Top Gear is dead. Long Live Top Gear? Following Jeremy Clarkson’s, lets face it, rightful dismissal from the BBC and the subsequent decline of Top Gear’s quality, fans have been hanging their hopes on The Grand Tour. Thankfully, the new series does not disappoint. Well, mostly.
The series begins with an extended, tongue-in-cheek segment that sets the tone for the show: bigger, more expensive, and just a little bloated. No attempts are made to disguise the fact that it’s meant to be a Top Gear killer. Even the logo itself is a ‘GT’, a reversal of Top Gear. The new shtick is essentially an attempt to emulate the successes of the Top Gear specials, with each episode taking place in a different country, and having a different theme. That’s part of the problem. A large part of the charm of those specials was organic, coming from the hosts interactions. Here, too much scripting is used in a hollow attempt to replicate those highs. As a result, jokes often overstay their welcome and clearly staged interactions become obvious and unfunny.
The team are starting to show their age a bit as well, as the show still seems very much geared to a traditional primetime TV format.
Also, I hate the new track driver. Clearly brought on board in some sort of vain attempt to draw in the American audiences, this ex-NASCAR driver’s grating feigns at comedy are frequently frustrating and always atrocious.
However, The Grand Tour is not without its charms and, in general, it delivers on its promise of being a grander version of Top Gear. The hosts retain their signature irreverence, although they do seem a bit more haggard than usual. Thankfully though, despite going international, Clarkson, May, and Hammond retain their Britishness and British sense of humour. At first, it seems as if they’re struggling to adapt to the new format, but they quickly fall into the old grooves that made them so successful in the first place.
Despite its flaws, The Grand Tour is an amicable successor to the Top Gear of old. It certainly blows Chris Evans’ monstrosity out of the water.