Outlandish Cockup on Amazon Prime
By: Charles Giuliano - Mar 05, 2023
As “curator” of evening television for Astrid and myself, I am constantly searching for amusing, non-violent content. The rule is to air the gory stuff, mostly British/ Australian bloody murder shows, to start our nightly telly. Then finish with something light and whimsical before its beddy-by and sweet dreams.
To be sure,some crime shows manage to conflate mayhem and whimsy. We have seen every episode of Father Brown on PBS. It’s rather like logging every Seinfeld including the “Soup Nazi.” We are well into another season of a whacko French crime show Candice Renoir on Amazon/ Acorn and sorely miss the charmingly delicious Miss Fisher’s Mysteries on the same network. Of course, the perennial seasons of the droll Midsomer Murders have evoked no bad dreams. We have seen every Vera and some two or three times. It’s impossible to overstate the wonderfulness of Pie in the Sky (Amazon/ Acorn) with Richard Griffiths as the detective/ chef Henry Crabbe. While his day gig entailed solving crime he was known to the locals for his superb steak and kidney pie.
Yes, dolts that we are just adored Emily in Paris (Netflix). It’s the ultimate in lowbrow entertainment. But it is such fun to see the charming ingénue, the plucky Chicago girl, traipsing about Paris in one outré outfit after another. We also hunkered down and clung to that other Parisian soufflé Call My Agent. What fun.
By now you catch the drift of our eclectic taste in home entertainment. The light and easy stuff, however, is really hard to come by. You have to spend countless hours combing through Netflix and Amazon to find something worth watching. Too often I sample a first episode and then chuck the series. Some I patiently get suckered into only eventually to abandon.
On a whim we checked out season two of Clarkson’s Farm which is original content on Amazon Prime. Initially, I wasn’t enticed as I recognized Jeremy Clarkson from all those Globe trotting car shows, Top Gear and Grand Tour, which I had sampled and just as quickly turned into soon to be composted road kill. I’ve since learned that he has made a fortune as the author of dyspeptic, curmudgeonly books.
Here, however, instead of the know-it-all car expert, he is revealed as a bumbling idiot in the improbable venture of making a go of a thousand acre farm in bucolic England’s Cotswold.
For a pampered, renowned, sixty-something, laid back, jeans and jacket, kind of puffy, out-of-shape guy, that’s a big ask.
The intriguing and often hilarious series has us dumpster dive head first into the festering compost heap that is the current state of British farming.
Once we had a flavorful taste of the trope we had to circle back to episode one of season one. That’s takes a bit of techie legerdemain. In Amazon’s format, before you start an episode, previous seasons and episodes appear below as tiles. So you can manually backtrack. Unfortunately, you have to keep doing that as the default wants you to view season two in sequence. Trust me, it’s worth the sweat equity as you will not want to miss a single minute of Jeremy’s bumbleups and misguided, catastrophic decisions. The solution to which is to toss ever more fresh quid onto the sacrificial pyre.
Having spent a fortune to get up and running, the net gain for the first season is a paltry hundred and fifty or so pounds. That’s a ruinous bottom line but it makes for great television and fans champing for a third season. We assume he is making top dollar (or pounds) for his show which is why he can pour all that cash into a sink hole of a money pit. We reason that Clarkson can’t be that stupid. But, then again, he proves to be a perfect dunce at farming.
Which takes day-and-night labor for months on end. This entails really hard work which is a far cry from tooling around the world in a spiffy Lamborghini.
The irony is that Jeremy has purchased an impossibly huge and complicated Lamborghini tractor. Initially, it seems like grossly vain overkill but soon that extra horse power is pitted against the impeding mud and muck of an epic season of constant and disastrous rain. Then another of dusty drought. We come to know how farming is all about weather.
To wax Biblical: Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 King James Version 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
While Clarkson is an improbable, city slicker, greenhorn, media-maven, gentleman farmer he gets help from locals who know better. All it takes is a fat and fluid check book.
The indispensable co-star of this series is a feisty, twenty-something, awesomely capable, jack-of-all-trades side kick, Kaleb Cooper. In an ongoing, hilarious give and take the kid goes toe-to-toe with Jeremy. They pendulate between vaudeville comics to heavy-hitting sparing partners. There are staccato barrages of insulting epithets. Through this hit series young Kaleb has become something of a media star and celebrity.
This for a lad who has never boarded a train or wandered more than a few villages away from home. In one hilarious incident he is dispatched to London to peddle fresh, gourmet, wasabi root to several Japanese restaurants. With GPS and impossible traffic and parking issues Kaleb is lucky to survive the never to be repeated ordeal.
Then there is the straight faced “Cheerful Charlie,” Charlie Ireland, a professional agronomist and land agent who advises Clarkson on farm management. He understands the agricultural aspects of the crops and complex details of government regulation and the financial consequences.
He is the consistent fixer and bearer of bad news. We are agog at the maze of red tape and regulations endured by British farming. To which Jeremy’s consistent response is “bloody hell.”
Another mainstay of the supporting cast is chief of security and stone fence mender, Gerald Cooper, (no relation to Kaleb). He speaks with an impossible to comprehend local accent. Even with subtitles we have no clue to his conversations. Jeremy just nods his head knowingly.
The through line of this maze of misadventures is Clarkson’s bemused and droning voice over narrative along the lines of “just when things couldn’t get worse…”
Not to overdo the gruesome schadenfreude there is the guilty pleasure of watching Jeremy facing one setback after another and a screed of boners and thick headed decisions.
When Cheerful Charlie states that there is a government subsidy for letting a percentage of acreage go fallow it comes with a twist. That large plot of set aside land must be mowed annually. Not content to just be on the dole Jeremy will go one better.
The absurdist solution to mowing is to have a herd of sheep do it. Here amateur farming runs off the rails. The sheep provide a fascinating range of subplots including Jeremy getting kicked in the bollocks several times while wrestling with the critters.
In utter desperation he calls in a skilled shepherdess, Ellen Helliwell, who with two remarkable dogs deftly herds the sheep into their corral. We are intrigued by the process of inseminating and then birthing the adorable lambs. When the sheep are sheared we are astonished to learn that the wool is more or less worthless.
Having harvested produce, tons of grain and potatoes, how then to sell it? The grain is harvested, a subplot, then wholesaled. But for batches of veggies he decides on a farm stand that his girlfriend, Lisa Hogan, will manage.
Cheerful Charlie advises that the local town council stipulates that only goods farmed within a tight radius may be sold. That nixes the Diddly Squat Farm merch from mugs to t-shirts. For aesthetics the Council demands that he swap the pragmatic tin roof with an expensive one of traditional slate.
Jeremy deduces that the best way to turn a profit is to convert the lamb barn into a farm-to-table restaurant. That means raising cattle for beef along with chickens and lamb.
In a poignant scene there is a meeting with local farmers as potential suppliers to the farm stand and restaurant. We are stunned and astonished at the plight of British farmers teetering on the brink of extinction. They will form a cooperative and are all in with plans for a restaurant.
Despite the endless setbacks and pratfalls, in asides, Clarkson constantly informs us of how much he loves his new career as a gentleman farmer. There is no argument with the daily verity of the beauty of nature.
Except, that is, for the accursed, overly protected, ravenous, vicious, and destructive badgers. Cheerful Charlie advised that it is serious prison time and hefty fines to touch but a hair on their chinny chin chins.
The powers that be in the local village see restaurant plans differently. Their small minded provincialism, now played out on telly, has spawned a national debate. In so doing, setting the table for an eagerly anticipated season three.