Too soon? BBC cracks jokes about Clarkson's sacking
The BBC treats the sacking of Jeremy Clarkson as a source of comedy in a new series of its ‘mockumentary’ W1A.
Clarkson’s surname is bleeped out and his face pixelated in the first episode of the satirical show, which sends up the corporation’s management culture.
The voiceover explains: "Since the making of this documentary, certain events have happened as a result of which for technical reasons we are unable to mention certain people by name."
The script for the episode was written months before Clarkson was sacked for assaulting a Top Gear producer, Oisin Tymon, but the bleeping and pixellation were added after Clarkson's departure, to enhance the comic effect.
Recent events were not amusing for Mr Tymon – said by his lawyer to have suffered an “extremely unpleasant” ordeal in recent weeks, including receiving death threats from Clarkson fans – or for Clarkson, whose BBC career was ended at a stroke.
Top Gear fans were also furious at the BBC’s decision to sack the presenter and pull the remaining episodes of the motoring show, with one million people signing a petition calling for his reinstatement.
However, BBC bosses signed off the W1A episode and decided Clarkson would be a good source of comedy.
The plot involves Clarkson getting into trouble for his use of the word ‘tosser’ on screen. An intern is tasked with watching four years’ worth of old Top Gear episodes to censor the term.
A meeting of executives is accompanied by the voiceover: “Traditionally, the first item on the agenda is 'the Jeremy Clarkson item’.”
The series writer, John Morton, said: “I wrote that episode back in July or August last year. The only thing we did [after Clarkson's sacking] was add one voice-over, the bleeping of ‘Clarkson’ and the pixellation of his face.
“We weren’t asked to make any changes at all.
“I wasn’t aware of it being run past [director-general] Tony Hall. You would think if ever there was a show where people would interfere, this would be it, but that hasn’t happened at all.”
Jon Plowman, W1A’s executive producer, said the Clarkson jokes were “in the spirit of W1A”.
The plot of the first episode also includes a running joke about the tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, with executives keen to sign him up as a Wimbledon presenter because he is “ethnically not so much white”.
Tsonga was at the heart of a real-life scandal at the BBC in 2009 when Carol Thatcher, daughter of Baroness Thatcher, was sacked from her job as a reporter on The One Show after referring to him as a “golliwog”.