I think I’m seeing a trend in my writing where I often open up my reviews by looking to the past. This is no different. Some of the first unorthodox bits of entertainment I watched were Jeremy Clarkson’s car review videos. I don’t mean YouTube videos either, I mean tapes. However, in recent years I’d fallen out of love with his later Top Gear days and Amazon’s Grand Tour because it was all forced and incredibly scripted. I reluctantly turned on Clarkson’s Farm only to find I wasn’t able to turn it off again.
Update: After considerable doubt, Clarkson’s Farm has just been renewed for a second season.
What Is Clarkson’s Farm All About?
Not that long ago, I remember Clarkson making the headlines in the British Cotswolds. I have no idea what that means either so just read “countryside”. He had blown up his house and started some sort of farm shop. None of it really registered beyond Clarkson simply being Clarkson until this new series popped up on Amazon Prime Video.
It turns out that years ago, Clarkson bought a farm and up until 2019 it was managed by someone who very much knew what they were doing. When it came time for them to retire, some sort of lightbulb went off just above the petrol-head of Clarkson. Whether it was all him or the clan of Jeff Bezos who pushed it through, an eight-part documentary series was born. During these eight episodes, we follow Jeremy Clarkson’s sharp transition from seasoned motoring reviewer to being an out-of-depth farmer. He kicks it all off with a typical Clarkson move, buying the biggest tractor he can find even though it doesn’t fit the farm, just because it has Lamborghini on it.
Thankfully, he isn’t alone. His tractor driver Kaleb Cooper, security and “guy who can kind of do anything” Gerald Cooper, land agent and “guy who is always right” Charlie Ireland and Irish girlfriend Lisa Hogan, amongst others going Clarkson’s journey to avoid disaster.
Clarkson’s Farm Review
Jeremy Clarkson is a divisive man. He doesn’t set out to change that public perception of him one bit in this series. However, Clarkson’s Farm brings the very best of Jeremy back to the screen. Regardless of whether you love him or hate him, this Amazon Original Series is the best entertainment Clarkson has produced in years. Here’s why.
Farming Organic Laughs
My biggest criticism of anything Clarkson has touched in recent years has been that it’s blatantly scripted. I’m talking WWE Wrestling levels of scripted, yet I’m sure die-hard fans of Clarkson refuse to admit that. The Grand Tour, Amazon’s attempt to recapture some magic from the BBC’s Top Gear line up of Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James may after Jeremy’s infamous bust-up on set with producer Oisin Tymon which led to a £100,000 settlement over a racial discrimination and injury claim.
But what Amazon didn’t realise is that they had bought into an already crumbling franchise of presenters. The BBC Top Gear Specials were so laboured and always felt one step short of introducing a laugh track. The Grand Tour still has yet to even come close the success of Top Gear. Amazon has farmed James May and Richard Hammond out to other projects too in an attempt to see who can produce some genuine entertainment but with no real success.
Then came Clarkson’s Farm. Suddenly, after years of forced attempts to make laughs from whipped the dead horse that is three men driving cars around the place, Clarkson could be hilarious on his own on a farm. Clarkson’s buffoonery combined with the very serious nature of farming is a match made in heaven. While we’re not privy to the goings on in the background, I would be shocked to learn if Clarkson’s Farm is scripted anywhere near as much as the Grand Tour.
As soon as those scripted elements come in, they’re just not as funny but it’s not long getting back to the action of Clarkson being generally useless on a farm.
The Ghost Of Clarkson’s Past
Clarkson’s Farm provides plenty of nods to the past that’ll keep those who have all of his videos and DVDs on a shelf happy. Whether it be Jeremy becoming dependent on the local camping site to the point where he must record a promo video for them or that he is now the tractor driver holding up traffic, there’s some moments here that you just have to giggle at knowing the history here.
Turning A New Leaf: Kind Of
I mentioned earlier that Jeremy isn’t going to change for anyone, and this series just solidifies that fact. For example, in one episode of the series, Jeremy is chopping down trees in his forest to let more light into the forest floor as part of his “wilding” project.
Clarkson took to Instagram, saying “I was bored so….”, omitting that there was a very good ecological reason for thinning the volume of trees in the forest. Instead, he baited his followers, knowing this would be a good line in the show.
That’s because Clarkson knows his audience. He still gets to take a pop at cyclists and celebrates a combustion-engine-powered pump being far superior to the solar-powered equivalent. Because Clarkson is still Clarkson. This series is so on-brand for him and it wouldn’t have been entertaining any other way.
We also get to see a much warmer side of Jeremy. Now, call me naive here, but when it comes to his flock of sheep and the lambs that eventually come with that, Clarkson shows his very human side. Seeing his shepherd breaking out the bands to castrate his male lambs, pains Jeremy. Perhaps the biggest moment in the series for me was a visibly upset Clarkson going to say goodbye to three culled ewes only to learn they were already slaughtered moments earlier.
As news of the COVID-19 pandemic breaks, he shows that years of being in the public eye will do little if the virus gets near a man who knows he’s in a high risk category given he is a heavy smoker who had a well-documented case of pneumonia.
Personally, I’ve grown a lot from those early days of watching Clarkson videos, but I’m still not all sure Clarkson has at all. I find a lot of his views childish and know he’s the kind of man who would disagree with me on people using pro-nouns while also getting ruffled over cyclists touring two abreast. But at the end of Clarkson’s Farm, I’ve found myself liking the man again but it’s not all down to Jeremy.
The Farm Is A Family
I was watching Clarkson’s Farm and wondering to myself if the real problem of Clarkson’s more recent work was his co-stars. By the end, I was left wondering if the problem was more Clarkson himself had become bored at the idea of driving around the the same guys trying to make the same thing funny for every hour-long special.
This series was just so fresh that you can see Clarkson is loving it. He’s loving the challenge of life of the farm and dare I say revelling in it. But he also loves the new people he finds himself surrounded by. His tractor driver Kaleb, who’s primary goal is to get a perm, is the perfect person to sit alongside Jeremy. He’s experienced enough for Clarkson to lean heavily on him, but also young enough that you know it pains Jeremy to do so. Similar energy appears between Clarkson’s free spirit approach to farming and Charlie Ireland’s bureaucratic approach to paperwork.
All of the people in the series just work together brilliantly, leading to what is a beautiful metaphor for farming more broadly.
The Verdict: Is Clarkson’s Farm Worth Watching
Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be saying this but it’s a resounding yes from me. Clarkson has run a farm during some of the most challenging conditions and managed to make a damn good series out of it. It’s genuinely entertaining but be warned. This is much more “grown man playing Farming Simulator in real life” than Ear to the Ground.
Reaction elsewhere has been very mixed, but I think that’s a lot of people missing that this is entertainment. Love him or hate him, Clarkson’s Farm sees Jeremy return to his very best.
Clarkson’s Farm is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video. Don’t forget to check out our 2021 Prime Day Shopping Guide and if you try out Prime, you’ll get access to Prime Video to watch this series and all!