In March 2015, during an active series of Top Gear’s former iteration, a much discussed incident involving a Jeremy Clarkson and member of the crew resulted in what many considered to be the end of what made Top Gear so enjoyably entertaining. Whether you agree or disagree with the actions that followed the event, all that was clear was that Jeremy Clarkson – followed swiftly by James May and Richard Hammond – would not be returning to one of the BBC’s most popular, and profitable franchise programs.
Fast forward to November 2016 and we are finally baring witness to the offspring of this misdemeanour, The Grand Tour. A 12 part episodic series following the 3 bumbling, Englishmen around the world as they dismember, disregard and disillusion the bureaucracy seemingly shrouding the Trio throughout their last project. However will this Amazon Original be the breath of the fresh the world needs? Or will The Grand Tour contain the same parts beneath a new, shiny body
Ok, before I start I will acknowledge that this is not a fictional story per se, however, there are certainly elements to The Grand Tour that are scripted, as well as the previously established kayfabe character development of Clarkson, May and Hammond during their previous run that makes each episode worthy of being judged exactly the same as anything else.
Anyway, the overall of this series opener dwells heavily on the banishment of old demons and the commencement of new(ish) and interesting features. From opening bereavement of Jeremy Clarkson’s former career to the persistent glances down the lense, this story spends as much time reinventing itself as it does reminding the audience of the great time they had before.
That being said, if this what we have to look forward to for the next 12 weeks then count me in! I’ll admit the jokes were to be expected, and the constant reminder that they used to work for the BBC and must not breach any copyright through fear of upsetting the powers that be did draw thin within the first 10/15 minutes. However what you see is what you get. From witty banter to explosive set pieces, this managed to reaffirm to the audience the Trio’s capability to provide quality entertainment in an otherwise dour period of time.
ROUND 1 SCORE: 9/10
Round 2 – Characters
As mentioned during round 1, the characters of Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond has been preened and pruned over the course of the last 10 years to the point where everyone knows what they get once the cameras start to roll. As with any form of entertainment, this has caused a great deal of conversation as to whether what we see is a true reflection of the people behind the wheel.
Throughout this opening episode, and indeed throughout the opening round, Clarkson, May and Hammond managed to prove that not only are their projections merely extensions of their real self, but that they can actually create a further depth to a program that should realistically be 3 people sat in car discussing Carbon Fiber gear sticks. It is the nature in which the 3 of them portray themselves as very close to real while never intending to reach that final boundary between reality and otherwise.
Sure we’ve all heard James May be called Slow, Richard Hammond small and Jeremy Clarkson an Ape, but that only solidifies the development these characters have achieved. Their dynamic as a group incorporates, as the opening title suggests, a Trinity of struggles in which every person will suffer: the mind, the body and the social expectations.
Through Mays pensive attitude, Clarksons loutish behaviour and Hammond’s mitigation between the two, the audience can live out their inner personality and project on to their counterpart on screen, resulting in 3 of the most well crafted and artistically developed characters for many years gone by
ROUND 2 SCORE: 10/10
Round 3 – Overall Enjoyment
From beginning to end this was a success. Sure the jokes missed the mark a couple of times, and the celebrity cameos were merely there to prove not only their status within the global community (Arlie Hammer and Jeremy Renner) but that they are content with doing what few people are brace enough to do: be openly English to the world.
The mere fact that Carol Vorderman featured in the same segment as Hammer and Renner showed just how deep the original series’ roots truly lie with the team. It could have been so easy to throw millions of whatever currency they were spending on ridiculous segments and useless guests. Instead, we were shown a truly British comedy that was intentionally being created for the satisfaction of the world. A comedy that didn’t take itself seriously, that poked fun at itself while maintaining that proper English sense of Fortitude.
An unquestionably enjoyable start to what should be a highly exceptional run of episodes
ROUND 3 SCORE: 9/10
FINAL SCORE: THE GRAND TOUR WINS BY DECISION 28/30
From all of us I would just like to thank the BBC for doing what it has wanted to do for some time now. With mandatory drag races and the somewhat unexpectedly entertaining deaths of 3 celebrities, The Grand Tour has created something that will be a constant feature on platforms around the world for many years to come.