In an era where millions of Brits work their arses off to scrape together rent and pay their licence fee, the jaw-dropping £2.5 million opening sequence to Amazon Prime’s The Grand Tour felt like an American middle finger up those very arses.
Cash was burning everywhere – rising in gigantic dust clouds from monster trucks, motorbikes and three beautiful Mustangs in red, white and blue, zooming overhead in a formation of six jet planes, cart-wheeling into the wallets of 2,000 acrobats, and head-banging all over the festival-esque ‘Burning Van’ stage.
It was stunning, and extremely un-British.
Clarkson, Hammond and May are clearly having a blast, but – despite my big hopes for the show – it felt as though they had deliberately exiled themselves not only from the BBC, but from their home nation, and their home audience.
I understand they’re trying to create something vaguely new here, I understand they want to reach a global online audience, I understand that Amazon is an American company. But wouldn’t it have been marvellous if they’d started off their Grand Tour where it all began, in Great Britain? Oh the sardonic fun they could’ve had, with antics in the countryside, stunts in the city of London, and fat geezers in tweed. They could’ve roared off after that first episode, middle-aged racers rejecting the old broadcasters, symbolising the end of an era and the embracement of a global entertainment landscape.
Instead, I’m left staring at that girl’s teeth. She’s standing behind Clarkson’s right shoulder, and my god they’re white. I mean, I’ve never seen teeth like that. Are they natural? And they don’t stop smiling. Whiter than white teeth that don’t stop smiling.
Sorry, what was that Jeremy?
Essentially, The Grand Tour has the same format as Top Gear, but with an unequal ratio of money and creativity. Yes, you might be able to justify the show’s brash expense as ‘in the cause of escapist spectacle’ or as a way of ‘entertaining the population’s miserable souls’. But the script is as subtle as that-Christmas-house-down-the-road, gags fall flat and every sequence is slightly too long. There’s even a significant section – when James May is bashing his Ferrari round the track in Portugal – which is out of sync.
That’s just shoddy chaps.
Maybe it’s just that first-episode smugness that’s tainted the show for me so far, but as it stands the trio seem to be missing all the subtleties that made them so beloved of British audiences. There was none of the wit teetering on the brink of political incorrectness, none of the provincial charm that came with riding a gorgeous McLaren down a twining country lane, and even James May – our beloved underdog – seemed to be reading his own mediocrity from a tightly written script.
If you’re male and looking for a big budget, in-your-face car show, you’ll probably enjoy The Grand Tour. But if you’re looking for the witty, banter-filled narrative we used to love on Top Gear, I wouldn’t bother with the £79/year subscription.