Curtains for Clarkson: is this the final straw for Top Gear?

Once again the Top Gear team have found themselves at the centre of an international controversy after having been forced to return home from filming in Argentina amid a row over the number plates on one of their cars.

They were chased to the Argentine- Chilean border and forced to halt the filming of their annual Christmas special after the number plates on one of their cars raised cause for concern among locals.

The BBC production team have been accused of trying to deliberately cause upset by purchasing a Porsche for use in the show with a number plate which allegedly references the British/Argentine Falklands Conflict: H982 FKL; 1982 of course being the year of the Argentine invasion. The lost war still rankles with Argentina, with the government still claiming sovereignty over the islands, which are populated by some 3,000 British citizens. The team were forced to abandon their cars at the roadside after having been pelted with rocks by an enraged local mob.

The production team have now found themselves being forced to defend their actions insisting that the plates were a complete coincidence and that the show did not have the intention to cause controversy. However, at the time of writing this statement is being brought into question by the discovery of yet another set of offensive – this time a play on “dick head” – number plates in the back of one of the abandoned cars.

Realistically, how many times can Top Gear stick their head above the parapet before they get blown to pieces? The show is one of the most popular television productions not only in the UK but worldwide, regularly topping the British Sunday

well as racking up an average of 350 million views in 170 different countries each week. However this isn’t the first time that they’ve found themselves to be the focus of criticism: they caused upset in Mexico after Richard Hammond described Mexican people as “lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf[s] with a moustache” and this year alone Jeremy Clarkson has twice found himself at the centre of rows over racism: having been found to have used the ‘n-word’ in a rhyme whilst filming, as well as using a derogatory word towards Asian peoples whilst filming in Burma. There have been national criticisms from Germany, Romania and the USA as well as complaints from Muslims, campaigners for the mentally handicapped and women.

With steadily declining viewing figures over the past few years how many more people can Top Gear offend and still maintain their status as one of the biggest shows on TV? As with any television production, the success of Top Gear is decided not by the critics, but by viewers and word of mouth. But with yet another controversy impacting the BBC, are people finally running out of good things to say?

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September 2021
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