Commentary: Taking "The Grand Tour"

Photo courtesy of Google Images
Photo courtesy of Google Images


"…and on that bombshell…"

One would hope Jeremy Clarkson would use that line on his new show, "The Grand Tour."

Jezza, the Hamster (Richard Hammond) and Captain Slow (James May) are returning back to the world of television soon. The first airing is set of November 18 through Amazon.com's video delivery network. You are not going to find this on your cable or satellite television receiver. This is strictly via on demand stream/file transfer from Amazon.com.

I know I'm old(er). I understand the concept of video on demand through the Interwebs and digital mobile networks. It is still strange that I cannot turn on BBC America or some other channel to see Jezza, Hamster and Slow cause mayhem in the guise of an automotive show. I'm certain we can roll through BBC America's video archive to see those episodes prior to Clarkson's termination by the UK's public broadcaster over a year ago. Hence followed by the resignations of Hammond, May and producer Andy Wilman from the network.

From the trio's separation from the BBC, we were fed with a new cast for "Top Gear." One that was an absolute mess. It got to the point where I even lauded The History Channel's USA version of "Top Gear" over the drama of Chris Evans, Matt LeBlanc, Sabine Schmitz and company. Even as I cringed at Adam Ferrara, I can always count on Rutledge Wood and Tanner Foust to make things more entertaining.

What do we know about "The Grand Tour?" With the collective minds of Clarkson, Hammond, May and Wilman – anything could happen. According to a few online sources, the show will take the trio around the world – and back in the UK. I would expect the show to be of an expanded version of their "films" made for "Top Gear," where they take a trio of automobiles through some "challenges" in order to find out which one was best.

Perhaps I could be wrong. The trailer that appeared online shows them having more fun than usual. Perhaps this new show will give Jezza, Hamster and Slow more freedom to be "entertaining" than when they were supposed to be with the BBC. It is something I believe enthusiasts and fans would want to see more of.

This brings up something I always hoped for in television programming about the automobile. "Top Gear" broke a lot of ground since its second inception in 2002. Consumers may not appreciate some of the things Jezza, hamster and Slow might have said about the beloved vehicles, but they were trying to do something different. They wanted to engage with their audiences by making them laugh, boo, groan – to simply react. That did cause some trouble for the show – Jezza's rants that included xenophobic messages, Hamster's life-threatening crash in a rocket car and Slow's pedantic self. Because 350 million viewers worldwide were engaged in the shenanigans of these three automotive personalities, the goal of engagement was definitely met in mass quantities.

In America, consumers can easily tune into "MotorWeek" for John Davis, his crew and their consumer-focused programming. We also have plenty of options from motorsports to garage build shows. However, we will not see any more new episodes of "Top Gear" on the History Channel. Wood stated that the program has ceased to be produced. BBC America might bring more of the third iteration of
"Top Gear" from the UK, without Evans. But, there was a void that has been left by Clarkson, Hammond and May that needed to be filled.

By using the newest delivery of television programming, that void is being filled with the right people on board. Again, those of us with cable boxes and dishes attached to our homes will not see "The Grand Tour" through its signals. There are ways to take what was downloaded and project them onto those newfangled televisions we now own. I would be in the tony minority who may object to this kind of delivery of programming. However, I understand that the reality of today's television viewer does not include the usual terrestrial, cable or satellite transmission of broadcasting.

One way or another, car enthusiasts and "Top Gear" fans will not be disappointed. We look forward to November 18 and the first episode of "The Grand Tour."

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