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Former Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have signed up to present a new show on Amazon’s streaming video service. The trio will front three series of a new motoring programme for Amazon Prime, with the first season to be made available worldwide in 2016.
The move follows their departure from the hit BBC Two show earlier this year. Clarkson’s contract was not renewed following an “unprovoked physical attack” on a Top Gear producer. His co-hosts then followed him in leaving the show. They will now make the unnamed new programme with former Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman, who also quit the BBC following the “fracas”.
In a statement from Amazon, Clarkson said: “I feel like I’ve climbed out of a biplane and into a spaceship.” Hammond said: “Amazon? Oh yes. I have already been there. I got bitten by a bullet ant.” And May added: “We have become part of the new age of smart TV. Ironic, isn’t it?”
Wilman told the Radio Times the team would begin working on the new series as soon as they return from their summer holidays. He said they agreed a deal with Amazon because “they’ll give us the freedom to make the programme we want…there’s a budget to produce programmes of the quality we want and this is the future”. Wilman added the format of the new show would contain “themes people will be familiar with”.
“I can’t tell you how good it feels to get the chance to produce something from scratch,” he said. “We’re all really excited. No one telling us what we can and can’t do, just us hopefully producing great programmes. It feels really liberating.” Amazon Prime Video EU vice-president 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 will create in what is sure to be one of the most globally anticipated shows of 2016.”
The Amazon deal is part of a manoeuvre by the company to compete with traditional broadcasters and streaming rivals like Netflix. Amazon has also signed up Woody Allen to make his first television series;resurrected drama Ripper Street after it was axed by the BBC; and won awards and acclaim for its dark comedy Transparent. Mr Marine said it was “a golden age of television, [and] a great time for TV makers and storytellers”. He added: “Our approach is to give programme makers creative freedom to be innovative and make the shows they want to make.”
Meanwhile, Top Gear will continue on BBC Two, with Chris Evans among the new hosts. Lisa Clark, who worked with Evans on The Big Breakfast, has just been announced as the show’s new producer. “Lisa is as good as it gets when it comes to making big, important television shows,” Evans said.
The presenter also fuelled rumours that Formula 1 driver Jenson Button was “in talks” to co-present the show when he read out a Daily Mail article on his BBC Radio 2 radio show. “They say an announcement is imminent,” Evans teased. Neither the BBC nor Button’s spokesman would comment on the speculation.
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