Two months after the BBC unceremoniously ended its hit car show “Top Gear,” the network has scrambled to find replacements for the show’s three-departed hosts.
Now it looks like network executives are heading in a different direction.
According to the Daily Mail’s Jennifer Newton, the BBC has reportedly offered former “Top Gear” hosts Richard Hammond and James May a £4.6 million ($AU9.2 million) deal to return to the show.
Sources said the BBC’s offer could pay the duo each as much $AU1.5 million to $AU2.3 million a year to host the show for another two or three series.
According to the Daily Mail, the reported offer would make Hammond and May two of the BBC’s highest-paid personalities and would put their compensation on par with that of Jeremy Clarkson’s last contract.
The proposed new incarnation of “Top Gear” would likely feature Hammond and May along with a rotating lineup of guest hosts.
This latest report runs counter to recent rumours that Top Gear’s star trio of Hammond, May, and Clarkson would reunite for a new show on a rival network or internet streaming service.
The Telegraph’s James Rothwell reported last month that BBC executives offered the “Top Gear” hosting job to the trio of model Jodie Kidd, actor Philip Glenister, and TV personality Guy Martin. There’s been no follow-up reporting on whether that’s the actual direction in which the BBC will take the show.
Top Gear’s 22nd season ended abruptly in March after only seven of the nine planned episodes had aired, due to the suspension and subsequent dismissal of Clarkson.
Hammond and May followed Clarkson out the door by voluntarily declining to renew their respective BBC contracts, which expired in April. Long-time executive producer and close friend of Jeremy Clarkson also left the BBC in the wake of the hosts’ dismissal.
The network’s decision to part ways with the polarising TV personality came after an internal BBC inquiry found Clarkson had punched a “Top Gear” producer when he failed to obtain a hot steak dinner after a long day of filming.
In addition, the fracas with the producer came on the heels of a controversy-filled 2014 for Clarkson — which saw the TV host mired in scandal stemming from accusations of racist, sexist, and culturally insensitive comments.
Prior to his dismissal, Clarkson had spent nearly three decades with the BBC as a host on “Top Gear” and is credited with being the driving force behind the show’s explosive international success.
With more than 350 million weekly viewers, “Top Gear” set the Guinness World record as the most watched factual TV program in the world. In addition to the UK show, the Top Gear brand also includes numerous international spinoffs, a live stadium tour, merchandising, a successful magazine, and website.
Although their involvement with the “Top Gear” television program may be over, the show’s trio of former-hosts will continue with its live stadium appearances. However, the tour will no longer be able carry the “Top Gear” name. Instead, it will be named after the show’s three hosts — “Clarkson, Hammond, and May Live”
According to the Guardian’s John Plunkett, the reported offer could also pave the way for Jeremy Clarkson to return as a host on a future series of the show.
But it should be noted that Clarkson was never actually fired from the BBC. Rather, the network simply declined to renew the veteran journalist’s expiring contract.
In addition, BBC executives have stressed Clarkson that is still very much welcome to return to the network, the Guardian reported.