The BBC hasn't officially terminated its long-running TV show – but 'for the foreseeable future' it is no more
By PH Staff / Tuesday, 21 November 2023 / Loading comments
Top Gear, the pokey BBC motoring show that became a global phenomenon, has come ‘to rest’ after 46 years in the wake of Freddie Flintoff’s serious accident while filming at the Dunsfold test track last December. Given the extent of Flintoff’s injuries, it was widely thought very unlikely that the show would return in its current format; now, in a short statement released by the BBC today, it confirmed that Top Gear’s hiatus from TV screens would continue indefinitely.
“Given the exceptional circumstances, the BBC has decided to rest the UK show for the foreseeable future. The BBC remains committed to Freddie, Chris and Paddy who have been at the heart of the show’s renaissance since 2019, and we’re excited about new projects being developed with each of them. We will have more to say in the near future on this. We know resting the show will be disappointing news for fans, but it is the right thing to do.”
The announcement comes a little more than a month after BBC Studios reached a settlement with Flintoff to account for ‘his continued rehabilitation’ following the crash that required him to be airlifted to hospital. According to The Sun, the agreement was thought to be worth £9m. The commercial arm of the BBC has also recently concluded an independent health and safety review of the production, and while it found that the filming of the 34th series had complied with industry best practice, it suggested ‘there were important learnings’ that could be applied to shows in the future.
The BBC continues to describe ‘the rest’ as a hiatus – and confirmed that all other Top Gear-branded activities and licensed formats will continue unaffected – but it remains to be seen whether the TV show will return at all, and what format it will take if it does. While it has a history of highly publicised crashes (and subsequent brushes with health and safety investigations) the Top Gear brand itself has proven remarkably adaptable, despite suffering mishaps that might have caused less popular shows to cease production for good.
It was a decline in viewing figures that spelt the end for the original show, which started broadcasting in 1977 and was cancelled in 2001 before being relaunched a year later by Andy Wilman and Jeremy Clarkson as a (partly) studio-based concept. By 2003, and the (re)introduction of James May, the format had found its feet and thanks to a penchant for ever-larger stunts – and the appearance of ever-bigger celebrities – it achieved an unlikely global following and was considered one of the Corporation’s most prized commercial assets.
This came to an abrupt halt in 2015 following the termination of Clarkson’s contract (and the subsequent departure of Hammond, May and Wilman) after physical abuse was reported. All found highly lucrative work elsewhere, while the BBC tried (and failed) to find workable replacements. It finally found what it thought were suitable comic foils for Chris Harris’s PH-honed gifts in 2019, when Andrew Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness were brought on board. But now, and very sadly for all those involved, the revamp of the revamp of the revamp ends here. PH wishes everyone affected by the news all the best in their future endeavours – and the BBC’s statement suggests we’ll be seeing plenty of Freddie, Chris and Paddy – although only time will tell if Top Gear has found its final cog.
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