After two controversial incidents last year that included accusations of racism, Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson said the BBC had given him its last warning.
Apparently, it was serious. Clarkson was suspended from Top Gear this week after getting into a “fracas” with producers, according to The Independent.
A BBC statement initially said that only the this week’s episode would be put on hold while the matter is investigated, but the organization’s news division subsequently reported that the rest of the current season will not air.
“Following a fracas with a BBC producer Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending an investigation. No one else has been suspended,” the statement said.
The Daily Mail later reported that Clarkson punched Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon after being told there was no hot food at a filming location.
Fellow host James May reportedly said Clarkson was involved in “a bit of a dust up” when asked about the incident.
Clarkson was put on last-straw status after two incidents last year, first when an outtake of him mumbling the “N-word” appeared, and then when he was accused of using the derogatory term “slope” during the Top Gear Burma Special.
BBC television director Danny Cohen ordered an investigation of the show’s culture last year, reportedly asking people involved if they thought Top Gear was racist.
Clarkson, May, co-host Richard Hammond, and executive producer Andy Wilman were reportedly among those interviewed.
More trouble came with the beginning of Top Gear’s current season, when the trio of hosts were kicked out of Argentina after violent protests incited by the license plate “H982 FKL” on Clarkson’s Porsche 928, which was taken as a reference to the 1982 Falklands War.
Clarkson, Hammond, May, and Wilman have vehemently denied that the plate number was anything but a coincidence, but the Argentina debacle reportedly made Top Gear bosses fearful that the show would be cancelled.
Top Gear still remains a cash cow for the BBC though, although it appears the network has had enough of Clarkson’s antics.
The three Top Gear hosts’ contracts expire at the end of the month, but previous reports claimed they were ready to sign a new three-year deal. Now, the Daily Mail claims Clarkson may leave Top Gear even if the BBC is willing to reinstate him.
In a column for The Sun this week, Clarkson wrote about dinosaurs in a way some are saying indicates he will quit Top Gear.
“All the dinosaurs died and now, years later, no one mourns their passing,” Clarkson wrote. “These big, imposing creatures have no place in a world which has moved on.”
Meanwhile, an online petition to bring Clarkson back has been circulating and reportedly has over 880,000 signatures. Fans are also taking to social media to show their support.
It’s hard to imagine the show without Clarkson, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks.
UPDATE: We’ve updated the story with additional information that has come to light since it was first published.
UPDATE: An additional report claims the rest of the current Top Gear season will be cancelled, rather than just this week’s episode, as the BBC originally stated.
UPDATE: Clarkson subsequently broke his silence with a column about dinosaurs.