Let’s get one thing out of the way upfront: Jeremy Clarkson is a prig. I found his persona on Top Gear virtually unbearable. That noted, his presence in his eponymous series about becoming a gentleman farmer is entirely redeemed by the fact that he, or the production crew, are perfectly happy for his priggishness to lead to his downfall time and time again. With all the gusto of a man who has made too much money too easily and now finding himself essentially a lord of the manor, which here is 1000 acres in the English Cotswalds, Clarkson lurches from one under-considered venture to another. Not once in the first few episodes does anything go right — so much so that I have to believe that the show is built somewhat around him showcasing his own foibles.
Having blown up his house in a pre-series moment, Clarkson’s Farm begins with the man himself buying an over-sized and over-powered tractor, which is something you would entirely expect of the long-time host of a show about cars. And you certainly expect to see him in the tractor, puttering about. You do not expect him to buy sheep, and then get a bit weepy when it turns out that three need to be euthanized. This is Clarkson as you have never seen him before, and, damn it, he is quite likable.
I am still at the beginning of the series, so I cannot offer anything in the way of spoilers, except to say that if you haven’t watched the series because it has Clarkson at the help, have no fear, he is far from being in charge of, well, almost anything. As the show unfolds, other characters become more and more compelling in their heroic efforts to nudge Clarkson into reality. In fact, one of the interesting dimensions of the series is how it carefully peels the onion on the alternate reality in which many celebrities live. Clarkson really has spent considerable time with reality always bending to his will, and, here, with a 1000 acres filled with plants, animals, and people who have their own ideas about how things go, he meets his match. Or, rather, we get to see a grown man come to terms with the fact that reality really does exist “out there.”
And if you don’t give a damn about the likes of Clarkson — and, honestly, the last four years have really been rather over-filled with privileged white guys going on and on about how they know better, it’s okay. The English Cotswalds are quite lovely, and you can always turn the sound down and just enjoy the scenery.