The best thing Jeremy’s done: why I can’t wait for more Clarkson’s Farm

Amazon has renewed Jeremy Clarkson’s farming show after rumours it had been axed. It pains me to say it but … I hope it runs and runs. It’s the real deal

There was a whiff of manufactured outrage about Amazon’s recent renewal of Jeremy Clarkson’s cleverly named farming show Clarkson’s Farm. At the start of the month, Clarkson tweeted: “There has been some speculation that a second series of our farming programme has been commissioned. It hasn’t but we are hopeful.” This quickly led to rumours that it had been axed.

A week and a bit later, further itchiness had set in. When asked if series two was filming, he replied: “We aren’t. Write to Amazon, it’s their decision.” Then this week, shortly after Jeff Bezos had ridden his rocket-powered overcompensation to the edge of space, desperation set in. “Well done @JeffBezos, really well done,” he tweeted, before adding: “Can I do my farming show now?”

Then, just 14 hours later, Clarkson was officially announcing a second series of Clarkson’s Farm. Apparently, “Amazon were just as keen as us to get cracking” all along. The illusion of jeopardy where no actual jeopardy existed. How very Clarkson. Still, regardless of the slightly tedious hoopla that led to the announcement, the fact that Clarkson’s Farm is returning should be cause for celebration. It is, by some distance, the best thing Clarkson has done in 15 years.

There is a sense that Clarkson’s Farm was initially conceived as Top Gear with tractors. Funny old Clarkson driving a combine harvester over a pile of geese and into the side of a petrol station while making tedious locker-room banter with whichever poor sap got saddled as his co-host. What larks.

Fortunately, though, Clarkson’s Farm is a much richer and better series than that. Unlike his motoring shows, where his stock reaction to any problem was to blast out of it in an orgy of explosive cluelessness, the Clarkson we meet here is actively willing to learn. Better yet, he isn’t the in-your-face alpha of this show, because everyone else knows so much more than him. Had the duo of Charlie Ireland and Kaleb Cooper, who act as Clarkson’s closest advisers, been cackling Richard Hammond types, the show would be intolerable. But they are clever and quiet and capable, and know to stop Clarkson from indulging in his whimsy. Clarkson’s name might be in the title, but he’s very much the student here. The role suits him.

Jeremy Clarkson
In his element ... Clarkson at his farm shop. Photograph: Amazon Prime Video

More than anything, though, Clarkson’s Farm works because you actually believe him. On Top Gear and The Grand Tour, for instance, Clarkson had a habit of presenting himself as a shambling, untucked buffoon who permanently teetered on the verge of developing all-out gout. Set him a challenge and he’d bodge it up, then things would blow up, and in the middle of it all he’d bark out the sort of xenophobic non sequitur that would keep him in the headlines for yet another week. He was like some concussed retired brigadier, which he obviously wasn’t because concussed retired brigadiers wouldn’t be able to handle the complexity of creating, writing, filming and editing a globally popular television series.

But on Clarkson’s Farm, at least to my eyes, we are getting closer to who Jeremy Clarkson actually is. Yes, he is oafish and opinionated, but he’s also quieter and more thoughtful than the man we had grown familiar with. We watch him fret about the permanent loss of agriculture due to chemical topsoil erosion. We see him grappling with regulations, and trying to understand tiny variables that could ruin entire crops.

Countryfile remains a fine show, although it does increasingly resemble a computer-designed countryside sex fantasy for people who haven’t left the city for a decade. The sun is always setting, the walls are always dry-stone, and the sum total of Britain’s agriculture industry appears to consist of a single bearded man stroking the leaves of a heritage tomato plant in a pristine polytunnel.

But Clarkson’s Farm is more concerned with the impossible demands that face the modern farmer. The cost. The scale. The logistics. I’m saying this as someone who genuinely ended up in hospital the last time I picked up a shovel, but it feels like the real deal. To watch Clarkson’s Farm is to watch a man realise that the hobby he seemingly picked up for a lark is exhausting and all-consuming and increasingly unlikely to bring any real rewards. The show, like the job, has all the hallmarks of a labour of love. It pains me to say this, but I hope Amazon lets Clarkson’s Farm run and run.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

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