The next season of Jeremy Clarkson’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” on ITV will be its last on the British broadcaster, with “no future commitments” in the works.
ITV boss Carolyn McCall tells Variety that the forthcoming season of the game show, which is currently in production, will be Clarkson’s final foray as host. The “Grand Tour” presenter has been at the center of a media firestorm over his December column in British tabloid The Sun. In the piece, which is currently being investigated by British media regulator IPSO, Clarkson said the Duchess of Sussex should be forced to parade the streets naked with “lumps of excrement thrown at her.”
“We have a contract. We’re contracted to this [season], so we will do that,” said McCall. “And then we have no future commitments. And we haven’t made any statements about that.”
When asked whether ITV may be in discussions about potentially continuing the show, which is produced by Sony Pictures Television’s Stellify Media, down the road, McCall simply shrugged. (Sony declined to comment on this story.)
McCall is being honored as Variety’s International Media Woman of the Year. In a wide-ranging cover story interview, the CEO discussed her relationships with the broadcaster’s roster of talent, and her drive to make a success of fledgling streaming service ITVX.
Asked for her own feelings about Clarkson’s controversial Dec. 17 column, McCall pointed to ITV’s decision to “come out immediately” with a response. The broadcaster’s director of television Kevin Lygo told journalists at a Dec. 20 Broadcasting Press Guild event that “it was awful what [Clarkson] said,” and noted that “[ITV hires] him as a consummate broadcaster of the most famous quiz on television.”
Further explaining the decision to provide a swift response, McCall said: “There was no dissent internally. We came out much quicker than anybody else, Amazon included. We just came out said, ‘Yes, we do not endorse a single word that he said on that. And there’s no place for that on ITV.’ So we came out very quickly and just said, you know, that wasn’t on ITV. But we don’t endorse that in any way. And there’s no place for that on ITV.”
“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” first launched in the U.K. on ITV in 1998, and went on to become one of the most famous quiz show formats ever created. The show aired with original host Chris Tarrant right up until 2014, when it was rested. In 2018, ITV revived the series with Clarkson at the helm. The presenter has hosted eight seasons of the show to date, with the most recent run airing last summer.
In the Sun column, the “Grand Tour” presenter wrote of Markle: “I hate her. Not like I hate [Scottish National Party leader] Nicola Sturgeon or [British serial killer] Rose West. I hate her on a cellular level.”
He continued, referencing an infamous “Game of Thrones” scene involving Lena Headey’s Cersei: “At night, I’m unable to sleep as I lie there, grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her.”
Clarkson has apologized twice for his words. In a brief apology posted to Twitter on Dec. 19, he said he had “rather put my foot in it.” On Jan. 16, he published a lengthier apology on his Instagram account. “I really am sorry. All the way from the balls of my feet to the follicles on my head,” he wrote in a post that has since been deleted. “This is me putting my hands up. It’s a mea culpa with bells on.”
In January, Variety revealed that Amazon Prime Video is set to part ways with Clarkson, and won’t be working with the presenter beyond seasons of “The Grand Tour” and “Clarkson’s Farm” that have already been commissioned.