The suspension of host Jeremy Clarkson prompted the withdrawal of “Top Gear” from BBC schedules on Tuesday, and the network is refusing to comment on whether the popular show will ever return.
Clarkson, who is infamous for his politically incorrect remarks, reportedly got into a fight with a producer last week and tried to punch him in the face.
The 54-year-old British host already received a “final warning” from the BBC for using a racist word during filming last year. His latest incident is “pending an investigation,” according to the New York Times.
Next Sunday’s episode of “Top Gear” was scheduled to be filmed on Wednesday, but that has now been canceled and no more episodes will be broadcast while an investigation is being conducted.
If the complaint against Clarkson is upheld, the BBC will have no choice but to fire him, reported the Telegraph, especially after some critics have complained that he has received preferential treatment over the years due to the overwhelming popularity of the show.
“Following a fracas with a BBC producer, Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended pending an investigation,” a BBC spokesperson said. “No one else has been suspended. ‘Top Gear’ will not be broadcast this Sunday. The BBC will be making no further comment at this time.”
The BBC owns the format of “Top Gear” after buying the rights in 2012 from Clarkson and his executive producer Andy Wilman, but few believe it can go on without it’s main driver at the wheel.
Fans almost immediately launched a Change.org campaign demanding he return, and the hashtag #BringBackClarkson began quickly trending on Twitter. By Tuesday evening, the petition to reinstate the host already had 100,000 signatures.
Since it first aired in the U.K. in 2002, “Top Gear” has grown from a straightforward show about cars into a global phenomena watched by 350 million viewers in 170 countries. According to the Times, Clarkson is paid about $1.5 million a year to present the show, making him one of the network’s most highly-paid employees.
In October, Clarkson and his crew hit the headlines when they were forced to flee Argentina after being attacked by local residents for driving a car with the license plate H982 FLK, a suspected reference to the British victory over Argentina in the Falkland Islands war of 1982. Clarkson insisted it was a coincidence.
“Top Gear” airs in the U.S. on BBC America and has won a BAFTA, multiple National Television Awards and an International Emmy Award.