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After months of no-expense-spared promotions, rumors and interviews The Grand Tour, the new project of former Top Gear trio, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, is up and running on Amazon Prime.
Described by Amazon as a “show about adventure, excitement and friendship… as long as you accept that the people you call friends are also the ones you find extremely annoying,” and the reaction from viewers has been overwhelmingly positive.
Should your family be part of this new fandom with familiar players? Here’s my take:
So, is there a “plot” to this new series?
Well, there’s a “set up.” It shows Clarkson’s departure from his old “unnamed” place of work in London, then heading overseas to California where he hops in a pristine Ford Mustang, soon joined by Hammond and May, and they embark on their new adventures. Well, misadventures, really.
Is it okay for kids?
The Grand Tour bears a TV-14 rating, which is due almost exclusively to language and crude humor. The F-bomb is edited out, but the other words aren’t. If you didn’t let your children watch Top Gear because of the inappropriate comments, mainly Clarkson’s, this show will be no different. However, the language is isolated to a few instances, not used throughout by any means. I thought there was more profanity in Guardians of the Galaxy.
As far as keeping their interest, the first show ran a little over an hour, so my 7-year-old only watched on and off. Since the crude humor was mostly verbal, there wasn’t anything I was worried about her seeing in this first show.
Some crude visual jokes involving condoms and sex toys creep in on later episodes (Episodes 5, 6, 8 and 11). Episode 12 also has some fun with the name of an Austrian town (yes, it is a real place, and it is pronounced Foo-king). Final episode get a little gory in one place. I recommend checking these out first, before letting your kids and younger teens view these segments.
Tweens and teens should love it, though. The action and humor is non-stop. My 14-year-old laughed the whole time, and especially cracked up at the “skydiving” scene, which I won’t mention further for those planning to watch. That would spoil the fun.
Will fans of the Clarkson, Hammond and May era Top Gear like The Grand Tour as much?
I have to give a caveat here. I wasn’t just a Top Gear fan, I was a hooked full-on fanatic of the show for awhile. I was both excited for The Grand Tour, but also gearing myself up (no pun intended) for a let down. They did not disappoint.
As much as I don’t want to compare the shows, there are many similarities: competitions between the hosts, rating car times, and jokes and silliness in front of a standing live audience.
However, their tent show format brings their show to audiences worldwide, so there will always be a different view, and audience interaction. Also, the cinematography, camera work and sheer scope of everything is just inflated to epic proportions. There were a couple of times I forgot I wasn’t watching Top Gear, because the chemistry among the three host hadn’t changed. That was always the best part of their former collaboration, and still is the heart and soul of their new show, all the news bells and whistles aside.
Will people who didn’t like Top Gear get anything new from The Grand Tour?
It depends on what they didn’t like about the show. If you didn’t like Top Gear, because of Clarkson, Hammond and May (likely just Clarkson), give them a chance. Clarkson’s humor is still bluntly abrasive, but the audience is in on the joke.
His jokes against the United States in particular, are still biting, but not mean-spirited. The American audience gets to play along and make a few jabs back, all in good fun. Thankfully, these men are still British first and foremost, and that’s part of what makes them incredibly popular worldwide. Keep in mind this trio’s trash talking about each other has always been (and still is) far worse, than anything they say about others. If you can laugh at yourself, you’ll find it hilarious.
If you just don’t care about car culture or racing, nothing has changed there, at least in this first episode.
What about that opening scene that’s been hyped? Does it live up to it?
What can I say about this, but, Wowza! I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but it was a multi-million dollar cast of thousands! The throngs of people, classic cars, new cars and art cars, Burning Man-style fire-breathing party (or Burning Van, rather) atmosphere in the California desert, multiple jets fly-over and live concert stage with the Hothouse Flowers was an entrance to behold. Everyone in my family enjoyed it. I was almost in tears at how much fun it was.
Here’s the weird part, which is something I wouldn’t have expected at all from Clarkson, Hammond and May. This segment, including their incredibly perfect choice of cars, made me really, really proud to be American.
Do you have to be a car nut to enjoy it?
No, but let’s be honest, it is a “motoring” show. You’ll enjoy it, but you likely won’t appreciate it as much. If you love (or even just like) cars, you’ll be thoroughly entertained.
Is there anything actually “educational” about it?
Yes, believe it or not, particularly if you’re into mechanical engineering. The first episode, talked about “hydrid hypercars,” and the graphics showing off how they worked were fantastic.
Also, they might set their tent up in one location each week, but each show will feature different areas of the world. Their globetrotting won’t be limited to occasional “specials” anymore. I’ve mentioned in a past post families wanting to get more of the show, keep a map of their adventures, and take advantage of their travels as a fun way to sneak in some geography lessons.
Extra trivia and behind-the-the scenes facts can also be found by using Amazon’s X-Ray option while watching.
Are there any guests?
Yes, but not how you would think. There wasn’t any obligatory celebrity interview getting in the way of the action on the first episode, which was fine with me. The celebrity “appearances,” were actually part of one funniest bits of the first show, but I’m not sure if this will be part of a running gag throughout the series or not. I hope so.
What about all those aspects of Top Gear the BBC won’t let them do?
This is where a little “creative nomenclature” comes into play. Yes, there is no “Stig,” but there is “The American” (stock car racer Mike Skinner) who feels everything below a V-8 is “Communist.” There is no “news” segment, but there is “conversation.” They do have a new “track,” lovingly called the Eboladrome, and no “Celebrity in a Reasonably Priced Car.” They do poke fun at the elements of their old show, which long-time viewers will really enjoy.
James May hasn’t said his signature “O Cock,” (for legal reasons, I surmise) but there are plenty of episodes to go.
Most importantly, is it worth the purchase of an Amazon Prime subscription?
Apparently, many, many fans of Clarkson and crew feel it was, my family included. Amazon Prime sold a bunch of subscriptions in the United States at $99 a year, because of this show.
Yet, it will be near impossible to subscribe, and not take advantage of everything else that comes with that subscription, including discounts and member-only deals on merchandise, other original content, and fast shipping on items.
Amazon, has been doing some exceptional promotions as well, from crashing Priuses around the world, to using The Grand Tour themed packaging on their shipment boxes. They also offered discounted subscriptions on the day of the premiere, but I don’t know if they are planning any more deals. Any Amazon customer who didn’t know who Clarkson, Hammond and May were before The Grand Tour, knows now, I guarantee. If not, it isn’t for lack of advertising.
From one family who did know, it was certainly worth the wait, and the cost of subscription.
The premiere episode of the The Grand Tour, The Holy Trinity is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime in the United States, UK, Germany and Japan, with new episodes available weekly. The show launches globally (in more than 200 countries) in December.