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The Grand Tour – leaving the old Top Gear in their dust

It was the moment we have all been waiting for, people staying up late to watch The Grand Tour as soon as it was released on Amazon Prime in the UK and wow what a show!

With the resignation of Jeremy Clarkson from the BBC show Top Gear followed by the resignation of his crew James May and Richmond Hammond, the old Top Gear was never going to be the same. This was evident in its poor reception with hosts Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc. It was that unpopular that Chris Evans left as lead presenter leaving Matt as a sole host.

The rumours then started that Clarkson had received an offer from Amazon to host a new show. The Grand Tour presented by Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond was then made public and everyone went wild.

The new show is said to have a budget of £160 million spread over 36 episodes, which is £4.5 million per show more than four times the budget available for Top Gear. My goodness did they make the most of the available money with the opening sequence costing an incredible £2.5 million. Andy Wilman the show’s producer is apparently a big fan of Mad Max: Fury Road and this was made apparent in the opening.

It started in rainy Blighty with Clarkson leaving the BBC building handing in his badge after being told they would no longer allow him on the show. He then slumps into a cad and heads to the airport catching a flight to Los Angeles, which is where it starts to get interesting with his rental car being a muscly Mustang. Driving on the open road he laughs as his two friends Hammond and May join him in the same car just coloured in red, white and blue heading towards the desert. They then catch up with a Mad Max convoy of trucks, car and bikes heading towards a stage with the Hothouse Flowers playing ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, probably a dig at the BBC. The event was called Burning Van and there actually was a van alight besides a pirate ship, fire surrounded by dancing women and a squadron of jets flying over. The producers couldn’t have created a more dramatic opening.

As soon as they open their mouths you find three middle-aged men just having fun. For those who were not a fan of Clarkson they probably weren’t happy as he went from nought to racist within 8 minutes of the show starting. Introducing their set up including the travelling tent Clarkson said “We’re going to be like Gypsies, only the cars we drive are going to be insured”. The show being internet based has meant the three men can get away with saying nearly whatever they want with Clarkson claiming he’s not going to get fired “because we’re on the internet, which means I could pleasure a horse” leaving the two looking embarrassed and laughing it off. Typical Clarkson is out to play and he is leaving nothing out.

With the first episode being located in America there was bound to be some banter, making fun of the different American words for car parts such as the gear stick or lever. The crew was then identified as James May the slow driver, Hammond the short one and Clarkson the one who didn’t get fired.

The Amazon Prime lawyers went to great lengths to ensure the show was slightly different in every aspect so as not to upset the BBC and Top Gear. With a new track the same shape as the Ebola virus called the Eboladrome where an old lady lives (there will be a fight to interview her first). There is a combination of test drivers including a driver known as The American. Conversation Street was the new chat section which didn’t account to much this episode. Neither did the celebrities, US actors Jeremy Renner and Armie Hammer, and Carol Vorderman who all happened to die before being interviewed.

As expected there was the head to head car test of the super cars. This week was the battle of the hybrid supercars. Clarkson in a McLaren P1, Hammond picking his favourite car manufacturer Porsche with a Porsche 918 and James arriving late to the scene in a Ferrari LaFerrari. Previously with Top Gear, the supercars were always fantastically filmed but the new Grand Tour showed how it is more than just good camera skills needed to stand out. The studio sections were sharply structured and the films showed real emotion for the cars, Clarkson looking a little terrified at the wheel of the McLaren whizzing around tight bends.

Overall this was a spectacular opening to Clarkson’s new show. The Grand Tour is different in many ways to Top Gear with heaps of new ideas yet the underlying theme is still the same. What gives as show its personality isn’t how much money is thrown at it but the people who present it and you couldn’t find a better trio. What’s better than watching three best friends messing around in cars like kids in a playground?   

posted by: Abigail Lavallin 21 November 2016

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