Review: The Grand Tour makes debut; Top what?

Regardless of your opinion on Top Gear, the Clarkson era, I was a huge fan. Perhaps, for me, it is the chemistry between the three hosts and the format of the show. When a program runs long enough and millions watch it, there is plenty of room for people to moan of its script, format or staleness. I didn’t find any of that in Top Gear but I have always appreciated it for what it is, not what I thought it should be after viewing YouTube car channels.

When the BBC parted company with Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, I wrote at the time that it was a major failure on their part. The show was a massive revenue generator for them and cutting the hosts loose was like McLaren inventing ways to lose in Formula 1.

When Chris Evans took over Top Gear with Joey or whatever that actors name is, I was immediately infested by creepy parasitic thoughts and “terrible disappointment”. They may have retained Rhe Stig and Stars in a reasonably Priced Car but the show had not simply waned, it fell off the cliff.

Immediately, viewers starting trumpeting the post-show, show with the two internet car guys and while I think they do great work on their YouTube channels, I’m not sure amping up their work was a worthy replacement for what was supposed to be Top Gear.

Tonight marked the debut of The Grand Tour. Clarkson, May and Hammond have found a home at Amazon Prime and just so Jeff Bezos knows, the only reason I subscribed to Prime was to get this show. I’ve been a customer ever since it was announced they’d be moving to Amazon so you’re welcome Jeff. Oh, and I’ve bought some crap from Amazon over the past year as a Prime member, you’re welcome Jeff.

The production values, cars, set, cinematography and, perhaps most importantly, host chemistry is all there. I felt as if I had been deloused from the Chris Evans Top Gear infestation I experienced after watching just two episodes—that’s all I watched. The Grand Tour felt like home. It felt like I was back in the living room of old friends and entertained with laughs and even some amazement at the production and insight.

I was somewhat surprised to find Mike Skinner as the race driver to test the cars. I don’t know Mike and I’m sure he’s a terrific guy but I would have thought an Indycar driver like Josef Newgarden, Alexander Rossi, Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti, or Sage Karam might be a good choice because they’ve turned right AND left.

Maybe some of those guys would want too much money. Perhaps Tanner Foust, Townsend Bell or maybe even Santino Ferrucci? My personal choice would have been the epic Paul Charsley but I’m biased. You could also look at the WEC and Le Mans grid for a number of killer drivers who would be good. Then again, if Amazon wants to appeal to NASCAR fans, Mike is the guy and the “communist” shtick was funny.

I can appreciate the roving tent studio and that’s a great concept but I will say it makes it difficult to have the track near them. The interesting thing, based on the first episode, is that the recorded segments had nothing to do with California—the location the tent was in. A bit of a non-sequitur as I thought they would be doing activities based on where the tent was.

Maybe they will, this was just the first episode, but if they don’t, I find the relevancy of a roving tent somewhat diminished and it seems like it would be more advantageous and less expensive to have a stationary studio compound with a test track. On the flip side, taking the studio around the world is a great way for fans to all experience the show and the draw for crowds will be tremendous so I can see the upside too.

In the end, I was very happy with the first episode and to see the Porsche, McLaren and Ferrari finally face off was terrific. It was great seeing Jerome D’Ambrosio again and if I’m honest, I’d go for the Ferrari regardless of being a 10th slower.

Great job folks! It’s great to have you back and thanks to Amazon for footing the bill. Here to three seasons of wonderful car talk and ridiculous antics as well as the terrific chemistry that the BBC refused to recognize as bottled lightning.