Don’t call it ‘Top Gear’ – can Amazon’s new (and expensive) car show possibly recreate the magic of the hugely popular BBC show?
This is one of the most anticipated TV premieres of all time. No show has seen so much discussion, so much press, so much general intrigue from the public as to how it will all turn out. So you know, no pressure on The Grand Tour to succeed. Ever since Jeremy Clarkson was booted from the BBC for getting into a ‘fracas’ with producer Oisin Tymon and his fellow Top Gear presenters Richard Hammond and James May followed him out of the door, people have been excitably waiting for their follow-up which would be broadcast by Amazon Prime. When regular Top Gear returned with Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc in tow, the anticipation rose higher as they failed to capture the magic that enticed 350 million viewers to tune in each week.
And thankfully with the opening episode of The Grand Tour I can report that this is exactly what we wanted, the return of the trio with all their chemistry and in tact and they even get some fantastic cars to play around with. It’s like they’ve never gone away.
It all starts with Clarkson reenacting his exit from the BBC, leaving in the rain and entering a taxi cab before taking a plane to Los Angeles. Then while driving a Ford Mustang through the California desert, he is joined by Hammond and May, and they are all smiling. they are free, free from the BBC nannying and are now able to what they want.
We’re then introduced to their new studio, a tent that is set to travel across the world with future destinations including Johannesburg, Rotterdam and of course, Whitby. It’s a nice idea that should appeal to the worldwide audience that The Grand Tour will get, as well as giving us some nice views out of the back windows. And inside the tent it is nice to see that the trio do still have the chemistry, that boistrousness and teasing that made us tune into the show in the first place. Because as the recent redo of Top Gear and all those car shows deep inside the Sky Planner prove, this is the reason that we like their shows. Not for the cars, but for their genuine and amusing friendship.
But if you are here for the cars, you won’t be disappointed. The Holy Trinity title refers to three of the best and fastest cars in the world right now, the McLaren P1, LaFerrari and Porsche 918. They teased getting these three cars together for a long time on Top Gear so putting them in the very first episode of The Grand Tour is another statement of intent that they are going to do things they could have never dreamed of at the BBC.
And as the camera lingers over these gorgeous cars you’ll also realise that the cinematography is just as good. That was the biggest worry for me going into this show, that the amazing camerawork had stayed at Top Gear and hadn’t moved with them to Amazon. I have been proved wrong though as this may be even better. The show is simply gorgeous to look at and it is helped by the fact its all being filmed in 4K. And yes, you will see the effect of that even if you are watching in SD, because it allows the colours of the Portuguese scenery to pop even more.
Of course, there is some stuff happening back in the tent and this is where you realise that this is a remake of Top Gear. There’s a segment that is basically the news where they wind up James May over the fact he got the slowest speeding ticket of all time, there’s even a track named the Eboladrome where they will get the fastest cars in the world to set lap times. There’s even a driver, a NASCAR driver they simply refer to as the America. He however does talk, though it’s nothing too interesting which pretty much proves how strong the concept of The Stig was. The only question mark right now is if there will be a celebrity segment. There’s certainly one being proposed, but any celeb who tries (The stars ranging from Jeremy Renner to Carol Vordeman) gets killed off. Whether this is a one-time thing or a sign that they are banishing celeb sequences to the place in hell where Top Gear Stunt Man resides, we’ll only find out with the next episode.
Of course not everything is perfect. Some of the tent sequences are a bit awkward, including a joke where Jeremy keeps trying to claim the RAF is the best air force in the world while inbetween an edit, he gets beaten up by the US audience. It goes on for too long and starts to feel like an awkward Family Guy joke by the end. And there is an assumption you watched Top Gear before, which yes most people who watch this probably have but those who haven’t won’t get why the trio love their particular hybrid supercar so much.
But despite those minor flaws, The Grand Tour‘s opening episode is nothing but a triumph. It has exactly what you want, fast cars, beautiful camera work and most importantly the trio doing what they do best. Maybe the Holy Trinity was in fact referring to them rather than the cars, after all he is named JC…