Fast cars, faded denims and as much irreverence as you can possibly handle in 75 minutes, it could only be Clarkson, May and Hammond….
After a suitably understated introduction that saw Clarkson hand in his BBC badge on a typically drizzly English afternoon, the three amigos reunited somewhere that could not have been further away from the dreary old UK: The California desert!
Oh yes, The Grand Tour is… bigger than its predecessor, bolder, grander even. But hold on a moment, from the Middle East to the Americas, through Asia and Australasia, did not Top Gear also travel the entire continent and moreover travel it several times over?
Having just watched the much-hyped first episode of Amazon Prime’s new show I can honestly say we have been here before – many times. Watching this new show was rather like slipping into a pair of favourite slippers – cosy, comfortable but just a wee bit ever so soporific.
OK, so once the novelty of California had been gotten over, it was business as usual. Apart from Clarkson looking a little more portly and May looking a little more unkempt, very little has changed – a fact that will no doubt comfort the show’s legion of fans.
There’s a few minor alterations: a new test circuit and a new test driver; RIP Stig. Some fans will also bemoan the disappearance of the faithful old scoreboard along with the strips of paper and blu-tac. The audience however are still within heckling and berating distance.
It’s almost as if the show has had a spring clean – nothing serious mind, a few cosmetic touches here and there. Most glaringly of all, Clarkson did not mention the ‘producers’ once during the entire broadcast; somehow it just felt wrong.
Somewhat predictably it wasn’t long before supercars reared their ugly heads as the three amigos larked around the sun-kissed Algarve in a trio of ridiculously expensive Mcalrens, Ferraris and Porsches. The three chaps were obviously having a hoot. ‘Pooh’ was mentioned on more than one occasion.
Die-hard fans will have been more than happy with the usual fare of aerial shots capturing the spectacular Portuguese scenery. Certainly those who might have fretted over a loss of production values need not have worried; The Grand Tour is every bit as ambitious (not to mention expensive) as that other show used to be.
Even more reassuring is the fact that the blokey one-upmanship upon which the show’s success arguably rests is still very much in evidence. Clarkson is still school bully and Hammond is still his adoring fag; James May meanwhile is still Captain slow. All very reassuring, all very nostalgic.
Yet for all its familiar banter and dazzling production values, I could not help but feel a pang of regret while watching The Grand Tour.
There’s nothing quite like quitting while you’re at the very height of your powers - the problem is gauging when you have indeed reached that peak. One can only hope that this motoring programme never violates the golden rule of show business: Always leave them wanting more.
Overall the boys’ new show is everything Top Gear fans could have ever wanted, more so when one thinks of the disastrous Chris Evans inspired rehash that aired earlier this year. I still can't think of that series without shuddering at the memory.
I mean I'm just not quite sure there is anywhere else you can possibly take a show that has previously trekked across the Amazon and Africa, waltzed its way through the Sahara and the Outback not to mention invented that most riveting of games, car rugby...
Watching The Grand Tour is indeed like slipping into a pair of comfy slippers, but it might be worth bearing in mind that even the comfiest pair of slippers will one day reach their sell-by date and when that day does eventually arrive, the dustbin awaits.