Amazon UK TV review: The Grand Tour Episode 11
Actual car journalism7
James R | On 23, Jan 2017
With only three episodes to go, The Grand Tour rocks up in Loch Ness for the first part of its final trio – and the first of two instalments to be filmed in Loch Ness. The result, as you might expect, is a lower key outing than the epic nonsense of earlier chapters, but there’s no shaking the feeling that the programme is now treading water.
Fortunately, the water is some of the best-looking water in the business – the production team’s decision to keep moving the tent around the world has been one of the best ideas of Amazon’s road show, keeping the backdrop varied and, it must be said, frequently beautiful (yes, even Whitby). It also helps to keep the opening banter from Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May fresh – and that’s once again true here, as Clarkson begins the episode by mocking the English for the way they appropriate any successful Scottish sporting figures as “British”.
Yes, the controversy of episodes past seems to have been largely put to rest, as the presenters fall back on their three-blokes-in-a-pub charm, rather than their oh-so-shocking statements about ice cream, nationalities or other potentially scandalous topics. That means we get to see Clarkson and Hammond strap a toy penis to James May’s steering wheel – to help him control his car with one broken. And chat about being vegetarians and eating chicken.
After the overblown antics of the season past, it’s a relief to be back in calmer, old-school territory. The central segment sees the guys buy second-hand Maseratis with their own money and use them to tour the rainy landscapes of North France, with all the engine fires, dodgy wiring and strange noises you’d expect.
There’s a reminder that Richard Hamond (who has seemingly left behind his temporary persona of “Man More Controversial Than Jeremy Clarkson” – the trio’s characters this season have been less consistent than Aiden Gillen’s accent in Game of Thrones) can still do car journalism well, as he tests the Fiat Abarth 124 Spider (based on a Mazdsa) on The Grand Tour’s track. And a reminder that Jeremy Clarkson still be needlessly dumb by pretending to use hired slaves to make a “voice-activated” car. So far, so standard.
The problem is, though, that the appeal has already begun to worn off over the lengthy 10 preceding hours, so it’d take something special to rekindle the fun of The Grand Tour’s confident opening – and a gentle retread of familiar territory isn’t special enough. If this episode was in the first half of the season, the cosy Top Gear-style approach would have been a far more welcome sight, providing a reassuring contrast to the Call of Duty rehash that jarred so much. Now, it just feels like The Grand Tour is still trying to work out where on the scale of Top Gear to Amazon’s Super Fun Explosion Show it wants to be. And with only two more to go after this, that’s not hugely reassuring.
The Grand Tour is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription – or as part of £79 annual Amazon Prime membership. New episodes arrive at 00.01GMT every Friday for 12 weeks, starting 18th November 2016. For more on how to watch The Ground Tour, click here.