Tall, rotund, mousy haired, ape-like, inept, racist, ridiculous, and on the ragged edge of being acceptable. These are but a few descriptions that have befallen the figure of Jeremy Clarkson – the famed 56-year-old broadcaster, originally from Doncaster, who is now a popular household name – whether spoken with humorous smiles, or with hateful exasperation. Such is the case, because of his long career in entertainment. Despite what people may say, he has also shown himself to be ambitious, articulate, and an experienced car journalist.
But at the apparent height of his career, nearing the end of his 23rd series on popular motoring show Top Gear, Clarkson finally faced retribution for his long past of controversial comments and actions. However, in the loss of his job at the BBC, Clarkson went on to create a new and wildly popular baby of the car world, The Grand Tour.
To many, this would be the obvious comeback for the trio who formally hosted the Britain’s number one car show. Clarkson, along with co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May hosted the show together for over a decade, and when Clarkson was finally asked to leave the BBC, the trio went together to the new and prosperous cornucopia that is the internet. And hence, Amazon Video became host to the nation’s new favourite car based creation.
Whilst being similar on the whole (with the same presenters, producer, affinity with cars as a genre, and even the initials – from ‘TG’ to ‘GT’), the new endeavour deviates from the original show in a couple of key ways. It still begins every week with thunderous applause and cheering for the three BBC conquering heroes. However these days, they enter their ‘studio’ (which is now a portable pop-up tent) from a different location each week. The show is literally being broadcast around the world. As you might guess by this, the budget of The Grand Tour is massively higher than the comparative piggy bank of Top Gear, with an average of £4.5 million being spent per episode – over £160million for the series overall.
Despite cars being the main focus, as per usual, The Grand Tour seems to have accepted all the extra quirks of Top Gear as the norm. Where the BBC made car reviews a priority, Amazon has focused more on wider entertainment. Some may term it ‘mucking about’, but without the level of half forged idiocy and regular misfortune of the presenters, the show would have as little comedy value as, say, a BBC 2 re-run hosted by a Radio 2 DJ and a past his prime actor.
What brought such a high watch rating to the more recent Top Gear episodes was not only the motoring theme, which had a very specific audience, but the level of humour that came with it. The charisma of the presenters and the relationship between the three brought in a much wider viewing platform to share in the fun both on and off the screen.
Now, this theme has brought popularity across the mediums to Amazon Video, where The Grand Tour made a massive debut, leaving the original show in the hands of presenters who had neither the following or the entertainment know-how of their predecessors. As such, the ratings for the BBC show have been on a downward trajectory since the series began, whereas Amazon Prime subscribers have sky-rocketed in the past few months. In fact, the debut of The Grand Tour managed to break the streaming record of Amazon video as millions of people tuned in to the new show.
Even with the mature age of the presenters, the Clarkson/Hammond/May basis for a show seems to be a winning formula for entertainment. With another two seasons planned, we can expect to enjoy the motoring madness for at least another couple of years. Whether this carries through until the retirement of all three presenters, only time will tell. However we can say for certain that at least until 2018, the BBC’s Top Gear will have to take a back seat whilst The Grand Tour sits in the limelight. It could never beat the classic Top Gear, with its classic structure and our favourite three presenters. But the explosive action and humour of the online show has given it a good go.
Words by Max Mowbray