IT BEGAN in a Yorkshire Dales hotel after the chef had gone home, and a hungry presenter had to make do with a plate of cold cuts instead of a steak.
It ended exactly 21 months later, out on the internet. Jeremy Clarkson, chastened but triumphant, premiered his new motoring show to near universal acclaim.
In between, a producer had been left to nurse a sore lip and Clarkson made to keep his own lips sealed over the terms of the legal action he had been forced to settle.
Clarkson, the Doncaster-born journalist-turned TV star, parted company with the BBC’s long-running Top Gear programme after punching producer Oisin Tymon in a row over the absent steak at the Simonstone Hall Hotel, near Hawes.
But, he revealed today on the premiere of his new show, Amazon’s Grand Tour, that he had not “technically” been fired by the corporation.
The opening sequence, rumoured to have cost £2.5m, saw him leave a shiny London office under storm clouds and take a black cab trip while listening to radio reports of his demise.
He boarded a plane to Los Angeles to join co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May, and drove in a vast convoy through the California desert to the soundtrack of I Can See Clearly Now.
Hammond, who described Clarkson as “basically a shaved ape in a shirt”, said the 56-year-old “technically is the only one of us never to be fired by anyone”.
Clarkson replied: “The good thing is it’s very unlikely I’m going to be fired now because we’re on the internet.”
He had been exiled to the internet because his BBC contract forbade him to offer his services to a “traditional” rival broadcaster.
But Amazon’s worldwide distribution of the new show may afford him a bigger audience than ever.
The first episode began streaming on demand at midnight yesterday, and can be viewed on “smart” televisions, set-top boxes and computers - but only by viewers who take out a subscription.
Clarkson told viewers that each new programme would be presented from a different country, with the UK leg having been filmed on Whitby Habour last month.
The show garnered largely ecstatic reviews, in sharp contrast to the relaunched Top Gear, which featured Chris Evans and former Friends actor Matt LeBlanc, and was roundly criticised for filming a stunt driver performing “doughnuts” near the Cenotaph in London.
This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield tweeted that The Grand Tour had been “so long in the delivery but SO worth it”, and added: “There’s money dripping from the screen and the boys are having a ball.”
The Sun’s Bizarre editor Dan Wootton, who said he was no motoring enthusiast, described it as “one of the most exhilarating TV series ever”, adding, “being sacked from the BBC was the greatest thing that ever happened to Clarkson and co - and the world of cars on TV.”