Motormouth petrolhead journalists who punch colleagues have no place at the BBC. In the new frontier of online streaming, it seems such indiscretions are glossed over. Especially as the audience for said punchy presenter and his mates is global.
For years Top Gear has hinted at what a global appeal TV looks like. Slick cars, sexy photography, that track by Hans Zimmer you can’t quite put your finger on without song ID software.
Now along comes The Grand Tour, the movie budget version of Top Gear, albeit straight to TV, complete with cameos from big names (Jeremy Renner), epic opening, and, well more of the same. Only with a bit of swearing.
If TG was PG, pushing at 12A, TGT is 15 certificate nonsense of the highest order. And while Jeremy Clarkson may have made a career out of saying outrageous things in the past, he’s really going to have to go the extra mile to beat the pending US president, a man who seems to believe everything he reads on social media like it’s been fact checked by the QI elves.
Episode one took us to the desert of America and the Burning Van festival. Ep two promises South Africa. And so on. A different country each week. Grand indeed.
Given Chris Evans’ short stint on TG, there’s a chance the show which turned Clarkson into a superstar May recover lost ground (pun intended), but with the Beeb’s modest budget, and the lack of producer Andy Willman, it remains to be seen whether Richard Hammond and his fellow speed demons will take pole position in the race for the best motoring show… in the world.
Episode two: South Africa
There was a time when watching Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond talk cars was a little like watching a rocket on a launch pad with restraining clamps holding back their collective rocket. Funded by BBC public-funded cash, there was only so much they could do.
In episode two of The Grand Tour, they rocked up in Johannesburg. That tent from ep one overlooking a remarkable similar desert to their inaugural Californian instalment.
After poking fun at the local politics and wildlife, Clarkson attempted to get into the absurdly gorgeous £1.8m Aston Martin 7 litre v12 Vulcan. After doing so, he stalled it. Proof that while some motors may look like the stuff of posters on a teenager’s wall, in reality they can be a bit of a let down.
Clarkson may now have more money than Midas, but his similes were no better than Top Gear. But then who cares? Same banter from the grumpy old men but with a more exotic backdrop.
Nought to 60 in 2.9 seconds is an alluring prospect… should you ever need to accelerate away at that speed without fear of killing an animal or being arrested.
Jeremy may have had his doubts as he hauled his old bones into the seat in minute one but by the end he was clearly in love.
Pudgy-faced Stig replacement The American is already getting on my nerves. He talks, he swears. He annoys.
What the fans really want is a droolsome shot of the new Bugatti, a car capable of draining its tank, flat out in nine minutes. It looks like something from Tron and costs about the same price as the first movie. I want one.
Not so sure about a device that can blow your bike up should you want to deter thieves and possibly maim them in the process.
Arguably the highlight was watching the unholy trinity in Jordan, enacting scenes of explosive drama more at home in a Call of Duty game. Clarkson abseiling from a chopper was a hoot. What followed was pure Last of the Summer wine, with guns.
And Jeremy being hit on the head with a shovel. Very funny. As is Charlize Theron’s appearance.
Episode three: Whitby
For my money, this is the best episode of far. And it’s not just because the lads set up camp in Whitby, though they ignore it for the bulk of the show. It’s the fact their Italian job epitomises the best elements of Top Gear and their new show. Three glorious cars, gorgeous backdrops. And general silliness.
Clarkson and May acting like bickering brothers, Hammond the over excited boy racer in the muscle car.
Oh, there’s a nice cameo from Simon Pegg, and for those wondering about the fate of Clarkson’s house, all becomes clear.
It looks amazing, is a lot of fun and reminds me my annual visit to Whitby is long overdue.
Top trivia: The author once shared a flight from LA with Pegg and Peter Andre.