Ahead of The Grand Tour’s expected return this November, we’ve been rewatching the show’s debut season and comparing it with our initial very positive reactions.
Last year we were struck by how stunning the Amazon Prime series looked, especially in 4K for those with suitable TVs and fast enough broadband, and at how natural the tent felt as a venue from the outset.
But there were three things which niggled on first viewing.
First up, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May’s performances at time seemed gratuitously scripted. The there was the mostly unfunny American – surely a poke at Matt Le Blanc who succeeded them on Top Gear?
And lastly there was Celebrity Brain Crash, which lacked the expected pay-off a guest finally making it into the tent and so felt like an unnecessarily overlong poke at Chris Evans’ overlong celebrity interviews in his doomed single season as Top Gear’s new front man.
Interestingly on rewatching these didn’t provoke the same negative reactions as they did originally so it’s likely familiarity has dulled the jarring nature of the format changes forced on the show.
But overall the show still felt more scripted and pre-ordained than was the case with Top Gear, despite it also being scripted, especially when it came to some of the location films and challenges.
The sustainable car week particularly had us longing for the days when simpler tasks required the presenters to see who could buy the cheapest Mercedes second hand or get to a given location fastest.
Sometimes and almost bizarrely, The Grand Tour’s much bigger budget felt like it was getting in the way by pushing the team out to overseas locations which they needed to move by a given date to keep to a tight shooting schedule.
While filming all over the world was a nice touch it may be that extra episodes (or a fourth season?) would be a better way of spending some of the cash and filming more of the challenges closer to home?
Also we want more mentions of Mr Wilman – described by James May as “the fat man who controls our lives” – to replace Top Gear’s ‘producers’ (in real life both are Andy Wilman, the shows’ executive producer) because without such an offscreen presence many of the challenges lacked an in-show impetus.
It’s not yet clear what impact Hammond’s recent crash will have on the second season, including its launch date, but hopefully fans are in for even more fun and hijinks this time around and not too much of a wait for them.
And, if the boys are sensible, fewer ice-cream jokes.