It’s Jeremy Clarkson’s birthday today, and since this website is themed around his television shows, there’s only one thing to do: a retrospective on the only man on Earth who’s technically older than James May.
Clarkson was born on April 11, 1960, in the Yorkshire mining town of Doncaster. He attended the Hill House School (after his parents built an unexpectedly successful business making Paddington Bear stuffed toys for Jeremy and his sister Joanna) and the Repton School, though his tenure at the latter was rife with bullying, and he was eventually expelled for drinking and smoking. While at Repton, he met future Top Gear producer Andy Wilman, and the two have remained fast friends and business partners ever since.
His first job writing about motoring was for the Shropshire Star, starting with “little Peugeots and Fiats and worked my way up to Ford Granadas and Rovers until, after about seven years, I was allowed to drive an Aston Martin Lagonda”. He even tried his hand at reviewing games for Amstrad Computer User, one of which you can see here. There’s absolutely no doubt it’s Clarkson writing, since most of the first column is dedicated to a detailed account of his gambling habit.
He eventually joined old Top Gear in 1988 as a presenter, a role which he would occupy for twelve years before it was canceled, and which gave us such poofy-haired gems as this, shown here being dug up on Michael McIntyre’s talk show. Eventually, though, Clarkson and Wilman retooled the show for the 21st century. It debuted in its current format in 2002, with the notable omission of James May in favor of used-car wizard Jason Dawe. Dawe’s segment was booted at the end of the first season, thankfully, which gave Clarkson and Hammond the opportunity to bring on James May as a third presenter after the BBC asked them to find someone cool and hip who could connect with a young audience.
I won’t bother with every little detail of the intervening 13 years, and instead I shall skip to the part we all remember clear as a bell; in March 2015, Clarkson was dismissed from his role on Top Gear after cussing out and punching producer Oisin Tymon over the lack of a steak dinner at a shoot. The BBC decided unceremoniously not to renew his contract, and Hammond and May voluntarily gave theirs up too. This all happened on top of Clarkson’s wife Frances Cain filing for divorce in 2014, after they had been married since 1993 and raised three children (Finlo, Emily and Katya). He has since struck up a relationship with actress Lisa Hogan, and his daughter Emily has become a successful blogger and author in her own right.
Of course, the rest is history; the three former TG presenters launched The Grand Tour on Amazon, which is currently filming its third season for release late this fall, and it quickly became Amazon’s most successful original show yet. So happy birthday, Jeremy, and good luck with Season 3!