Kurt Verlin
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‘The Grand Tour’ – Season 1 Review

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The Grand Tour Beach Buggies

One of the season’s highs was the beach buggy special

4 out of 5 stars rating

 

 

Twelve weeks and 12 episodes after The Grand Tour debuted in grand fashion last November and brought the famous Clarkson, Hammond, and May trio back to the little screen, the Amazon show’s first season has come to an end—and it’s time to go over the good, the bad, and the American.

The season had its ups and downs, kicking off on a high and immediately plunging into the pits of bad scripting and pointlessness as early as the second episode. Fortunately The Grand Tour never sunk as low again (figuratively, anyway) and was mostly back on track for the rest of the season.


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Clarkson, Hammond, May and "The Queen"

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Overall the first season of The Grand Tour was very much like the last season of Top Gear back when all three of its hosts were still working for the BBC. Top-notch cinematography, expensive cars, excessive use of hyperbole, and back-and-forth ribbing was still par for the course.

Even most of the segments were similar to what they used to do over at Top Gear, bar “Celebrity Brain Crash,” which I personally found myself impatiently waiting to get through each episode. Supposedly, The Grand Tour’s habit of “killing” celebrities is meant to be a jab at the BBC for not allowing them to interview them, but even then I wasn’t a fan.


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Armie Hammer "dies" on TGT

Clarkson, Hammond, and May watch as Armie Hammer “dies” from a “rattlesnake”

The Grand Tour, as was the case with Top Gear, was at its best when its hosts partook in the challenges supposedly handed down by executive producer Andy Wilman (who you may recognize as the former Top Gear executive producer). I adored their attempt to each build a car from sustainable materials and the two-part beach buggy special was probably the height of the season. I also couldn’t stop laughing at their multiple failed attempts to kick-start a coral reef with car body shells in episode 10, which for once hadn’t seemed as scripted as it probably was.

The show did hit plenty of false notes, however. Though I have nothing against “The American,” Mike Skinner, or with his ability to drive cars, the forced humor included in Clarkson’s commentary—and Skinner’s responses—whenever he drove a lap of the Eboladrome could only be described as utterly unfunny.


Related: The Grand Tour: First Episode Review


The Grand Tour Coral Reef

The beginnings of a failed coral reef

My other gripe with the show is how transparently scripted it could be at times. While it was always scripted even in the Top Gear days, it hadn’t always been this obvious, especially with regards to the banter between Clarkson, Hammond, and May. You may have known the action on screen was pre-planned, but there had always been an authenticity about the way the three hosts interacted with each other.

In The Grand Tour, their relationship didn’t seem as genuine. All three seemed to be playing caricatures of themselves and regularly playing out the same old jokes, so that after a while it stopped being quite as entertaining.

I believe Clarkson, Hammond, and May’s best days as hosts of a car show are behind them, but I have high hopes for the future of The Grand Tour and may yet be contradicted. If you consider yourself a car enthusiast, do yourself a favor and watch it on Amazon Prime when you have the chance.

Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.