Jeremy Clarkson is the top announcing personality of motorsports in Great Britain, the voice of “Top Gear” and “Performance Car,” the host of “Robot Wars,” and the face of numerous talk programs. Now, the hot rod, front-seat celebrity has started a different path — working not for the speed, but for the sheep.
The life of the racing party is the new, real-life owner of Diddly Squat Farm, 1,000 acres of fields, meadows, hills, and valleys. As he sets to farming it essentially by himself (at first), starting from no knowledge or experience, “Clarkson’s Farm” on Amazon Prime provides insights into learning skilled farm work, reminiscent of “Dirty Jobs.”
Even intruded upon in the way that reality TV does, the bold, affable dilettante carries more gravitas than some of the best-known documentarians. The characters of 1991’s “City Slickers” did not match Clarkson’s enduring determination. In fact, the series bears a whiff of 2018’s obscure “The Biggest Little Farm,” though with heavier machinery.
The deep-voiced Clarkson and his total investment in Diddly Squat Farm drive this Prime feature, whether it leads to a bumper harvest boom or a beetle-eaten bust. The first race against the clock for the greenhorn is to plant fields of barley by early October’s peak yield date. But how? Millions of seeds and miles of dirt have to meet each other at proper soil depth in their top form within a specific range of days. Otherwise, a potential 4,000-tonne crop the next spring might be halved, or worse.
Self-assured and moving fast, the gear head is going to need a good tractor. Cruising into farm equipment dealerships, he swiftly test-drives classic, restored, and new tractors, naïvely privileging horsepower ratings and models made by famous Italian automakers.
Having rapidly over-spent, Clarkson attends a tractor attachments auction. He has more fun there than he probably should, quipping at people’s missing fingers and arms. Gorily narrating that people in the agriculture sector are 20 times more likely to be dismembered stimulates something in Clarkson that he seems to enjoy, but his jibes come off as acknowledging a challenge that people in this setting are facing, rather than as sadistic.
The towering persona discovers he has no inkling of how to effectively operate vehicles designed for helping produce the staff of life. How much more there is to this agriculture thing dawns on TV star Jeremy Clarkson, yielding simply Jeremy, the man.
Then Kaleb Cooper, barely 20, comes onto Diddly Squat Farm and agrees to teach Jeremy the work of farming. Upon meeting, Kaleb mentions that he has only left the countryside once. Soon Kaleb is preparing the seed drill that hitches to the tractor when on a tangent Jeremy tells Kaleb how he’s read hundreds of books. The youngster, fixing the famed motorist’s motor vehicle, asks, “How does anyone find time for that?”
Behind culture clashes, ironies, and guffaws, the series understatedly explores business and politics. Diddly Squat Farm might need plenty of aid from helpers of Jeremy’s choosing, but he prefers his barn be his castle, a wish at odds with the increasing risk of farmers losing their independence to alarmist restrictions.
Jeremy bridges contradictions: From high in the media, he desires to farm the land. Well-read and traveled, his stature cuts a credible husky Cotswold rancher. He’ll poke your ribs for what you ain’t got (fingers, books) and what you don’t know (London, politicians), but he admits his ignorance and dearth of capability in cultivation.
In early season one, Jeremy can’t help his impulses that go against the treasure troves of advice he receives from locals. The outcomes earn Kaleb jeers from surrounding ag lads observing Diddly Squat from afar. Meanwhile, Jeremy feels his initiatory sting of farm envy. A man that size has a really heavy lament, bringing out a Jeremy Clarkson who, despite himself, wants to understand the people and processes before him and to be understood.
Advance or regress in the fields, the humbler Jeremy becomes, it seems the more the farm becomes a place where people clearly see one another. The aim is not only to yield produce from seed, but to farm technical abilities and social graces from ruffled feathers, which will all be required for Diddly Squat to slog through.