Episode 1 of the Amazon salvation of the Top Gear franchise picks up where the BBC deposited it. Good enough to want more, not good enough to expect more.
Made us ask “What really did we expect?”
For those millions of fans who just wanted the trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May to carry on… well, this first episode will be reassuring. The showbiz magazine Variety accurately calls the show a “lush upgrade” from the BBC version.
“Grand Tour preserves nearly everything about the BBC show’s gearhead enthusiasm, international adventuring, and swaggering masculinity.”
The repartee has the same level of jocularity and banter that defines middle-age male bonding. This version seems to show more scripting finesse than we would prefer. Some exchanges seem positively sit-com. To make sure you know the show’s appeal is not only about cars but also about buddies, the first episode is entitled “Holy Trinity”.
After the first show, you won’t wonder how in the heck Amazon could be reportedly spending $5 million per episode.
Here’s why: its unappealing name Grand Tour refers to the fact that the studio segment anchoring the BBC version has been replaced by a gigundo tent which will be placed in a different country each week. Episode 1 has the tent and the audience in Dry Rabbit Lake in the Mojave Desert in California. (That’s in the middle of nowhere, I assure you). Next week, Johannesburg, South Africa. That much relocation gotta cost. Also, the show has its own racetrack (which we’re told passes next to an undetonated World War II bomb).
Wait, there’s more! The show is filmed Ultra HD, which means hypercars exploding around tracks positively breathtaking. And also not too bad to see on your smartphone or laptop, which – unless you’ve got an Amazon Fire stick plugged into your TV – is where you might be watching the series. The ultimate sign of Amazon’s corporate largesse was when a bit sounded like it was headed for a dead-end, they kept it in the show by having invited celebrity participants die. [When you see the show, you’ll know what we mean].
Jalopnik does a review of Grand Tour that takes you through every segment. Their conclusion is similar.
“The first episode of The Grand Tour was a fun return to form, but for the most part, it was nothing we hadn’t seen before.”
In summary, the car scenes are spectacular… the premises underlying car scenes needs to show more advancement in creativity… the chemistry among the presenters is still top-notch, but needs to avoid like the plague obviously scripted stretches.