with Jeremy leaving it was the end of an era”.
“It was not a farewell but a thank you to people who have been important to the show over the last 12 years. It was bringing down the curtain on the Clarkson era, not announcing his own departure,” she added.
Clarkson was suspended on March 10, following a so-called fracas with a Top Gear producer, Oisin Tymon, over the lack of hot food provided at the crew’s North Yorkshire hotel after a day’s filming. Tymon took himself to casualty with a split lip. An internal inquiry described the incident as an “unprovoked physical and verbal attack” by Clarkson, and he was fired.
Lord Hall, director-general of the BBC, said renewing Top Gear for 2016 without Clarkson was “a big challenge and there is no point in pretending otherwise”. He has appointed Kim Shillinglaw, controller of BBC2 and BBC4, to look into the show’s future and how to broadcast the last programmes in the current series. There is no news yet on whether James May and Richard Hammond will return to the show.
Andy Wilman’s leaked email in full
Well, at least we left ‘em wanting more. And that alone, when you think about it, is quite an achievement for a show that started 13 years ago. I know none of us wanted it to end this way, but for a moment I’d like us to look back and think about just what an incredible thing you all had a hand in creating. When Jane Root gave us the green light in 2002, the brief was to reinvigorate a car show and get an audience of three million. What you all ended up making was one of the most iconic programmes in TV history, a show about cars that went global, won countless awards, was devoured by non car fans and ended up in the Guinness Book of Records.
We had a lot of laughs, we had a lot of tiffs. We went to amazing places and we went to some s***holes. We nearly killed a presenter, we had to run for the border. We started off with whoever we could get in the Reasonably Priced Car, and ended up with Tom Cruise. Throughout all this we made television that was beautiful to look at and beautiful to listen to. The work ethic never slipped, the desire for everyone in this dysfunctional family to do right by the show never faltered. Jeremy, Richard and James, as the visible tip of the iceberg, got most of the attention and praise, but you all in your own fields had such an immense hand in weaving this unforgettable tapestry. I would love to single out everybody by name to thank them for what they did, but it’s impossible and I’d forget someone I shouldn’t have and that would be crap, so I’ll just say, Jim, I’m sorry we never got a bear to drive an automatic.
For those of you who still rely on it for work, don’t worry, because the BBC will make sure the show continues. Our stint as guardians of Top Gear was a good one, but we were only part of the show’s history, not the whole of it. Those two words are bigger than us.
Anyway, when you’re feeling low in your working day at any point, look around at some of the crap on TV, then have a think about Top Gear, 2002- 2015, and say to yourself: “I made that.”
A big, big, big thank you, which will never be enough.
And his subsequent statement
The email I wrote yesterday was not a resignation statement, and nor was it meant for public consumption.
It was a private note of thanks to 113 people who have worked on the show over the years, but clearly one of those 113 is a bit of a tit, because they shared it with a website.
I don’t get this modern obsession with sharing, linking, forwarding, retweeting; whatever happened to a private moment?
And if I were to resign, I wouldn’t do it publicly, I’d do it old school by handing in my, er, notice, to someone upstairs in HR.
I work behind the camera and I wouldn’t presume for one moment to think people are interested in what I do. Now, everyone back to work.