Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Steak that Bites - THE Fracas @ Top Gear

The written letter is nearly as dead, today as Middle English.

A Dying Skill;

A Dying Art;

Extinction rapidly approaches. . .

Top Gear.

James May knows this to be an axiom because he groks the full meaning of the word; The Hamster suffers in bitter silence.

Top Gear?

A collection of high-tech implements;

Twentieth-Century Letter-Writing Glory; idle on a desk at BBC Studios;

Commanding a moral high-ground (but lacking totally in the matter of Ethics);

Memorial marking an End of An Era.

Top Gear??

What did it deliver?

Under the guidance and the tutelage of its last trio of truly great presenters, a great deal.

Top Gear.

The program -- and its last great team -- now demonstrate the spectacular and horrifying Death Roll of the Salty.

Nick stands by, helpless to do anything to change it;

Alfie wouldn't lift a finger even if he could which he cannot.

Top Gear?

Cars in their sundry no longer simply a manifestation of phallic symbolism; in place of that shaft-shaped-symbol they were instead elevated to their rightful and just position as High Art.

Top Gear!

Richard Hammond, his attentive form fixed in a meaningful Zen Pose, contemplating the fate of his best mate and partner. .

James May ducking behind his front door - “I've said many times before, the man is a knob. But I quite like him.”

A man without question a hero to millions;

A man badly used by the press;

Treated as a pariah;

Cast out by his own kith and kin;

Top Gear?

According to the news media the facts behind the event that they gleefully call “The Fracas” are simple enough: notorious Top Gear Presenter Jeremy Clarkson got angry with a Producer from his crew and the situation got physical as well as verbally abusive.

Witnesses claim that the fracas involved Clarkson verbally - and then physically - abusing Oisin Tymon - Start - Action - Fin.

The important questions -- and the ones that the news media has been very careful not to address -- at least they fail to address them head-on and in context -- is Why?

The WHY part is very important here - one might even go so far as to say that it is crucial - because it explains a lot.

Let us examine the matter in a concise and clinical manner shall we?

The People

Jeremy Clarkson - Top Gear Presenter - Fracas Fella.

Oisin Tymon - Top Gear Producer - Fracas Fella.

The Setting

Simonstone Hall - a luxury Yorkshire hotel with a reputation for first-class service and pricing that reflects this.

The hotel was the base of operations and housing for the Top Gear production crew and presenters while they filmed segments on location, in the area.

It was late in the evening, the crew and cast had returned from a frustrating day of not getting the reels that they needed for the segment.

The Circumstances

Now we delve into a mix of circumstances due to the follow-on changes to the narrative. First there was open commentary, then suddenly silence, and now very little in terms of sharing or verifying.

The past is not always the past, but in this case the future certainly is!

Despite not having obtained the segment content of a quantity and quality desired that does not mean that the cast and crew did not spend a long day working. They did.

By previously stated accounts it was a long and a frustrating day - and as the facts emerge it appears that at least part of the delays that eventually resulted in a late return to the hotel were caused by the production side - though Tymon was not among those who contributed to the shooting delay issues.

The Issue(s)

The cast and crew returned to the hotel late - the kitchen was theoretically closed for hot meals.

Other and alternative dishes were immediately available.

Hotel management previously stated that hot food service would have been provided had the producer in charge of coordinating such services simply requested it. Now they say... Nothing.

Previously it was clearly stated that the drama that ensued was not necessary according to hotel management.

The hotel is a luxury facility that is not simply used to attending to the special needs of its guests up to and including off-the-menu hot foods after hours.

The ability to deliver that level of service is actually among the elements for which the hotel takes justifiable pride.

That was then. Now? No official comments are available on that subject.

The hotel management was crystal clear on the matter: had Tymon submitted a request for service, the hotel would have cheerfully delivered.

The problem was Tymon appears to have chosen not to do so.

Was this due to his inexperience in his role as facilitator?

Was it a failure to ascertain that the options were actually available?

Was down to Tymon deciding -- on his own -- NOT to request such services?

Did he honestly -- if incorrectly -- fail to understand the functioning principals behind the phrase “Luxury Hotel”?

Was he operating under the belief that those options were not, in fact, available to the crew?

Either way this is where the true breakdown and failure seems to have occurred.

The reasoning is simple enough - and the reason that Clarkson became angry is also simple enough to understand...

BBC paid for top-shelf services - including the availability of special request services - that appears to be partly why that particular hotel was chosen...

Obvious Failures

The cast and crew had just come in off of a long and miserable day of not shooting what they had set out to shoot, with Clarkson AND others looking forward to a nice hot meal of steak and fixings with a nice glass of wine or perhaps beer to accompany it.

The menu choice that Clarkson was craving and looking forward to happens to be the one that is featured prominently on the hotel website in its illustration of services!

It was not a special menu item, it was not unusual, it was a house specialty!

Naturally then there were expectations - and some hungry hungry tummies - who arrived only to be told by Tymon that the desired comforts were not available.

Understand that it was Tymons duty to MAKE that available, to facilitate the availability of such comforts, and to interface with the hotel in accomplishing one specific task: seeing to the comfort of the cast and crew.

Tymon appears to have been ill-equipped to accomplish that set of goals. Well, he failed on all fronts in doing so in any case...

It was during this failure process - something that unfolded over TIME - and not as an instant action - that the fracas evolved.

That bears repeating: if you listen to the narrative that has been promoted by the media the “fracas” was an instant event that just happened. There was no sort of build-up, there were no contributing factors - there was no discussion and no argument other than a suddenly rabid and abusive Clarkson.

That works fine for the media narrative but not so well for real life, because anyone who has ever gotten into an argument knows that it is not simply pulling a trigger.

Clarkson requested services that were certainly within reason - Tymon moved to block access to those services.

Oisin Tymon did not just NOT do his duty - he appears to have, either through ignorance or intention, helped to create friction and impediments where they did not need to exist.

Clarkson argued with Tymon - the gist of the argument initially being to point out that as the producer contact on site the goal was facilitation not failure, and the producer was not attaining that goal.

More important though is the simple fact that what Clarkson was requesting was:

1. Not unreasonable
2. Within the capabilities of the hotel
3. Available at Request
4. Within the previously established expectations of the cast.

In the end what this appears to be is a situation that need never have happened.

In the end the blame has been placed squarely on Clarkson by actions on the part of the news media to paint the roles and the events in a manner inconsistent with the reality.

Ultimately the narrative that has survived and that dominates the events remains the narrative that was created and preferred by the news media(?!).

That begs a simple question: is it because it is more entertaining than what actually took place?

It appears that the BBC initially accepted the popular and widely-spread fabricated narrative and then, later, refused to adjust the operative investigation to suit the facts, choosing instead to defend their initial and it seems false public position.

It seems that if there really is hubris involved here, it is not hubris at the feet of Clarkson. He may have feet of clay at times but he willingly admits to that and what is more, Clarkson has always been a WYSIWYG sort of bloke.

Crazy often times has a function. Let's try not to forget that.

And there is such a thing as cutting your nose off to spite your face - though clearly Clarkson still possesses HIS nose.

Which begs the question, just whose nose is it that sits on the Executive Floors at the BBC?

Might it be that the hardline negativity and refusal to deal with the facts on the part of the investigators has a closer relationship with past events than the so-called “Fracas” appears to suggest?

I leave the answer to that last question as an exercise for the reader... With the caveat that it might be helpful to review the following events so that they are fresh in mind before working out that answer:

In the February 2006 issue of Top Gear Magazine, Clarkson revealed that he thought that the BBC did not take Top Gear seriously...

The official BBC reply to those allegations? Clarkson's comments should be totally ignored due to the fact that the presenters' provocative comments are "an integral part of the programme and are not intended to be taken seriously."

Read the above again - learn it by heart - because the BBC is basically saying any complaints Clarkson makes should be immediately dismissed.

The BBC approved for broadcast ALL of the episodes that are now being carefully referred to as “troubled spots” for Clarkson... That all happened real-world, not in a vacuum. It is one thing to point at character and quite another to dismiss a man and his concerns under the “Because I Said So” rule.

BBC appears to be taking on its Ma'am the Guv role here, and pointing to “issues” that were originally raised by others, justified and dismissed by the BBC, and now raised by the BBC as if the previous process never happened and they were areas of concern all along!

Grab your remote and watch the following episodes to refresh your memory of that which we now speak of:
  • Series 6, Episode 7 (Daihatsu Copen)
  • Series 7, Episode 1 (BMWs MINI Concept Car)
  • Series 12, Episode 7 (Tesla Roadster)
  • Series 14, Episode 1 (Romania Roadtrip)
  • Series 16, Episode 2 (Mexico / Mastretta sports car)
  • The 2014 Christmas Special is also worth re-viewing.
Considering the fact that the BBC has previously and consistently defended national stereotyping as a robust part of British humor in general and Top Gear's voice specifically, it is rather odd that they now use some of that in their own defense against Clarkson, isn't it?

That is especially troublesome in that UK broadcast regulator Ofcom repeatedly cleared the programming under the grounds of its comedic intent and the context, going so far as to point out that Top Gear is well known for its irreverent style and sometimes outspoken humor.

I say especially troublesome due to the fact that bits of that previously defended and cleared behavior and commentary are now, it appears, being used as ammunition as if they had not in fact previously been cleared behavior.