The 60-minute documentary that aired Sunday night on the BBC to replace “Top Gear” was watched by only 1.3 million people in the UK, compared to the motor show’s average weekly audience of five to seven million people, the Telegraph reports.
The remaining episodes of “Top Gear,” broadcast to 350 million worldwide each week, have been put on hold while the BBC decides what action to take over “Top Gear” host Jeremy Clarkson, now on suspension after allegedly punching a BBC producer.
According to the Telegraph, BBC’s head of television Danny Cohen made the decision not to air “Top Gear” on Sunday night. Cohen was already tired of Clarkson and wanted to fire him for a long time but never proceeded because of Clarkson’s popularity, The Daily Mail writes.
The “Top Gear” replacement, “Red Arrows: Inside the Bubble,” is a documentary about the British acrobatic flying squadron. The film first aired last summer and received uninspiring reviews.
The Telegraph’s Michael Pilgrim gave the film 2 out of 5 stars when he reviewed it last July, writing: “The film was unrevealing, narrated in a matter-of-fact, blokeish manner. It failed to get inside the heads of the Red Arrow pilots and would-be pilots as they were put through their paces.”
The Guardian had an equally unkind take: “Even with ‘unprecedented access, ‘a documentary about the Red Arrows never really took off,” the website wrote. “Those wondering how much it costs to be the kind of awesome country that can scramble a permanent elite squadron of jets and square-jawed pilots in case of emergency international demand for an aerobatics display were out of luck.”
It is worth noting that the documentary’s “blokeish” narrator is British star Eddie Redmayne, who won the Oscar in February for his performance in “The Theory of Everything.”
That did not appear to be a big enough pull for viewers. The documentary managed to draw only one-fifth of “Top Gear’s” regular audience.
The BBC will make its decision about whether to fire Clarkson or not as early as Friday, according to the Telegraph. Clarkson is accused of punching “Top Gear” producer Oisin Tymon on the night of Wednesday, March 4.
According to the Financial Times, Clarkson is the highest-paid presenter at the BBC. Revenues from “Top Gear” are supposed to bring £150 million to the commercial arm of the BBC, making it one of the most successful shows at the corporation.
In case you’re still interested in viewing “Red Arrows,” here’s the full-length HD version:
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