The Grand Tour—Clarkson, Hammond, and May’s Amazon replacement for Top Gear—has debuted its second season, and after the rocky start that was the first season, the first episode was even more important than it normally would be. For those that do not know, the BBC was forced to drop Jeremy Clarkson from their programming schedule after he punched a producer out over a sandwich.
Hammond and May quickly followed, citing their package appeal over their independent appeal. Even more important than that is the friendship the three presenters had built over a decade and a half and 20 seasons of production. It did not take long for the now-contractually free trio to be picked up by another giant, with Amazon quickly signing the three.
Thus, The Grand Tour, their new motoring program, was born. With this re-invention also came a re-formatting, with changes such as Celebrity Brain Crash becoming the new celebrity-based section, and The American replacing The Stig; their beloved test driver.
The changes were not popular, and soon reviews became less than raving. Celebrity Brain Crash became a predictable staged death, and The American was just too stereotype-y. It did not help that the new BBC Top Gear was doing very well with its new trio of hosts, including Friends super-star Matt LeBlanc. It is because of this that the second season of The Grand Tour has become so important to the aging hosts: they have actual competition now.
As an avid fan of the three presenters, I am happy to say that the second season of The Grand Tour had a fairly good start. First and foremost, while the touring, grand tent of The Grand Tour has stopped touring, it is clear that the shows creators listen to their fanbase, because not only was The American nowhere to be seen, but Celebrity Brain Crash had been axed in favor of a different segment—more on that in a second. While some episodes of The Grand Tour season one were large departures from the normal motoring show formula, the first episode of the second season follows the familiar—and liked—format that gave the three their success. After a season preview, the show consists of three segments; the main film, ‘Conversation Street’, and the new celebrity segment.
The main film was the one that everyone wanted to see—the gasoline vs. hybrid vs. electric supercar test in which Richard Hammond completely destroys a Rimac One concept, as well as himself. I am not going to spoil it, because I assume that most people interested in the show will eventually watch it, but I will say that it lives up to expectations, as well as feeling like one of their old Top Gear films. As those are the films that made them famous, and made the world take notice of them, this is a Good Thing, and long-time fans of the series will not be disappointed. As I said I will not spoil it, I will restrain myself to merely listing the cars they used.
Jeremey, representing the ‘past’ with gasoline, was in the new Lamborghini Aventador S. James May, always known for being the epitome of a contemporary man (*sarcasm alert*) is in the high-tech Honda NSX, which represents the modern trend of hybrids. Lastly, Richard Hammond is in the ultra-high tech, ultra-powerful, Rimac One electric car concept.
You probably already know how that ends…
This film is split twice by in-tent segments. The first of these, Conversation Street, is the one carry-over from the first season, and while some previous segments were less than thrilling, the latest jaunt down Conversation Street proved to be entertaining enough. If they can keep that up, then I do not think that many fans will mind the inclusion of the segment.
The second of these new segments is the new Celebrity Face Off, which replaces the ill-fated Celebrity Brain Crash segment. In this segment Jeremy Clarkson interviews two celebrities which are vaguely connected– David Hasselhoff and Ricky Wilson, who are apparently both TV hosts, were the first guests—and pits them against each other in a time trial race in a V6 Jaguar F-Type Coupe. The race takes place on both gravel and dirt, and on a new circuit.
While the segment was fun and entertaining, it must be said that it is now very apparent that the BBC’s old rules of ‘no advertising’ have been done away with, as not only was the F-Type explicitly mentioned many, many times, the ‘F’ in Celebrity ‘F’ace Off is the same ‘F’ont as Jaguar uses on the F-Type.
Overall, the first show was entertaining, funny, and felt like I was watching the trio in the Prime of their old Top Gear days—which is exactly what fans want. If you haven’t watched the first episode yet, and have Amazon Prime, I highly suggest you take an hour of your time and go watch the season premier.
The ending is explosive.
I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.