12 years – 4383 days. That’s how long the show went on, and since it was quite possibly the best thing the BBC made barring the series where James May disassembled a lawnmower, it would have kept going on. The format, the presenters, and the entire concept of the Top Gear formula was an incredible, incredible success. Then, one fine day, Clarkson had an altercation with a producer, which prompted the BBC to not renew his contract. Hammond and May soon followed him out of the BBC on their own volition and they, along with Andy Wilman, the ex-executive producer of Top Gear, were all quickly hired by for a car show by Jeff Bezos, obviously.
And at that moment, Top Gear was dead.
Yes, they hired Chris Evans, Matt LeBlanc, Eddie Jordan, the Nürburgring Nordschleife lady, another Chris, and a few more people, and they even got to keep The Stig, but what they made together was so sapping and insignificant that I hope the BBC have the sense to not continue funding such a ‘project’. If you’re reading this, you probably already know all the negative things said about the new Top Gear, so we’ll not dwell on it much. To explain it in a sentence, the Top Gear crew continued wearing the masks of Clarkson, Hammond and May and hoped that no one would notice that they aren’t those people.
Moving on to better things, we now have The Grand Tour.
‘Exclusively’ on Amazon Prime, it’s the same people doing what they do best; cars and comedy. 36 episodes have been drawn up for the next 3 years.
So, how is The Grand Tour any different from Top Gear?
It sort of isn’t, actually:
- Instead of the Top Gear Test Track, we have the Eboladrome, which is also at an old RAF base.
- The Stig has been replaced by The American, ex-NASCAR drive Mike Skinner (so it’s a wonder that he can actually take any of the 4 right turns at the Eboladrome).
- The News is now Conversation Street.
- Star in a Reasonably Priced Car has now become Celebrity Brain Crash.
- The hangar is now a tent, where some people actually get to sit, albeit on trunks with no backrests
While the Eboladrome, The American and the tent are good changes, and work well together (although The Stig-Top Gear Test Track combo was just as good). Celebrity Brain Crash was not (at least at the time of writing this). All the celebrities brought on have to be killed off before they can be interviewed, else the BBC lawyers will pounce on Amazon. This is what Clarkson has claimed, although BBC Worldwide has denied making any formal legal demands. To me, Celebrity Brain Crash is currently the worst part of the show, and unless they’re going to do something else in the coming few episodes, they should just scrap it.
The 3 episodes so far have varied in quality. They opened with a bang (they had to) by managing to do the much awaited comparison of The Holy Trinity, the McLaren P1, the Porsche 918, and the LaFerrari (in my opinion, the best out of the lot). That first episode introduced us to the ‘new’ format, and showed us that nothing had changed significantly, which was not a bad thing. After all, it was Clarkson and Wilman who came up with the successful Top Gear format, and why should you change your own winning formula?
The second episode was woeful. It was the worst thing that they had ever made together. Apart from the Zuma banter, it lacked everything that made Top Gear and the first Grand Tour episode a success. It was repetitive, boring, and difficult to sit through. The third episode got things back on the right track. A good road trip in some great cars (not that Dodge though) in a brilliant country, along with banter and an atmosphere of general fun. The destruction of the house shows how they’ve moved on from the nomadic caravan.
All in all, The Grand Tour is Top Gear on steroids. It’s bigger and noisier, and apart from that bump in episode 2, it will keep getting better. This show, should it accomplish what it promises, will be the final nail in the coffin for the BBC’s Top Gear.