First off, yes this isn’t typically what you’d see on my sports blog. It’s a review of a show about cars. But, hey, have you have heard the term “motorsport?” Also, you don’t run my life. This is my blog and I’ll write what I want to write. Don’t hold me down. Gattaca! Gattaca!
Um…where was I?
Oh right. So the first episode of The Grand Tour, the new car-adventure-nonsense-review show from former Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond, premiered on Amazon Prime this week. As a huge fan of these three middle-aged gear heads (petrol heads, if you’re from the other side of the pond), I couldn’t wait to dive right in and absorb every second that Grand Tour had to offer.
Right off the bat, the first sequence is actually pretty heartwarming, as it shows a lonely Jeremy Clarkson getting off a plane alone in the States and hopping in a Mustang. Eventually, while driving down a lonely road, Clarkson is met by two other Mustangs, one with May behind the wheel and the other featuring Hammond. It’s a feel good sequence that makes you understand that, through all Clarkson’s issues that led to the end of their Top Gear era, it was clear to the three of them that they would stick together and continue doing what they love to do.
From then on, the episode plays a lot like Top Gear, complete with some less-than-subtle jokes about how similar the formats are. As their new track is introduced midway through the episode, so is their new racing driver. No, it’s not the Stig. He’s called The American, and he’s not as anonymous as the Stig. Although, unless you’re a big NASCAR fan, you probably don’t know much about Mike Skinner. He provides some added humor, including a in-car review of the BMW M2. “This car wouldn’t pull a greasy string out of a dog’s ass,” he quips.
The back-and-forth banter that made Top Gear so popular is still in full force. A revelation that Captain Slow himself wound up getting a speeding ticket, followed by the punchline that he was clocked at 37 MPH, was a high point for that segment.
And of course, I can’t forget about the cars. The focus of this first episode was on a trio of stunning hybrid “hypercars.” The McClaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari, and Porsche 918 Spyder were put through multiple tests by the hosts, culminating in the ever-important timed lap test. After an ill-conceived bet by Clarkson and his McClaren P1, the P1 was revealed to be the slowest of the three hypercars, and now his house is going to be demolished by May and Hammond. Classic.
The only major difference with The Grand Tour’s format is the lack of a “celebrity in a reasonably priced car” segment, another staple of Top Gear. While it’s clear, and refreshing, that the trio didn’t want to copy every single thing from their old stomping grounds, it was great to see them poke fun at the situation. Without giving the entire joke away, Clarkson introduces a new celebrity-based segment and it results in three celebrity deaths.
As Clarkson, May, and Hammond fans, I think I speak for us all when I say that we were sad to see the end of their Top Gear Era. However, if episode 1 of Grand Tour is any indication, we’re going to get an even wackier, more over-the-top version of Top Gear, complete with larger budgets and better production values. Count me in.
The Grand Tour has a 36-episode order. Based on the premiere episode, you can bet I’ll be along for the entire ride.