They were once the team behind the ratings juggernaut known as Top Gear — but after an altercation between Jeremy Clarkson and a producer on set, the trio left the show. This year, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond returned with a show: The Grand Tour.
What happened on the 10th of March 2015 has gone down in show business infamy: it was announced that Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended by the BBC following allegations that producer, Oisin Tymon, was physically and verbally abused by Clarkson. Then on the 25th of March, we learnt that the BBC would not be renewing Clarkson's contract. His Top Gear co-stars James May and Richard Hammond, along with executive producer Andy Wilman, announced that they too would not be renewing their contracts.
In 2016, we learned that Clarkson, May and Hammond would be returning in The Grand Tour, which was to be aired weekly on Amazon. The 18th of November 2016 saw the show's debut on #AmazonVideo, becoming its most watched premiere. The show just finished a 13-episode run, and the jury's still out about whether it was a glorious comeback, or a disappointing reincarnation. To understand why, let's take a look at what worked on the show and what didn't.
1) The Holy Trinity
I am not a car person at all — I know next to nothing about them — but it was these three men that made Top Gear enjoyable to watch for me. I couldn't imagine either of these shows working without all three of them together. The jokes, the constant bickering and the playful ganging up on each other that makes it more than just an average car show and shows that nothing has changed since the big move.
The way the talk about cars is easy enough for car-illiterate people like me to understand what the hell they are talking about, but they managed this without dumbing it down for the people who do.
2) The Cars
I wasn't sure how #TheGrandTour was going to go with getting their hands on cars. Would companies have contractual obligations with Top Gear and not want to supply the new show or is it possible that Clarkson had burnt some bridges with his antics over the years?
Luckily, that is definitely not the case. I mean it would have been hard to have a car show without the y'know, cars. But that doesn't seem to be a problem because it is jam-packed with cars, new and old. Also, money didn't seem to be an issue either - some of these are damn expensive!
When the show was announced, I was curious to see how it was going to be set up. Obviously they couldn't just do another ompetition between the three men where they had to make a car out of sustainable materials. Hammond made a vehicle out of plants, May's was made out of mud and animal waste, and Clarkson made his out of animal skin and bones — which looked pretty post-apocalyptic, and made for some very compelling TV.
3) The Episodes
When the show was announced, I was curious to see how it was going to be set up. Obviously, they couldn't just do another Top Gear with a new name. I was hoping that it was just going to be the three of them travelling around certain places like in the Top Gear Specials, with no stage, just going to different countries and doing stunts, tests and challenges.
While it didn't turn out to be like that, there were some damn good episodes! They did have a two-part special in the middle that was like the old specials, and some of the standard episodes managed to be entertaining too. If they weren't travelling or test driving cars, they were stationed in a tent with the crowd and would feature segments such a 'Celebrity Brain Crash' and 'Conversation Street' — more on those later.
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What Didn't Work?
1) The American
Obviously we weren't going to be seeing The Stig, but we did get introduced to The American a.k.a Mike Skinner, a NASCAR champion and the new test driver for The Grand Tour.
To put it briefly: I miss The Stig! This new dude is annoying as hell, and his 'jokes' are so far from funny. It's also a combination of The American talking and #JeremyClarkson commentating, and I really hope Series Two just keeps him quiet. It would have been much cooler to see one of the old Stigs come back for the test drives.
2) The Gags
Obviously this new show wasn't going to have 'Star in a Reasonably Priced Car' so they went for 'Celebrity Brain Crash' where they get a celebrity to come to the tent but oops — something unfortunate happens to them. Jimmy Carr crashed his jet ski into the side of a boat, Charlize Theron is mauled by a lion and Daniel Ricciardo got his head trapped in a hovercraft propeller.
Now this was funny the first and even the second time but, it gets repeated in every episode with a different celebrity — none of them actually making it to the stage — and it got old very fast!
3) The Episodes
Yes, I am well aware that I listed this as one of the strengths, but like any other show, The Grand Tour has its fair share of hit and miss episodes. Now that the first series has finished, I would say that it's half/half on the scale of good and bad.
The picture above was from the second episode, 'Operation Desert Stumble,' and it was probably the worst episode of the series. It barely had anything to do with cars and was more of an action flick with explosions and gun fights. While running around a course, if one of the men were shot, they would have to restart - which happened often! Way too often.
While most shows are part way through filming when the show starts to air, The Grand Tour had finished filming before it premiered, and that meant that they couldn't change anything that the fans didn't like.
But the good news is that the three men have signed three-year contracts with Amazon, and will return last in the year and fingers crossed, there are some changes to the format.
Series One of The Grand Tour is streaming now on Amazon Prime.
What do you think of the show? Do you agree or disagree with some of the points above? Comment below.