The Grand Tour Season 2 needs…
When The Grand Tour launched with an explosion of money in November, we were delighted. We gave Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond’s Amazon follow-up to Top Gear a massive thumbs-up.
And while the show has continued to entertain us 12 episodes later, there are a few niggling things that we hope they can iron out when they return for a second run. With most of the show already filmed before the first episode’s release, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but here’s what they need to change if they want to stay ahead of Top Gear.
1 – Make it more real
Over the years, it became obvious that the main attraction of the 2002 era of Top Gear was the crazy antics and massive journeys the trio would take part in. The whole “car review” part of the show declined in favour of beautiful and hilariously entertaining short films.
This is totally fine, but the problem is that they’ve made them feel too filmic and unrealistic. Back when they had one of their first trips to America 10 years ago, you truly felt that they were in danger of being beaten up by rednecks who hated their slogans about Hillary Clinton and NASCAR on their cars.
With hindsight, that was probably all make believe too. But it at least felt like it could have happened. Even when the trio were given tasks and had to build objects or buy cheap cars, you felt like this is something that at least could have happened if we suspend our imagination.
But now, Jeremy and co are fully aware of the in-joke that it’s all a load of fakery and regularly wink at the camera because of it. They’re running around with bazookas, for Ford’s sake. And if they’re not, it’s blatantly obvious that what they’re getting up to was planned to the second. So, it would be great if they at least attempted to make it have a more authentic twang without losing their camaraderie.
2 – Make Richard Hammond nice again
If you meet Richard Hammond in person, you’ll quickly realise that he’s a bloody lovely man. Funny, kind and the type of bloke you’d like to share a pint with.
Without even taking into account the awkward and entirely inappropriate ice-cream gag fiasco, something has happened to Richard on screen. It’s as if they’ve asked him to put on a completely different kind of persona, and it’s starting to grate.
One of the hallmarks of Clarkson, Hammond and May’s brand of TV is their bickering nature. But if you watch back old Top Gear episodes, it was all done with at least a feeling of friendly banter rather than them actually being mean to each other.
For whatever reason, Richard has flipped the bicker switch up to 11. It comes across as unnecessarily grouchy and mean spirited. Make the Hamster Great Again!
3 – Get rid of the American Idiot
In place of The Stig in The Grand Tour is guest driver Mike Skinner (not the bloke from The Streets) as ‘The American’. His job is to drive cars around their track and set a fastest time. Fine.
But sadly, Skinner is simply not entertaining. Whatsoever. As a bit of a NASCAR favourite in the States, he was clearly appointed to please American viewers, but at no point have we found ourselves even raising a smile during his appearances.
All that happens with each segment is Jeremy making some kind of gag relating to Skinner not liking communists and then cut to the driver moaning about how crap the car is. He genuinely looks pissed off that he’s come to the UK.
They would be much better placed to employ the services of a charismatic and surprisingly funny former racer known the world over. We hear Jenson Button is available nowadays…
4 – Shorten the Chatting
While ‘Conversation Street’ is a neat little addition (though it’s essentially ‘The News’ from Top Gear), it does drag in some episodes.
Not only does the chat segment go on for up to 20 minutes, the conversations often veer into mini stand-up routines that have absolutely nothing to do with cars and are instead little anecdotes about the country they’re in.
They shouldn’t drop the segment altogether, but perhaps just make the show a little shorter to edit out the padding?
5 – More epic adventures
The best episodes in the series so far have to be the ‘Beach (Buggy) Boys’ two-parter released over New Year. The boys were tasked with driving 1,000 miles along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast in three beach buggies, each built to their personal desires but each derived from the Volkswagen Beetle. Yes, some bits felt rather staged but it’s these kinds of episodes where the trio really shine.
However, that was also the only episode in which there wasn’t any tent segment at all. Dare we say it: maybe they could drop the whole tent/studio audience and just have 10+ adventure episodes taking place around the world? They could still keep the show’s title.
Maybe not. But they should at least think about investing more time in these kinds of adventures. They certainly seem to have the money for it.
6 – Drop the ‘Celebrity Brain Crash’ Gag, it is not funny and never was
We doubt they’ll continue this joke into a second season, but in case they thought everyone loved it…
The first episode of the series – taking place in America – featured the actual Jeremy Renner jumping out of a plane, followed by what seemed to be the actual Armie Hammer walking in the distance towards the tent. Both pretty big coups and a statement for the calibre of guest they could get.
However, it quickly transpired that it was just a silly joke in which the guests got killed off by some sort of accident or tragedy and the celebrity segment was cancelled. Cue James asking: “Does that mean they’re not coming on, then?”
This was quite funny the first time around and seemed to be a dig at the celebrity feature in their former show, aka no-one’s favourite bit.
However, this gag has been repeated every single episode since, right down to James’s deadpan response. They could have possibly got away with it if each episode had a genuinely huge star playing along, but they’ve either had a famous UK face but nothing too impressive (sorry Jimmy Carr) or no celebrity at all (a fake Charlize Theron because they were in South Africa).
This whole segment has to either be scrapped altogether or maybe they could bring back some kind of actual celebrity interview/lap, but only if they can get some massive stars known the world over. No Carol Vordermans.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re loving The Grand Tour for what it’s done so far, and it has certainly been more engaging than the BBC’s first attempt at Top Gear without them. But with a few tweaks, they can avoid going far too silly and losing the charm that made the trio such TV giants.