Revving good action on internet TV
Okay, so we all know the story about how Amazon Prime snagged Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May away from the original Top Gear series: Jeremy wanted a steak dinner and punched his producer when he didn’t get it after a long day of filming. Jezza was fired, Hamster and Captain Slow quit TG and they were hired by Amazon Prime for their new show The Grand Tour.
Done deal. That’s the last we’re saying about that. Because both shows are getting into the thick of things on Showmax and Amazon Prime. Here’s what you need to know…
The trio have always been rude and understatedly lewd with their content because it’s for a more mature audience. Because the three of them are old. They’re cheeky with this special because they’re swapping cars for boats – with more hilarity than ever – as they travel through Vietnam in South East Asia.
“I chose boats simply because the other two hate them,” says Jeremy, who is also the executive producer. “They made me go across Vietnam once on a motorcycle, which I hated, and we’ve done lorries, which I hated, so I thought it was time for some payback and these two could use a mode of transport they don’t like.”
That doesn’t mean they’re getting “simple” boats – as usual, Jeremy goes way overboard with his choice: a £100 000 (R2 million) replica. Replica of what, you ask? Only the most insensitive thing he could find: a military boat used by the United States soldiers during the Vietnam War. Not that anyone cares – shame, Jeremy didn’t see that coming.
But this special episode is more than just seeing who can go fast (Jeremy wins that) and who can make the most noise (Jeremy again) and who can be the most outlandishly funny (Jeremy here too) – it’s a deep introspective into the country, the people, how they’ve been affected by numerous wars and dictators and in the most surprising turn of events: fossil-fuel-loving Jeremy being educated. He talks sensibly, possibly for the first time, about climate change and how he’s seeing it first hand.
“There is no question, and we admitted to it for the first time ever on one of our shows, that there may be such a thing as climate change.” – Jeremy Clarkson
“It’s very difficult to move the show around, and so we monitored the weather and it should have been pouring with rain, the lake should have been five times bigger than it was, and it simply wasn’t. We just had to set off knowing it hadn’t filled up… it was damn near empty,” says Jeremy. “There is no question, and we admitted to it for the first time ever on one of our shows, that there may be such a thing as climate change.”
While there is that sombre admission from the guys, it’s quickly forgotten about as they get back to business racing up river, drinking beer and visiting marketplaces for tacky suits and fake watches (Jeremy is wearing an original when he’s offered a cheap knockoff).
IMDB rating: 8.7/10
Please note that Top Gear is no longer on Showmax. Browse more titles here.
The famous car show got a revamp when the Grand Tour trio left and Showmax has Seasons 24-26 with the new crew, led by Matt Le Blanc – aka dozy Joey Tribiani in Friends. Don’t be fooled thinking that they’ve just got a big-name US celeb to keep it topical – Matt has been racing cars and motorbikes since he was a teenager and he knows how to rev up the action. (BBC announced that Matt would be leaving Top Gear in 2019, at the end of Season 27.)
Plus, he’s got UK motoring journalists Chris Harris and Rory Reid as co-hosts and they’ve been in the car game for decades.
With new presenters comes new challenges and formats too. The guys aren’t playing around as much as in the past too: they’re more serious with the car reviews, giving honest and easy-to-understand reviews of the rides. That’s because Chris and Rory take their jobs seriously – Chris has been banned by a couple of brands in the past (including Ferrari) because he was “too honest” with his reviews of their products. But that’s how they are.
Don’t worry if you’re a fan of the old-school types of crazy challenges, because those would never be taken away. The production team has stayed largely the same behind the scenes, so the 18 episodes over the three seasons on Showmax are filled with ridiculous stunts. Unnamed test driver Stig is there. There are loads of celeb quests (including Nürburgring specialist Sabine Schmitz and ex Formula One team boss Eddie Jordan). And a lot of banter between the hosts.
“It was quite clear from the start that the banter was pretty good and that we had a very similar puerile sense of humour – and the motorcar is a very good medium for that.” – Chris Harris
And if anything, the cars are more unbelievable now that Top Gear is a little more serious – Ferrari invite the team to review their street-ish-legal FXX-K at their Fiorano Formula 1 test track; Bugatti give them the keys to the brand-new Chiron ultra car; McLaren put them in their brand-new 720S… and they test the Suzuki Ignis to top it all off.
“It was quite clear from the start that the banter was pretty good and that we had a very similar puerile sense of humour – and the motorcar is a very good medium for that,” says Chris. “It was immediately apparent that it was going to be quite light-hearted. If there is some geekery that needs to be done, I can cover that off. We just clicked.”
IMDB rating: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 80%
So there you have it. The world’s two best car shows come in for a photo finish for very different reasons. Whether you want the laugh-a-minute, no-holds-barred fun of The Grand Tour or you prefer the more gentlemanly approach to motoring reviews of Top Gear, you’re in pole position thanks to Amazon Prime and Showmax.