This Friday sees Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May screech back onto our screens for Season 2 of Amazon’s The Grand Tour. After the first season’s uneven run, we look at the seven improvements the show needs to get back on track.
Less Smug Indulgence
One of The Grand Tour’s biggest problems in Season 1 was its overly indulgent streak, as Clarkson, Hammond and May left behind their usual hijinks for increasingly extravagant silliness that swiftly became annoying. It’s a tough balance to strike, when your trio are known for their smug brashness, but the British presents are at their most effective when erring on the side of middle-aged and knowingly pathetic. Games of Battleship involving caravans and cranes were spot-on, but a fake Call of Duty-style mission that didn’t even involve cars? Drive on.
No Ice Cream
Richard Hammond has always been the perennial sidekick to Jeremy Clarkson, standing and grinning with his eyes rolled, as Jezza spouts politically incorrect viewpoints. For The Grand Tour, though, Hammond seemed determined to up his own controversy count, producing such nonsense as claiming ice cream is gay seemingly only because it would offend people. Bring back old Hammond please, with or without the goatee.
Less Scripted Banter
If the Hamster’s attempts at blokey banter grated, the whole group’s chatter also felt forced far too often, less like three mates actually teasing each other and more like three people reading off a script – gags that pretended they didn’t know what each other was up to on a million-pound production only came across as lame and artificial, without any sense of a tongue in cheek. With Amazon supposedly taking a hands-off approach to the series, here’s hoping it was just a case of Season 1 nerves causing the trio to try too hard.
Scrap The American
With The Stig still contractually attached to the BBC’s Top Gear, The Grand Tour introduced its own guest driver: “The American”, a redneck racer who spent his laps around their new track slagging off the UK. Mike Skinner may be good behind the wheel, but his schtick got old faster than a baby Benjamin Button. No more, thanks.
More James May
The underrated member of the former Top Gear club is, and always has been, James May – and The Grand Tour shone when giving him a moment in the spotlight. Whether it was a mini-documentary about the history of Le Mans or a segment seeing him forced to do things he doesn’t like (cf. him driving into muddy holes and climbing back out), he was time and time again just the thing the show needed to distinguish itself from Top Gear and balance out the bants.
No Celebrity Braincrash
A neat joke for the first episode, the running gag of having a supposedly famous person come on the show, only to die on their way to the studio, soon became predictable and tired. By the end of Season 1, it was even less fun than “Conversation Street”, the bit of the show that amusingly tackled news but often drifted on for too long.
When taking a leaf from May’s documentary segments, The Grand Tour really came into its own, with Clarkson’s opening monologue focusing less on his opinions and more on the location where the show’s episode is set – prompting a slew of entertaining factoids, such as vending machiens in Dubai that actually dish out gold. Even Hammond got a chance to get in on the game, with a detour to France where he learned to drift with a racing driver who lost his arm in an accident – an inspiring feat that left the Hamster speechless. With one of those per episode, the show could probably get away with as many indulgent pranks as it wants.
What would you like see from The Grand Tour’s second lap?
The Grand Tour Season 2 is available on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Friday.