I have a confession to make: I don’t know the first thing about cars. I drove them sure, but I couldn’t tell you the difference between a head gasket and a carburetor. But my lack of knowledge about cars didn’t keep me from becoming a “Top Gear” fan nearly a decade ago.
Then, least year, “Top Gear” co-host Jeremy Clarkson physically and verbally assaulted a BBC producer and was subsequently fired from the popular show. That sort of behavior could end your career or get you elected president. In Clarkson’s case, forgiveness came in the form of a promotion: “The Grand Tour,” from Amazon Studios, which preserves almost everything you loved about the BBC show, but turns it up to 11.
The premier episode dropped last Friday, and it put the trio in America. This gave Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May plenty of opportunities to quarrel (in a light-hearted way) about the merits of the Royal Air Force versus the U.S. Air Force. One guess which one the fiercely patriotic audience went with.
The three hosts also battled it out in one of their famous challenges, this time at a race track in Portugal. And speaking of race tracks, “The Grand Tour” has its own track which includes: an old lady’s house, an unexploded bomb, and wildlife. Yeah, that’s just a bunch of accidents waiting to happen.
Their tented studio is big and beautiful, and furnished like with leather camp chairs and Oriental rugs. The giant traveling tent will be touring the world with the hosts in upcoming episodes in Johannesburg, Scotland, Dubai, and other places.
Unlike “Top Gear” which looked like your average TV show, the cinematography in “The Grand Tour” is stunning. Amazon shot “The Grand Tour” in either 4K, or Ultra HD, making the wide shots of shiny cars drifting look out of this world.
But one of the biggest highlights in the pilot was seeing Clarkson leaving London surrounded by controversy. This si shown through a series of snippets of news reports and interviews played in the background as he solemnly steps into a black cab. From there he flies to Los Angeles, where he picks up a rented blue Mustang, and as he starts driving towards the desert, he’s joined by Hammond and May, in red and white cars of their own.
The music goes from somber to upbeat, with a cover of “I Can See Clearly Now” playing as the three cars meet up and pass with a whole convoy of bizarre and vehicles. The three finally arrive at a stage where the band is playing, and a large crowd has gathered. Then, a formation of fighter jets sweeps overhead, and we know “The Grand Tour” has arrived.
“The Grand Tour” doesn’t try to sell you cars, it just wants you to know the joy of cars. This series is only one episode old, but I already love it more than I ever loved “Top Gear.” The only thing missing was poor old Stig…
“The Grand Tour” Final Score: 9.5