Belfast Telegraph

The Grand Tour moves into Top Gear with Clarkson, Hammond and May's Amazon debut

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James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, The Grand Tour (PA/Amazon)
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, The Grand Tour (PA/Amazon)
IN GEAR: Jeremy Clarkson sets of on The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, November 18

By Jonny Bell

And so it arrived - the new (not Chris Evans), new (not on the BBC), new (available from an internet bookseller) Top Gear, or The Grand Tour as they insisted in calling it.

"We are just three car journalists doing what we love," Jeremy Clarkson said as he heralded in the a new era for his motoring show.

And the digs to the organisation which thought Top Gear was just three men travelling the world in expensive cars, didn't end there.

No more evident was this than in the opening sequence.

From the gloom of the BBC in London to the sunshine of California and Amazon.

This was much-hyped and reported to have cost millions in production. And it was worth it.

Simply epic.

Not just Clarkson on his own, but James May, Richard Hammond and the world of car enthusiasts all coming together for one almighty Mad Max-style party, in a desert.

I was expecting explosions, thunder, lightening, a joke somewhere...

But it was none of that. Mellow, well-measured and leaving a big lump in the throat.

The Grand Tour featuring Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May (Amazon Prime/PA)
The Grand Tour featuring Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May (Amazon Prime/PA)
Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May in Johannesburg during the first studio tent recording of The Grand Tour.

From that high, it plateaued to became Top Gear, the show we all came to love.

The holy trinity behind the world's biggest motoring show, got the keys to the Holy Trinity of hyper cars and delved into their well-worn recipe book.

Cue lots of tyre screeching, quick cuts between speedometers in the high numbers, bravado, Clarkson in concentration mode - or chewing a bee - before the all stop here's a funny bit, bit.

But this is not Top Gear and back in the studio they were keen to remind us of this.

Star in a car - dead - literally.

The news - now a conversation.

The track, the leaderboard, the BBC-copyrighted Stig - all, well still there, but different.

All three remain and in the place of The Stig a mouthy pass-remarkable American, who won't last.

But here we come to the problem with new Top Gear.

Clarkson et al rejuvenated an old BBC programme and the world came tuning in.

They reached seemingly impossible heights, traversed the world, crossed un-crossable boundaries and brought each of the three perilously close to death.

It was unmissable in its pomp.

And they knew it and traded on it.

And then it got staid.

I loved Old Top Gear and Clarkson's New Old Top Gear in equal measure. But the problem was that the show had run its course.

The scripted - or rather predictable - jokes, too obvious, the challenges failing to reach the heights of previous efforts, the chummy bravado strained.

It was crying out for a change - or a shot on the nose.

Which to be fair Clarkson got in a first episode skit on the Grand Tour.

And here in the sunshine of Amazon, it was Top Gear renamed, yes hubristic but also frozen packed.

Clarkson's Top Gear, recorded in the week of its broadcast, mixed just enough car-geekiness, fun and stupidity with a touch of satire to make it, yes timeless enough for endless Dave reruns, but also relevant to the time.

Here we had a brand new show - with the main protagonist keen to emphasise how he could say and do what he wanted as they were on the internet - and in front of an audience of Americans there was no mention of Trump. Or even a game of Top Trumps?

And in the weeks we've had.

Clearly and despite the DHL sponsorship, the logistics of having a different setting every week mean we can't have a recently recorded or even live show, which did take a way from its freshness.

Like an Iceland thermidor lobster. Very like the real thing but just lacking in the areas that make a freshly cooked one taste so much better. To use a Clarkson-esque metaphor.

At just over the hour mark the team clearly felt they needed no more room for Top Gear Renamed as they did with the old show. But there was me thinking it was longer.

But don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the show, it is after all Top Gear on a massive budget.

There will be explosions, there will be carnage and there will be buffoonery.

And it will bring in an audience in its millions - me included.

No matter what they blow up - it looks like Amazon have afforded the trio more than just the chance to have a camp fire - it will be impressive, beautifully shot and well planned.

And whoever at Amazon thought it would be a good idea to bring the show onboard is sure to be browsing car brochures that are leather bound.

Being a £79-a-year Prime member As well as The Grand Tour, you get multiple other television shows, movies, music, books, cloud storage and free one-day delivery.

And for all those Top Gear followers who made the jump, their spending is sure not just to end with a yearly subscription.

Both they and Amazon are sure to get plenty of bang for their buck.

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