Finally, I can have my say of ‘The Grand Tour’.
I have held my composure ever since that famous wallop that sent Jeremy Clarkson high-tailing it from the biggest car show in the world. I kept my tongue and watched every news blurb, read every developing story, mourned the breakup of the trio, empathized their united departure and celebrated their glorious reunion. Several times, I wanted to write something about the current status of my trio and how two men, that couldn’t get along were affecting millions of avid petrol heads adversely. The displacement of the team from the original show led to a new trio and a few changes, some I liked, some I didn’t. One host came with a following of his own. Another with a bit of controversy. Through it all, my pen remained still as I watched anxiously from the sidelines.
Now, they are back where they belong. Together in sport jackets, ribbing each other and talking about cars – just like God intended! Amazon Prime picked up the scent of success, tripled the budget and snagged a triumvirate that forlorn fans thought would vanish into television history.
I purposely waited several weeks, prepared a day and binge watched every episode back-to-back… for research purposes, of course. After watching a couple of episodes more than once, I came away feeling fulfilled – as if I’d seen one of those stories where people are reunited after many years. While not everyone will be happy with the changes, I am extremely happy to see another iteration of the best team in television.
Just as in times past, there are standard elements to every episode. Jeremy’s opening monologue is a clear display of why he’s so popular. His intelligent humor and controversial commentary is balanced with light banter from his counterparts. The balance is needed. We don’t want him in trouble with Romania again.
Every show tops off with a road test (of sorts), which is good for us petrol heads. Oh, how I’ll miss “Gambon Corner”, “Hammerhead” and “The Follow-Through”, but I’m told that change is good and the “The Eboladrome” has a certain ominous ring to it. The new lap time board is a nice modern touch, but it lacks the archaic charm of the old board. Speaking of lap times, NASCAR fans will happily recognize Mike Skinner as the regular test driver. While his “everything here sucks” mood is very amusing, it will never replace the mystery and outrageously made up characteristics that surrounded “The Stig”.
We won’t introduce their views on new cars and technology the same way anymore. “And now, the news….” Is a line that the trio will never utter again, but the youngest brain in the bunch came up with the particularly clever “Conversation Street”, same thing, different packaging. I look forward to each week’s intro montage more than the actual conversation. In said conversation, you can expect Richard to reveal something about himself that he didn’t mean to.
Thankfully, Amazon has chosen to showcase the one thing that the guys are known for; “cocking about”. Their misadventures and antics are the highlight of every show. They gleefully have a supposed fear of “Mr. Wilman” playing on the headlines of the past, it is clever how Jeremy, of all people hints at being subject to authority.
Initially, the whole traveling tent thing had to grow on me. This has to be a monumental undertaking with filming the regular elements of the show in Britain and still having enough time on the schedule to do location pieces. I do like how the show is faithful to the Grand Tour theme of rich, fancy-pants guys traipsing the globe and soaking up the good life in amazing cars – something that was hinted at frequently on TG and done in two TG Specials. They now are the modern day equivalent to the Bentley Boys.
As with anything, there are pros and cons. I have enjoyed the show overall, but listed some humorous things that I am not so sure about.
I’m not sure if there was ever a way for Brits to secure tickets to be part of the studio audience, but I sure would love to do so before the guys swing back into the States. I was never quite clear how the former show worked. Did people stand up for a whole show or was there a lot of yelling “CUT!” while filming several segments at a time. I need a quick “Behind-the Scenes” YouTube video or something. If there is one, someone let me know in the comments section.
There is always the possibility that Amazon might make us wait for Season 2, much like the BBC did when the boys were on Top Gear. I am in for the long haul. I certainly hope my Prime membership is as well. The fear is that it might not.
Secretly, my drive to be successful was fueled by the hope that one day, I would be a SIRPC and lap the TG Test Track. The SIRPC also gave me a chance to familiarize myself with European celebs and learn that many Hollywood A-Listers have lineage across the pond. Well, all those dreams are gone now. I couldn’t bring myself to do a lap and not talk to Jeremy, so my future stardom will have a terrible void. If there is one thing that confuses me about The Grand Tour is their celebrity segment. The “Celebrity Brain Crash” is, well…something else. Very seldom do I see the stars and each one of them meets an untimely demise before they can even reach the tent – with the exception of Daniel Ricardo, who ended up all over it. James hasn’t quite grasped the theme yet as he witnesses high profile homicides and with child-like innocence asks: “Does the mean they’re not coming on?” As morbid as it sounds, you anticipate them coming up with new ways for the stars to die each week.
Please, Mr. Wilman, let somebody make it or there will be no one left.
The boys have aged well. James has traded the long shaggy locks of his TG days for a more hip, professorial look with tastefully printed shirts. Jeremy’s belly and jowls are coming in nicely and there is a more laid-back swagger among the three. However, I’m uncomfortably bewildered by Richard’s hair. Admittedly, I tuned to BBC America each week for the cars, but the Hamster’s hair and wardrobe were an added bonus. His modern, stylish outfits, flowing hair and ever-whitening teeth made him the balance between James’ annalist retro views and Jeremy’s head strong nature. I know that he was proclaimed to be 38 for two consecutive years on the old show, I just wasn’t ready for the sudden display of mid-life crisis on the new show. It took me a few episodes to get used to this strikingly dark hair and goatee.
All jokes aside, these cons are niggly little foibles that I had to dig deep to find in an incredibly well-executed production. If many other shows could recover their cast like this one, television would be a more respectable place to veg out in. Carry on, chaps! The Grand Tour is a hit.
The Grand Tour is such a hit, the competition is pulling out all the stops to ensure supremacy. Compliments of Road & Track magazine, here is a glimpse of what we have to look forward to from a new, overhauled Top Gear.