Clarkson’s Farm review: Laced with Tory dog-whistles, but undeniably irresistible

I was about 20 minutes into the new series of Clarkson’s Farm when I realised I quite liked Jeremy Clarkson. This was an ominous development. Had I been the unsuspected victim of a Tory psy-op? What could this mean moving forward? One day, you’re absentmindedly finding the fist-happy Top Gear alumni a little bit charismatic, the next you’re wearing a Union Jack onesie and remarking that “Theresa May wasn’t half bad, was she?” I can’t possibly watch another episode. Just for safety.

Clarkson’s Farm is its star’s safe space, his cocoon of light sociopolitical griping and, compared to The Grand Tour, banter with the lads that is nowhere near as depressing. For two series he has invited audiences to watch him plough fields and talk agriculture at Diddly Squat, the 1000-acre farm he bought in 2008 and – up until 2019 – did not help maintain. What initially seemed little more than yet another fly-on-the-wall edu-tainment show, presented by a celebrity barely clinging onto relevance, has completely transformed his image: this is where Clarkson cleans up faeces, rather than imagining it being thrown at Meghan Markle.

Any way you cut it, Clarkson’s Farm has been an enormous success. It’s also just very well made: not Monty Don-gentle, but reasonably low-stakes and well-intentioned, its cast trundling along, encountering a problem, then using a mix of a know-how and street-smarts to solve it.

For the show’s third series, which kicks off in the autumn of 2022, the driest summer for 87 years has resulted in parched farmland and a reduced yield. There’s a drought of wheat, while the cost of gas, energy and fertiliser has shot up. To combat it at all, Clarkson suggests he and farmer Kaleb Cooper – the show’s sweet-natured breakout star – compete to see who can make the most money in a year from the typically unfarmed land.

There is, of course, a not exactly invisible trace of conservatism here, which bleeds into most of Clarkson’s exchanges with his friends and colleagues. He likes to huff and puff and blow bureaucracy down, like a Sun op-ed given legs and arms. Don’t you just hate those fussy scolds with their rules and their laws and “you can’t say anything these days without the bloody government breathing down your neck”? “Fertiliser is too expensive.” “The council won’t let me put down wood chippings.” “What do you mean it’s hard to breed pigs?”

At one point, Clarkson is raked over the coals by his perpetually uncomfortable land agent Charlie Ireland for making blackberry jam on a whim. “Have you done your food hygiene test?” Ireland asks. “What PH is it? Does it contain any allergens? You’d have to put that on the label”. Clarkson grows exasperated. “You want me to put ‘may contain blackberries’ on the blackberry jam label?” he steams. It’s PC gone mad!

Jeremy Clarkson and Kaleb Cooper in ‘Clarkson’s Farm’ (Prime Video)
Jeremy Clarkson and Kaleb Cooper in ‘Clarkson’s Farm’ (Prime Video)

You can quickly see his appeal – the bemused grump dismayed at the state of things if rarely offering any practical solutions. It makes Clarkson’s Farm wildly interesting on an anthropological level, as if you’ve stumbled into a club who’d never want you as a member. But then there’s also the rest of the show – its ramshackle pleasantness and easy humour. Whatever your misgivings as to the man behind it all, you’ll find it tricky to resist.

‘Clarkson’s Farm’ is streaming on Prime Video