The latest extrusion from the Amazon/Jeremy Clarkson factory is called Clarkson’s Farm. We will rename it Jeremy Buys a Tractor for the duration of this review, because that is what it amounts to.
In Jeremy Buys a Tractor, Howard, the man who farms the 1,000 acres of the Cotswolds Clarkson has owned since 2008, retires. Clarkson thus sets himself the challenge, for no earthly reason other than to furnish a conceit for his next series, of farming Diddly Squat – as the collection of rolling fields is hilariously named. “I have literally no clue," él dice, as he gazes from tree-lined boundary to tree-lined boundary, performatively ignorant master of all he surveys. “But it’s going to involve some tractoring!"
Inexhaustibly pleased with this coinage, Jeremy goes to a local dealership to buy a tractor. The unignorant dealer recommends a modest machine that will do the job nicely. Jeremy orders a 10-ton, £40,000 Lamborghini model from Germany. The European hitch is not compatible with British farming equipment and Jeremy cannot understand the Teutonic onscreen instructions. There is no manual.
It is also – he discovers when he attempts to manoeuvre it inside – too big to fit in his tractor shed. Oh. los. Hilarity. Everyone told him it was too big and everyone he meets, from the National Farmers’ Union rep, to the land manager Charlie, to the shepherd Ellen (“I don’t know if we’re allowed to say ‘shepherdess’ these days," él dice, por supuesto), tells him as well.
It is so tiring. Are you tired? Is Jeremy tired? Or will he remain unto death a source of endless wit and fascination to himself and just enough people to make everything feel worthwhile? You can ponder these things to distract yourself from the embarrassment of watching him spray fat stupidity around a farm sale, where he goes to furnish Diddly Squat with all the equipment Howard presumably took with him.
The rest of the episode is taken up with him gazing in bafflement at a cultivator and a seed drill and pointlessly messing up various things for our theoretical entertainment and non-edification. Eventually, he does what he would have done if contractual obligations to fill eight hours of telly hadn’t militated against it and hires 21-year-old Kaleb Cooper, a former Diddly Squat employee, to do it all.
Kaleb, incidentally, es This Country’s Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe to the life (“Been to London once on an art trip. I stayed on the coach. Go to Banbury if I need something desperately. Otherwise – Chipping Norton, Chadlington, Heythrop, that’s me”). He is a testimony to the acuity of their comedy, but with endless practical intelligence replacing the Mucklowes’ gormlessness. The genuine incredulity and dismissal with which he treats Clarkson’s meaningless shtick are the only things here to gladden the heart. In a good and just world, he would have been allowed to take over the farm and the programme, también. But we are where we are.
There is more wearisome, meretricious rubbish in this episode – and then in the others – that there is no point detailing here. The pandemic hits in episode five, but doesn’t really change Diddly Squat life much, besides scuppering some plans for the sheep as restaurants close and demand for lamb goes down. The series amounts to less and less as time goes on. From the staged conceit to Clarkson’s contempt, the bad faith of every aspect of Jeremy Fills the Airwaves is so nakedly on display that each moment feels as if it is hollowing itself out from the inside. (I would particularly like to know what farmers, who would face ruination if they acted as stupidly as the dilettante multimillionaire does here, make of this – and of his wondering why they, members of a demographic with a high suicide rate, don’t just kill themselves.)
Por supuesto, in one sense, it doesn’t matter. Birds gonna fly, fish gonna swim, Clarkson gonna Clarkson and scoff at the “government red tape” that surrounds every farming endeavour until the cows come home. In another sense, it matters a lot. For every Clarkson sucking up money, resources, time and publicity, there are other, newer, brighter, more entertaining, more valuable things not getting made. The most generous interpretation that can be put on Jeremy Buys a Tractor is that Clarkson, by being so visibly idiotic (and incompetent and impractical), is subtly repositioning himself as the buffoon his fans can start to laugh at, rather than the self-indulgent petrolhead they want to be. But that still leaves him with a long career row left to hoe, alas.