New Clarkson, Hammond and May show for Amazon Prime

Ex-Top Gear trio Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have signed a deal to make a new car show for streaming service Amazon Prime.

The BBC chose not to renew Clarkson’s contract to host Top Gear in April, in the wake of a ‘fracas’ with a producer on the show. Hammond and May decided they would not return to host the BBC2 show without him.

In a statement released by Amazon, Clarkson said: “I feel like I’ve climbed out of a biplane and into a spaceship.”

After the announcement, Hammond tweeted: “I’ve got a job I’ve got a job I’ve got a job. Haircut, clean jeans and practice driving again. Forrrrwaaaaaaaard!!”

While May tweeted: “Good news! I’ve got a job with @AmazonVideoUK. Bad news! So have the other two. #AmazonPrime #ItSaysHere”

Former Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman will join the hosts to run the show.

In June there were reports that the trio had signed a deal with ITV, but it was then revealed that a clause existed in their BBC contracts stipulating that they could not make a show for a UK broadcaster for two years. Signing for Amazon sidesteps that clause.

Filming for the new show will begin shortly and the series will be available worldwide in early 2016. EU vice-president of Amazon Prime Video, Jay Marine, said: “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 create in what is sure to be one of the most globally anticipated shows of 2016.”

The team had been most often linked with Netflix. It seemed likely that they would end up with a subscription service as they would not then have to bend to pressure from advertisers. Amazon hasn’t revealed exactly how they secured the show, but it is certainly a major coup.

Meanwhile, speculation continues apace about who will join Chris Evans on the next series of Top Gear. Evans was announced as host in June, subsequently launching a worldwide talent search for other presenters, pointing out that both Hammond and May auditioned for their places on the show. He insisted at the time and has maintained since that any co-hosts will only come from that open audition process.

But that hasn’t stopped the media offering various celebrities as possibilities. The latest name linked to the show is McLaren F1 driver Jenson Button. The Daily Mail first ran the story, citing a source close to the show, saying an announcement was “imminent”. Adding fuel to the fire, Evans read the article in full on his Radio 2 Breakfast Show, but didn’t pass comment on it. Neither did the BBC.

There is just enough of a ring of plausibility about Button, but in reality it seems unlikely. Being a Formula 1 driver is a full-time job in itself, as presenting Top Gear would be. McLaren has yet to decide if it will retain Button for 2016 and taking on a job as big as Top Gear would likely seriously compromise his chances. Even at 35, and as the long-serving of the current drivers, Button seems far from done with F1. Indeed, he has been named as the front-runner to replace Valtteri Bottas at Williams, should the Finn be signed by Ferrari. But, again, a major TV role would probably put that prospect in jeopardy.

Personally, I think it almost impossible the audition process won’t turn up anyone with the necessary talent to co-host. More than that, not choosing someone from it would at best seem churlish and at worst lose a lot of good will, especially after the considerable publicity around it.

As Evans himself said, the presenters are the last piece of the jigsaw that needs putting into place. Filming will probably start in September or October, so an announcement probably won’t be forthcoming until much nearer that time.

By Only Motors

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