Everything we know about Amazon’s The Grand Tour
Ivan Radford | On 12, Nov 2016
On Friday 18th November, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May reunite for a new motoring show: The Grand Tour. Released weekly on Amazon Prime Video, the series is one of the most anticipated programmes of the year, not least because of the fracas that saw the trio consciously uncouple from BBC’s Top Gear.
There’s a lot riding on the success of the show – and some high expectations from fans. Will the new show be anything like the old one? Will it have any cars in it? And will it be any good? With the first episode kept tightly under wraps by Amazon, here’s what we know about The Grand Tour so far.
It cost a lot of money
The show has a rumoured budget of around £160 million – which is around £13 million per episode. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of tech that goes into that, with each episode show in 4K Ultra High Definition. But don’t worry: some things never change.
“Everybody’s expecting the first programme to come from Jupiter and for us all to have Iron Man suits and for it to be The Avengers or something,” says Clarkson. “It isn’t. It’s three middle-aged men falling over.”
It’s 12 episodes long
The Grand Tour airs weekly for 12 weeks, starting on Friday 18th November 2016 and ending on Friday 3rd February 2017. Each show will feature studio recordings in front of a live audience, as the trio pitch their giant travelling tent in a different location each week.
The show isn’t just set in the UK
Over the course of the season, the tent will visit places around the world, from Johannesburg and Lapland to Rotterdam, Stuttgart Whitby, Scotland, California, Nashville and Dubai. It’s a “Grand Tour” (get it?) of the world.
The show will be released around the world
The 12-episode series is available to stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in the UK, the USA, Germany, Austria and Japan from Friday 18th November. But Amazon will release it around the world in December, with 200 countries and territories getting every episode to date in one go next month – followed by all the new episodes on a weekly basis at the same time as the UK.
The show will be released at midnight
Amazon has confirmed that each episode will premiere at 00.01GMT on Fridays, meaning you can download it to watch on the way to work in the morning.
That tent is really, really big
When they say “tent”, they really mean “tent”. With 723 individual parts going into the thing, it takes eight days to erect and fit it out ready for filming.
“The great thing about the tent is, it’s the same studio every week, packed up, shipped, all 300 tonnes of it, all the equipment to the next location,” explains Clarkson. “But it’s got these huge picture windows behind us, so week one is the Californian desert, then it’s the African plain, with Johannesburg in the distance. Then it’s Whitby, then it’s Rotterdam, then it’s Finland, then Scotland. The view changes, so it makes the show feel different, and the audience changes. So you’ve got a load of bloody Yorkshire men up in Whitby going, ‘Come on you fat bastard, make us laugh.’ And then you’ve got whooping Americans in California and then you’ve got very tall Dutch people.”
It was inspired by True Detective
The idea of using the tent was inspired by True Detective’s first season.
“I was watching True Detective one night, thinking how will we do it?” says Clarkson. “In series one there had been that Baptist church that had burnt down and the minister was hosting his services in this tent and I went, “That’s it.” I took a picture of the screen and sent it to the producer. Do that. In my mind, it was just a scout tent we could roll up and take round the world with us. Shows what I know about television.”
There will be an episode in Whitby
Episode 3 of the show will travel the glamorous location of Whitby, Yorkshire.
“If you live in New York, Whitby’s as exotic and barren as Reykjavík. So why not?” says Hammond. “You know it’s still a British programme. It broadcasts globally, and we will travel globally but we are Brits. So we wanted to make sure we had some shows from the UK and we always will. And we all happen to really like Whitby – for one reason because it’s a lovely place. It worked really well actually; it also looked great.”
It’s the same formula as Top Gear…
“We’re just ordinary guys who take cars to places that people say, ‘You can’t drive there.’ That’s what we do. And we’re no good at it,” says Clarkson.
… but there are new things
There are “new ideas within the programme”, says Clarkson. “It’s hosted in a tent rather than a studio; our driver that sets lap times around the track that we have in the UK actually speaks, and he’s very opinionated.”
“There are obviously things we can’t use because they are not ours, legally,” comments James May. “Like The Stig, or the stage or the star doing a lap time. But we wouldn’t have wanted to, even if we could, and more to the point, it gave us the obligation to re-think ourselves a bit, do a proper refresh, reboot the operating system. So I actually think it did us the world of good.”
Amazon didn’t interfere
Amazon promised not to interfere editorially with the show, as part of its contract with the ex-Top Gear presenters – and the online giant stuck to its word.
‘We bought your show because we wanted you to do that show, so you do that show and we’ll put it on our service,” is how Clarkson describes their instructions. “Again there’s been no corporate push, there’s no advertising push, there’s no sponsorship push, there’s no editorial push. They let us get on with it and then bounce around squeaking whenever we send them a film.”
It’s got lots of cars in it
There are lots of cars in the show, including a showdown between three hybrid hyper cars: the Porsche 918, Ferrari LaFerrari and McLaren P1.
“The first film we did was in Portugal, at a track where we’d gathered the McLaren P1, the Porsche 918, and the LaFerrari for the ultimate hybrid hypercar shootout,” says Wilman. “It’s a belter. In fact we’re kicking the whole series off with it, which is contrary to all our plans. Logic says that when you’ve spent all those years building up a broad audience you don’t kick off with a petrol head-ish film, but this one rocks. It is a statement. It is what you’re getting.”
And cars get damaged
150 cars were used in the making of the show, driving a total of 4,000 miles. Along the way, including 10 trips through the Euro Tunnel, 16 hire cars were damaged, five cars were sunk and there was “one minor fire”.
There is no CGI
“Some of the explosions in this series are a bit… big,” says Hammond. “We got carried away on a couple of occasions with that. You’ll think, ‘That must be CGI,’ but no, it’s actually real.”
There are lots of bits without cars too
It’s not just cars – the show has loads of bits where you can just laugh at three middle-aged men being idiotic and falling over.
“A lot of it is a travel programme, much more so than a car programme,” says Clarkson. “You really do get a sense of place from every episode.”
“I think Jordan will be very successful,” says producer Andy Wilman. “I’ve seen the film, it’s really funny. Slight problem: we forgot to put any cars in it. I admit that was a bit of a mistake, but it is very funny nevertheless. We went to this Special Forces training facility in a disused quarry in Oman. It’s where all the world’s Special Forces go every year to compete with one another, and we thought we’d give it a bash. It turns out we were no good at it. Rolling and somersaults and shooting and knife fights are not our thing. Anyway it’s a bloody funny film.”
James May gets injured
But not by doing anything exciting.
“I fell over. It actually happened the night before the second one we did,” he admits. “I was walking back to my car after a meal at a restaurant and it was raining and I slipped and fell over and hit my arm on the kerb and I broke it. I would love to dress it up – say I was rescuing some children from a burning orphanage or something – but it’s not true.”
They’ve been filming since last year
“We have been filming furiously since last September,” says Wilman. “Fortunately, many of the brilliant Top Gear veterans have still got the patience to work with us, which made the punishing timetable just about doable.”
Episode 1 is set in California
Here is the official synopsis for the first three episodes:
Episode 1: The Holy Trinity (18th November)
The Grand Tour kicks off in California, USA, when Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May take their famous studio tent to Dry Rabbit Lake. Hundreds of fans from across the U.S. travelled to the desert, near Lucerne Valley, outside of Los Angeles, California to be part of the first ever episode of Jeremy, Richard and James’ new show for Amazon Prime.
Episode 2: Operation Desert Stumble (25th November)
Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May bring the travelling Grand Tour tent to The Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg in South Africa. In this show, the three hosts are forced to become special forces soldiers with an all action challenge at a top secret training base, deep within Jordan. Also in this episode, Jeremy introduces the 800 horsepower Aston Martin Vulcan to the Grand Tour test track, and James is sent to investigate an unusual form of motorsport called spinning.
Episode 3: Opera, Arts and Donuts (2nd December)
The Grand Tour travelling tent pitches up on the quayside in the English coastal town of Whitby from where Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May introduce a modern take on the traditional gentleman’s tour of Italy. With Jeremy in an Aston Martin DB11 and James in a Rolls-Royce Dawn, the pair are set for a leisurely trip of culture and fine dining until a noisy and unwelcome guest arrives.
It’s available on Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video is included in a £79 annual Amazon Prime membership, which includes free one-day delivery on Amazon products, plus access to Spotify rival Amazon Prime Music, unlimited photo storage and Kindle books to borrow for free. There’s a 30-day free trial, if you’re planning to wait until the end of The Grand Tour and see it all in one go for nothing. But you don’t have to get an Amazon Prime membership to watch The Grand Tour – you can also get Amazon Prime Video on its own for £5.99 a month, with no minimum contract, which means you can cancel at anytime. For more information, click here – or hit the button below to start watching The Grand Tour.
Update: Amazon is now offering an Amazon Prime membership for £59 a year, discounted from the usual £79, until Friday 18th November