Like a kid on Christmas morning, Friday was an exciting day for many. For the first time in many, many months, the trio of presenters millions across the globe grew to love on the popular BBC motoring show Top Gear were back on the screen.
Amazon’s Grand Tour made it’s world wide premiere Friday streaming on the interwebs, giving hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, freedom they never had on the BBC, and access to a much wider audience.
And in short, the first episode can easily summed up, thus: It’s brilliant.
Produced by Andy Wilman who defected from Top Gear at the BBC the high production value of the old Top Gear is still very evident and with the new 4D technology seems almost super-sized. Befitting its name, it’s on a much grander scale (pun intended), and almost cinematic in its approach. That cinematic approach is evident in the opening scenes which are almost film noir. Being Amazon, an online company with seemingly never-empty pockets, it’s clear from the start that no expense was spared.
The fast cars showy cars, none of which will ever be seen in suburban middle class driveway, are still there, pushed to the limits by the hosts on beautiful roads somewhere in the world.
The show uses a tent as its “base” (two actually as one constantly hopscotch’s over the other to keep up with the production schedule.) and as in Gear, the hosts interact in front of a live audience. In this first episode, that audience is American and the British humor begins soon into the episode as the trio attempt to school the Yanks on proper automotive terms (It’s not a “hood” it’s a bonnet).
There are also references to segments in the old show. Despite the traveling circus of the tents, the show still has an anchor, a test track in England much like the old show. This track however Clarkson says, “Looks like an Ebola virus”, thus the name: “The Ebola Dome.’
The British humor carries on throughout the rest of the show. With snippets such as Hammond mentioning during a test of a McLaren P1,” I didn’t think it was possible to shit yourself to death.”
An attempt to emulate the old “Star in a reasonably priced car” segment is made, although the first three celebrities “die”, prior to taking on the new challenge.
There is also a new “Stig” the once mysterious driver who tests cars on the show’s racetrack. The new “Stig” is no “Stig” however but a former NASCAR champion simply called the “American” and whose own comments are just as funny without the British accent, as the hosts are with one.
The Grand Tour in many ways gives Top Gear fans what they were missing after Clarkson and the BBC famously parted ways.
The BBC reboot of Top Gear was a failure, leaving a void that Grand Tour is ready to fill. It’s fast, funny, very well made and with the freedom that they could never have at the BBC, the lovable trio of Clarkson, Hammond and May are ready to take viewers on wild 12 weeks per season ride.