Grand Tour Premiere Review: Amazon's Top Gear Resurrection Is Brilliant
What is that old William Shakespeare quote? "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." That applies to Amazon's latest show, The Grand Tour, or as it should have perhaps been called but for legal reasons couldn't be, "Amazon Presents Top Gear, but Now on Amazon and In a Tent." Also, The Grand Tour is pretty catchy.
The point here is that BBC took away the Top Gear people all around the world loved. Amazon has rescued it. Does it matter that they are calling it something else? No. Not at all. The Grand Tour is literally everything that fans of the Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond years of Top Gear were hoping it would be. Everything they missed last year when BBC pressed on without them. There may have been some who thought Amazon might try to shake things up before watching The Grand Tour. They didn't. That doesn't mean they are lazy or that this is uninteresting. On the contrary, it is simply perfect and was easily the best case scenario for Top Gear fans, of which there are a great many.
BBC's Top Gear was one of the most popular shows in the world during its run with Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. However, there had been incidents with Clarkson over the years, and when he reportedly punched one of the producers in 2015, that was the last straw. He was fired from the show. James May and Richard Hammond did not want to continue the show without him, so they all walked away in a show of solidarity. Oddly, that may have been one of the best things that ever happened for fans of the show, because now we have The Grand Tour.
I won't bother by talking about the specifics of the episode. This is a show that knows its audience and it is much more fun to watch it not knowing what is going to happen. That said, the extended intro to the first episode of The Grand Tour is delightfully perfect. It serves as a most classy and subtle (or maybe not subtle at all) simultaneous screw you to the BBC and welcome home to viewers of this "new" Amazon series. The rest of the show follows suit and delivers on every shred of the promise made to us when Amazon came in and rescued Top Gear without calling it Top Gear. Sure, Netflix has rescued shows before. Hulu has rescued shows before, but I'm not sure it has ever been done so perfectly and so gloriously. Amazon simply couldn't have done better.
That is not to say there aren't some changes. Outside of cleverly renaming some segments that may seem sort of (very) familiar, there are a couple of noticeable improvements. Sort of like when you see your ex and you have been hitting the gym and just got some fly new clothes, and they have been eating cake for dinner and living in sweatpants. The BBC is the sweatpants ex in this scenario. Seriously, did you watch last season of Top Gear? Anyway, the big change is that instead of having a stationary studio, the guys are traveling the globe (hence the name) in a big tent so they can host The Grand Tour in different places all over the world. It is actually a pretty nice change. Also, and this is not to say that Top Gear ever looked bad in terms of how it was shot, cut and presented, but The Grand Tour looks simply brilliant. It is gorgeous. Plain and simple, this is the best-looking show this trio of hosts has ever made together. Sure, it is a short list but it truly is stunning.
Here's the thing. I am not a car junkie. Sure, I like cars but that isn't really, or at the very least not totally why I, or a lot of other people watched Top Gear. The BBC underestimated just how important Clarkson, May and Hammond were to the show. They are the show. It is their chemistry. They make this work. It just so happens they are all passionate and knowledgeable about cars. It could be comic books or animals or anything really, but if these three were hosting a show about it and loved the subject matter as much as they love cars, it would be just as watchable. Amazon understood that fully and that is why The Grand Tour feels right.
If any Top Gear fans had any hesitations at all about The Grand Tour they need not worry. This is everything they wanted it to be and just a tiny bit more. Also, if for some reason you never watched Top Gear and are deciding to watch this show just because, it is a pretty damn good introduction and they should hopefully be able to find the same joy many of us have found for years, just on a different platform previously. Thanks to Amazon, we have 12 weeks worth of Top Ge...I mean The Grand Tour to look forward to this year and at least 2 more seasons. You can watch the first episode on Amazon right now with new episodes arriving every Friday.