So, a review. Full disclosure, this is my first review of an anything, ever. So wish me luck.
Before we get started, I would just like to start by saying that this is not a review for the person who looks for deep, meaningful evaluation of a shows quirks and mannerisms. There will be no deep-dives into the drives of 'The Grand Tour', but rather, a simple reflection of one mans opinions. If you failed to read that, let me stress again, that these are just OPINIONS, and should be taken as such. Think of this as less of a review, but more of conversation about the show, over a pint with your mate down at the local. Also, SPOILERS.
"WE'RE BACK", as Jeremy Clarkson exclaimed. The Grand Tour has returned to our (Laptop) screens once again and what a corker of a return it was. My immediate response would be to say that, yes it had some minor flaws, but overall, it was a good episode. Lets break it down.
To start with, the most obvious point any critic will have is: "But how can they be 'The Grand Tour' if they now stay in one place!" To which any fan states: watch the episode you idiot. Yes, that's right, the 'Tour' (It was getting too long) is now permanently stationed but a packages throw away from Jeremy's house. However, as they state in the video, they are now taking the meaning of 'TGT' to reflect how 'The Globe is still [their] playground.' Sure. Why not? It may not be the best excuse in the world, but considering that all three of our beloved DriveTribe founders ended up in hospital in the last year, I think we can all let it slide.
So thats neutral item, lets pile on a whole load of bad ones. To start with, and this is just me being very, VERY pedantic here, but I thought I'd mention it; did anyone else feel like they watched the intro twice? Due to the change in format this season, the main introduction obviously had to be changed, which meant we got a much more traditional (and American I feel) TV show introduction of a collection of clips from the show. However, as they've always treated us to a compilation of clips at the start of a season in the form of a short 2-3 minute film, even way back in the Top Gear years, it meant we watched much of the same footage twice within the space of 3 minutes. Stupid complaint? Yes, I know but I just wanted to mention it. That being said, what we did see twice did look rather exciting.
Another niggle; conversation street. The need for a 'news' segment, like they had in the Top Gear days, is always going to be necessary for a show like this. It gives the opportunity for the hosts to sit interact within the live studio audience, while also preventing the show from turning into a collection of short films with small segways in between. However, the content has to be relevant. I understand that they are apparently much more scripted than before, and that they need to use certain types of language (James mentioning the weather in Mallorca was 100 degrees [Fahrenheit] for example), but please, please make it relevant. When the topic of the Nissan Dehydration Seats came up, I actually perked up a bit. Sure its slightly out there and not the latest in Super-Hyper-Car news, but isn't that part of the reason we watch? To hear about all there is to hear about in the car world, presented to us by three men who ,we have all collectively decided, know all there is to know about this sort of thing. But then it went on. And on. And on. And the same joke got funnier. And funnier. And funnier. Oh no wait... no, no it didn't. What happened to the days of a nice short concise joke or stab and then, "moving swiftly on" and leaving it at that? Yes the jokes are funny but not when they are every second sentence in the conversation. Part of the reason we loved the old show so much was the relationship and chemistry between the three men. And yes I know it was scripted then, but the apparent need they feel to turn the entire 'show' part of the show into some form of sketch show or comedy gig, doesn't quite gel with the rest of the...show. I said the word show too many times there. But it is for that reason Conversation Street takes a bit of a hit in my books. It's a funny show for sure, but at its core its a show about 3 mates pissing about in some cars. Of course its going to have funny bits, but its not specifically, a comedy show.
Lastly, overly scripting the films. Again, I do know that even on Top Gear they were scripted, but, they over do it. The film segments are great, don't get me wrong, but they also always use to feel much more raw, much more real and untamed. They had the 'anything can happen' atmosphere. But here, I could count on one hand the amount of times I truly felt that. And again, I know you're going to say they're just as scripted as before, but they didn't feel scripted then. Thats the difference. The viewing experience has completely changed. From Hammond uncharacteristically choosing a wellness centre hotel, to the repeated visits to museums, none of it felt real. In fact, the first time I truly thought something wasn't scripted was when after being beaten by the Rimac in the drag race, Jeremy declared, "It just f***s off!" And I know it sounds like I'm pining for the Top Gear days again, but I'm really not, I love 'TGT', it just, like a disappointed teacher would say (don't ask me how I know); there's just so much potential. And its this unused opportunity that is the disappointing part.
Now for the good stuff and why this episode was actually pretty darn good.
ITS GONE. I REPEAT, CELEBRITY BRAINCRASH IS GONE! Sorry. Yes, celebrity braincrash has been removed, and one of the extra special reasons this is good (apart from the obvious) is the fact that the boys addressed the fact that, they got rid of it because we hated it. And if you don't understand immediately, it means that the show is directly listening to what its fans say. Which is f*****g amazing. Back in the days of normal tv.... In todays climate of normal TV....On normal tv, it's often (always) extremely difficult for there to be a direct connection between the creators and their fans, which means that often a show will continue to make mistakes that have been consistently flagged up by the fans (that and a bunch of corporate legal stuff, but you get my point). So A+ for 'TGT' right there. Moreover, the new segment is actually pretty good. Obviously not being able to replicate the old format of a celeb goes around a track kinda quickly, changing it up to having two celebs, of a similar celeb background (The Hoff and Ricky both being rather talented musically), battling it out One vs. One is genius. Now will all the celeb times be compared to each other on an overall board? I'm hesitant to say. On the one hand, Richard did make a joke about how having a celebrity drive round a track on their lonesome would be stupid and boring (thats a paraphrase right there), or in other words, a legal nightmare for them. But on the other hand, Jeremy did say, when the Hoff's time was revealed, "That could be the fastest time, ever ever, that we're going to see round here! Or. It could be the slowest. We have no idea", not much to go on but slightly indicating that there might be some form of competition between the celebrities. If I was to be honest though, I'm not holding my breath.
Lastly for this review (and definitely not because it just realised it 2:30 in the morning), the crash. To quickly gloss over everything else: really good, but lacking some form of authenticity. Now, the crash. I have to say, I respect the way in which they dealt with the crash. They built it up with tension and dramatic irony (traditionally when the audience knows something the actors don't, you see the parallels), but then didn't dwell on the situation. By simply showing the one YouTube clip we've all seen, added to the audio from the car, it was all we needed to see and hear. A truly horrific crash for anyone to be involved in, by simply giving us the information, and showing us what happened, they didn't need to draw it out or highlight it further. It was their way of saying, "Here, look, he crashed, we know you want to see but lets all move on now." The point of the film wasn't Hammond's crash, so why make it? That's why I respect what they did there.
As you can see, the show still has some minor flaws, which I think can be summed-up nicely in one word: authenticity. Its a great show, with some great talent and great big piss-off budget. It was always going to be good, and it is. But its not perfect, and if its not perfect, I can find something to bitch about. And I will. So there.
OVERALL EPISODE SCORE 7/10
But as Jeremy (sort of) said, that could be the best episode ever. Or it could suck in comparison to the rest. We have no idea. So a solid 7 from me. Allows room for improvement whilst also being high enough to compliment its achievements. Or maybe I've been really mean, I don't know yet. If I continue to do these and it wasn't a moment of madness, I revise all scores at the end when I will be able to better compare them all. And sh*t, if you read this far, thanks! (Also if you didn't get it, it's a crap review because the review itself is crap and not the episode. Banter)
Also Jeremy made a 9/11 joke and I laughed.