CHRISTOPHER STEVENS REVIEWS LAST NIGHT’S TV: Copying Tarrant, Jezza?


Jeremy Clarkson On TV

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A Lake District Farm Shop

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Anything Jeremy Clarkson can do, it seems, Chris Tarrant could do better. Jezza himself admits as much.

There is Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? of course, which returned on Saturday. After a lamentable beginning, Clarkson has found his feet on the show, though he still enters the studio with the opposite of a swagger — a sheepish shuffle, like a bloke sidling into the office on his day off, to collect his hat.

He’s no longer embarrassed that he doesn’t know many of the easier answers, let alone the tough ones.

When George from Reading was asked which city natives took their nickname from a local dish — Geordies, Scousers, Brummies or Cockneys — Clarkson admitted that he thought it was the Londoners. 

‘If you’d asked me, I’d have said Cockney, after cockles something-or-other,’ he said.

After a lamentable beginning, Clarkson has found his feet on the show, though he still enters the studio with the opposite of a swagger

Apparently Jeremy has never eaten Liverpool’s scouse stew . . . or, if he has, he calls it beef and potato something-or-other.

The show was always better under Tarrant’s gimlet gaze. He had a knack of narrowing his eyes and studying the contestants that made them doubt they knew their own names, never mind the answers.

J.C. confesses his debt to C.T. in his Amazon Prime hit, Clarkson’s Farm. The eight-part streaming video series sees him learning the rudiments of agriculture and setting up a farm shop on his Cotswold estate. One project involves bottling the local Chadlington mineral water — first discovered for TV by Tarrant, when he was a news reporter in the early Seventies.

Watching footage of his predecessor sampling the spring and interviewing locals, Clarkson complains: ‘I just live in the man’s shadow.’

And the shadow is inescapable, as he presents …On Television (ITV) — a series Tarrant hosted for 16 years, from 1990. Jeremy hosted a one-off revival last Christmas and, despite the fact he doesn’t do it half as well, it appears he’s intent on keeping the job.

You wonder why he doesn’t go the whole hog and bring back Tiswas.

Clive James first made the format a success, with a compendium of terrible TV clips from around the world. What we loved best was Endurance, a Japanese gameshow that subjected contestants to actual physical torture. 

The winner was the last one to be hospitalised. Clarkson opened with a gem from an Icelandic quiz called Gettu Betur, that saw one aggrieved player kick over his podium, throw water at a rival and storm off shouting.

J.C. confesses his debt to C.T. in his Amazon Prime hit, Clarkson’s Farm. The eight-part streaming video series sees him learning the rudiments of agriculture and setting up a farm shop on his Cotswold estate

J.C. confesses his debt to C.T. in his Amazon Prime hit, Clarkson’s Farm. The eight-part streaming video series sees him learning the rudiments of agriculture and setting up a farm shop on his Cotswold estate

But the rest of the 40 minutes was mostly a round-up of Clarkson’s personal grudges. These included a series of digs at BBC1’s One Show — clearly not forgiven for making sarcastic noises back in 2016 when he quit Top Gear.

There was a jeer too at Freddie Flintoff, who now fronts Top Gear. Clarkson lambasted him as one of a collection of ‘random celebrities’ talking on subjects ‘about which they know nothing’. 

He ended, incredibly, with a jibe at Chris Tarrant and his shouty style of commentary. Clarkson is famous for his bellowing. Whoever did he copy that from?

If he wants to learn how to run a farm shop without tantrums or yelling, Tebay service station in Cumbria supplies the template.

Instead of offering the usual overpriced ‘meal deals’, there are aisles of delicious local produce on display. A Lake District Farm Shop (C4) celebrated this gourmet stopover. ‘There’s no reason why a truck driver doesn’t want good food,’ says head buyer Alex.

The documentary is so lightweight, it’s practically calorie-free. But the shop looks well worth a journey up the M6.

Wet blanket of the weekend: Witless gameshow The Void (ITV) involves 15 people falling in slow motion, over and over again, into a swimming pool — or, as hyper-ventilating host Ashley Banjo calls it, ‘500 tons of unforgiving water’. It’s an hour long but felt much longer. 

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