Few people in UK popular culture polarize opinion such as Jeremy Clarkson. But whether you like or loathe him, his success as a columnist, best selling author and star of the previous incarnation of the BBC’s Top Gear which became a global phenomenon is hard, if not impossible, to deny.
Last year an onset altercation with a producer of the Top Gear show forced BBC bosses to come to a final decision about what to do with one of their most evocative stars. They fired him and which then led to the departure of his sidekicks Richard Hammond, James May and eventually the producer of Top Gear, Andy Wilman.
There was a huge media scrum about what would happen to the show itself, as it is one of the Beebs best exports, and the careers of the Clarkson, May and Hammond. Top Gear reemerged on BBC2 with co-presenters Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc showing they were unable to reach the stellar heights of the previous presenters, Evans has since left the show but a new season with Le Blanc fronting is scheduled for the new year.
Within 6 weeks of Clarkson’s contract being cancelled by the BBC he announced that he, May and Hammond would be fronting a new motoring show on Amazon Prime, the on demand TV service brought by online retailer Amazon.com. The first episode aired last week and is free to watch if you are an Amazon Prime customer and is viewable in Spain.
Whilst the format seems similar to Top Gear, it is a car show after all, what really makes Grand Tour stand out is how much more production, creativity and money that has been streamed (pun intended) into the show. Running at 42 minutes the first episode starts with Clarkson leaving rainy London for the Californian desert where he meets up with May and Hammond and a venue in the desert. We are then treated to a snapshot of whats coming up over the next 12 episodes and then into the same banter filled pieces with clear evidence of Amazon’s big budget spending (reportedly $36million over 3 seasons).
It’s not a total rip off of Top Gear, and they are at pains to state that this is a car show, but there are loads of similarities. If you were a fan of Top Gear with Clarkson, May and Hammond then your going to love this, if you weren’t and the sight of Clarkson is like a red rag to a bull then steer well clear.
There are a few little digs at the BBC throughout the show and it will be interesting to see how Matt Le Blanc and Top Gear respond in the new year, but with the budget and creative freedom that Grand Tour has, it’s really difficult to see how they are going to be able to catch up in anyway.
The first two episodes of The Grand Tour are available now to Amazon Prime members and are viewable through your Amazon Prime account online.