With Jeremy Clarkson at the helm, Top Gear consistently proved itself to be one of the most popular TV shows, not just in the UK, but worldwide. With co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May, Clarkson garnered a huge fanbase who watched as much for the trio of presenters as for the show itself.
Clarkson was fired from Top Gear back in March 2015, after details of a physical altercation with a producer came to light. The BBC announced that Top Gear would continue with a new host in the form of veteran presenter and radio DJ Chris Evans, but Hammond and May then quit the show. It seemed like only a matter of time before the trio moved to another channel, until it was rumored that a clause in their BBC contracts prevented them from hosting another UK show for two years. Now Amazon Prime has come to the rescue, with the international streaming service signing all three presenters to host a new motoring show.
Variety reports that Clarkson, Hammond and May will front the as yet untitled show for a minimum of three seasons, the first of which will be available in 2016. Former Top Gear executive Andy Wilman also follows the presenters over to Amazon to produce, having quit the BBC in the wake of Clarkson’s firing. Development and pre-production is set to kick off this fall, with filming beginning in the new year.
In an apparent dig at the BBC, Wilman told the Radio Times they had decided to move to Amazon because “they'll give us the freedom to make the programme we want."
"There's a budget to produce programmes of the quality we want and this is the future.... I can't tell you how good it feels to get the chance to produce something from scratch. We're all really excited. No one telling us what we can and can't do, just us hopefully producing great programmes. It feels really liberating."
Amazon Prime Video EU vice-president Jay Marine said in a statement: "Customers told us they wanted to see the team back on screen, and we are excited to make that happen. We can't wait to see what Jeremy, Richard, James and the team will create in what is sure to be one of the most globally anticipated shows of 2016."
In their own inimitable style, the presenters also passed comment on the news, with Clarkson saying he felt like he had “stepped out of a bi-plane and into a spaceship,” while Hammond joked "Amazon? Oh yes. I have already been there. I got bitten by a bullet ant." May followed up with: "We have become part of the new age of smart TV. Ironic, isn't it?"
Marine also made mention of the “creative freedom” that Amazon Prime likes to encourage in its program makers, which is sure to appeal to Clarkson, Hammond and May, who became as synonymous with their outrageous adventures and challenges as they did with their knowledge of cars.
I'm very excited to announce that Hammond, May and I have signed a deal with .@AmazonVideo
— Jeremy Clarkson (@JeremyClarkson) July 30, 2015
The acquisition of this presenting trio is a huge coup for Amazon, which has been slow to make headway in the original programming stakes in comparison to other streaming channels such as Netflix. Time will tell whether the huge Top Gear fanbase will remain loyal to the BBC or to Clarkson and team, but Amazon Prime follows Netflix in its habit of not releasing viewing figures, so we are unlikely to discover which show actually attracts more viewers.
Amazon Prime plans to premiere the show in fall 2016.