When The Grand Tour hit our screens, it was like welcoming back an old friend who you hadn’t seen in years.
The scenes of Jeremy Clarkson leaving the BBC offices and heading to the United States in the opening sequence pulled at our heart-strings and made us reminisce of the golden days of Top Gear. Unfortunately, things dried up far too quickly.
Despite Clarkson, Hammond and May insisting in the lead-up to the show that it had been overhauled, it felt exactly like Top Gear, but seemed more scripted, less natural and at stages, forced. I watched every episode the moment it was released and enjoyed all of them but as the season stretched on, felt boredom creeping in no matter what amazing cars were being tested or what crazy adventures the trio embarked on.
Looking back at season 1’s episodes, I’ve found it impossible to rewatch any of them. Thankfully, I don’t need to as Top Gear Season 24 started a few weeks ago and has shown The Grand Tour how things should be done.
At its very core, Top Gear still revolves around cars and Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid work beautifully together and can hold their own when reviewing cars on their lonesome. For me, the main reason Top Gear’s latest season has been more enjoyable than The Grand Tour comes down to the in-studio segments.
As The Grand Tour traveled around the world with its tent studio, producers seemed forced to adapt the show to the different places they were filming from. The Grand Tour seemed to endlessly drag on in-studio segments, perhaps to the pleasure of those lucky enough to be in the tent, but not to those at home. What’s more, the ‘Celebrity Brain Crash’ segment became old very, very quickly and should have been dropped after a few episodes. Yeah we get it, ‘let’s take continual jabs at the BBC in the name of good fun’ but unfortunately, it became a waste of time which could have been filled by something car-related.
Attention also often skewed away from cars as the presenters, namely Clarkson, seemed to chase controversy and headlines. From showing how to smuggle migrants into the UK, creating an ‘autonomous’ car powered by a Romanian man, making a car out of animal skin and Hammond’s tasteless ‘gay ice cream joke’, it seemed the presenters had run out of ideas to engage audiences and simply said the most controversial things possible. As for ‘The American’ aka The Grand Tour’s new Stig, Mike Skinner, his commentary is boring, he’s not good in front of the camera and often had me pressing the mute button.
Top Gear on the other hand, has stuck to its tried and tested formula and with a few adjustments, become even better. The studio segments now feel more natural with the celebrity sticking around throughout most of the episode, impressive new cars are often brought in to please audiences at the studio and at home and the chit-chat between the presenters seems more natural. Of course, it’s also scripted, but it doesn’t feel that way.
Chris Harris has been a long-time favorite of many in the YouTube-age of car reviews and in Top Gear, is even more entertaining. His reviews are not only informative but get you giggling with his expert car control and sheer enthusiasm. Rory Reid showed promise in Top Gear Season 23 and has improved leaps and bounds this season and consistently delivers some unmissable reviews.
On paper, Matt LeBlanc seems like the odd one out but even he has learned the art of delivery a good car review and is remarkably comfortable on camera, something that isn’t surprising given his acting career.
Both The Grand Tour and the new Top Gear have delivered incredible car reviews and hilarious adventures but unless TGT improves its in-studio segments, it is at risk of being swallowed up by the returning Top Gear juggernaut.
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