The Grand Tour
|The Grand Tour|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||34 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Andy Wilman|
|Camera setup||Multi-camera setup|
|Running time||44–71 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Amazon Studios|
|Picture format||4K (Ultra HD) 23.976fps, 25fps HDR|
|Original release||18 November 2016 –|
The Grand Tour is a British motoring television series, conceived by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, and Andy Wilman, produced by Amazon Studios, launched on 18 November 2016, and made exclusively for streaming from Amazon Prime Video. The programme's format is similar to that of the BBC series Top Gear: each episode is hosted by Clarkson, Hammond and May, features a mixture of live-audience segments and pre-recorded films, and focuses on reviews of cars, discussions on motoring topics, celebrity timed laps (only for the second series), races and special motoring challenges.
The programme was conceived when Clarkson was dismissed from Top Gear, as a result of a disciplinary investigation by the BBC of his behaviour during and behind-the-scenes of the later series of the programme, with Hammond, May and Wilman subsequently leaving the programme in the wake of his dismissal. All four were later approached by Amazon Prime to create a brand new programme; their initial agreement was to produce 36 episodes over three years. Episodes are released weekly to those Amazon Prime Video accounts, and repeats of the first series were made available on traditional broadcasters in late 2017. Until the beginning of the second series, studio segments were filmed using a travelling tent in various countries, before it was decided to set it in a permanent location in the Cotswolds.
As of December 2016[update] the show was made available to 195 more countries and various territories, and has attracted favourable viewing figures after "The Holy Trinity" became Amazon Video's most watched premiere episode. Overall, the show has received positive reviews from critics. At present, the show is currently airing its third series since 18 January 2019.
The programme operates on a similar format that Wilman, the show's producer, Clarkson, Hammond and May, the show's presenters, all used during their tenure on Top Gear, though with significant differences to avoid clashing with their former motoring programme. Episodes mainly consist of a mix of pre-recorded television films and live-audience segments. Pre-recorded films consist mainly of car reviews and motoring challenges, and episodes will either use a mix of one or both, with the latter either consisting of single or multi-parts. Challenges function in a similar format to those of Top Gear challenges - special races, building and testing out a unique vehicle based on a car, or buying cheap cars and determining which is the best, with challenges denoted to the presenters by Wilman through text messages. Examples of these challenges include building their own eco-friendly car chassis atop a Land Rover, and racing through different forms of transportation. Like the specials of Top Gear, The Grand Tour also features unique specials focused on a singular type of vehicle or class that the hosts use to travel along a route in a foreign locale.
Car reviews, which remain a prominent part of the programme, are mainly done on a similar format to Top Gear, in that one or more cars are reviewed by a single or multiple presenters, put through various tests to check out aspects of the car (i.e. performance), with reviews filmed either around the United Kingdom or abroad, or took place upon a specially designed racetrack that was created for The Grand Tour, much like the Top Gear Test Track. Timed laps of the reviewed car remain a part of the programme, though are driven by a specially trained driver who functions in a similar manner to Top Gear's "The Stig". In the first series, the cars were driven by former NASCAR driver Mike Skinner, who was contracted to operate under the name "The American" and portray a stereotypical redneck accent and viewpoints, and making tangential speech and calling several things communist. After the first series, Skinner was dropped due to poor reception from viewers on his appearance on the programme, leading him to be replaced by British racing driver Abbie Eaton for the second series.
Studio segments are mostly filmed within a large studio tent that can house an audience of around 300 members, with the presenters sat around a trestle table and the audience seated in front of them. Initially, the first series involved these segments being filmed within a travelling tent that was set up in various countries, with audiences acquired for the locale used for filming of the studio segments, as part of an emphasis that the programme was on a Grand Tour around the world, but in the wake of Hammond's crash in Switzerland and Clarkson's pneumonia prior to the second series, the use of a travelling tent was dropped and a more fixed location was established, with studio segments for the second series onwards being filmed on the outskirts of Chipping Norton. These live-audience segments act as breaks between pre-recorded films and are mostly based on a similar format the presenters used on Top Gear, but with unique versions created for The Grand Tour. A continuously used segment based on a similar one for Top Gear, entitled "Conversation Street", focuses on the presenters discussing car news - this segment is often introduced by a video introduction of silhouettes of the presenters discussing something, accompanied by a jazz piece called "Heavy Berry" by Scott Robinson, with a running gag on the programme being that this introduction features something different and comedic happening in each episode since it first premiered.
Celebrities were not initially part of the programme to begin with due to concerns over legal issues from the BBC towards their involvement possibly competing to the celebrity format used in Top Gear - to reflect this opinion, the programme created a humourous "celebrity" segment for the first series entitled "Celebrity Brain Crash", which involved look-alikes of popular celebrities getting humorously "killed" in an accident while making their way to the tent, reflecting this matter. This segment was later dropped in response to complaints made by viewers, leading to the decision that celebrities would be a part of the programme. As a result, a new segment was created for this purpose, entitled "Celebrity Face Off" - for each episode, two celebrities with a similar background or connection and often from different countries, would be interviewed before driving around a brand new track for this series, in a Jaguar F-Type R-Dynamic coupe, to see who could post the fastest lap time. The use of celebrities was later dropped prior to filming of the third series, to dedicate more time to films.
The Grand Tour race tracks
When the programme was first conceived and created, the production team opted for the creation of a dedicated test track for the purpose of being used for reviews of testing of vehicles by presenters, alongside the establishment of lap times by cars that are reviewed. The track was eventually sited at the former RAF Wroughton airbase, with its layout consisting of two loops - one large and one small - connected by a single stretch of tarmac between them and christened as the "Eboladrome", due to the design of the track resembling the structure of the Ebola virus. The track is designed to "trip cars up" and includes sections devised under a humorous arrangement, including "Isn't Straight", "Your Name Here", "Old Lady's House", "Substation" and "Field of Sheep". Prior to the airing of the first episode, the lap-board for lap-times was pre-populated by those made from a selection of ten cars, all of which weren't filmed, thus the first filmed time lap to be conducted on the track was that of a 2016 BMW M2.
For the second series, the production team decided to create a second track for the specific purpose of being used in the newly created celebrity segment "Celebrity Face Off". They eventually decided to situate the new track at Enstone Airfield, close to the fixed studio tent location, which the production team had previously tried to use for Top Gear. The track was mostly designed as an oval, with half of it involving a gravel track. The second track remained in use on the programme until it the discontinuation of the celebrity segment prior to the third series.
Celebrity Face Off
|Penn & Teller||1:33.8|
|First released||Last released|
|1||13||18 November 2016||3 February 2017|
|2||11||8 December 2017||16 February 2018|
|3||13||18 January 2019||TBA|
Clarkson, Hammond and May had been presenters on BBC's Top Gear, both as part of the rotating hosts of the original, and permanent hosts for the 2002 rebooted series up through 2015. Under them, the show had an estimated worldwide audience of 350 million, and listed by Guinness World Records as the highest-viewed factual television programme. Due to several incidents involving Clarkson, the BBC chose not to renew Clarkson's contract with the show in March 2015. Both May and Hammond affirmed they would not return to Top Gear without Clarkson, even though the BBC offered them lucrative salaries to remain on for additional series. Along with their departure, their long-time producer and Clarkson's classmate Andy Wilman also opted to leave at this time. BBC retooled the show for 2016, bringing in new hosts Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc.
Shortly after his separation from the BBC, Clarkson stated his intent to start a new car show, saying "I have lost my baby but I shall create another. I don't know who the other parent will be or what the baby will be like." Rumours that Clarkson, Hammond, and May were developing a new show through discreet meetings with various networks emerged starting in April 2015. These rumors pointed to a potential American broadcaster, as the terms of Clarkson's non-compete clause with the BBC stipulated he could not make a rival car show with a BBC competitor, such as ITV. Among those that had been approached included Netflix, who felt Clarkson's team wanted too much money for what they were worth, and BT Sport, believing this show would be a better fit on a network with a more global reach.
In July 2015, Clarkson announced he had signed a deal with Amazon to develop a new car show that followed a similar format as Top Gear, with both Hammond and May joining him as co-hosts, and Wilman producing. Among other personnel from Top Gear going to the new show included director Phil Churchward, the husband of Fifth Gear's Vicki Butler-Henderson. The deal included 36 episodes across three series which would be available to Amazon Prime members starting in 2016. Wilman stated that Amazon promised them to have the freedom they wanted to make the show how they wanted along with the necessary budget. Additionally, by using a subscription-based service over an advert-based network, they would not be beholden to commercial pressure for their advertisers. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said he was "very excited" about bringing this program to Amazon, and that producing the show would be "very, very, very expensive", but added, "[Clarkson, Hammond and May are] worth a lot and they know it." According to insider information reported by The Daily Mirror, Amazon paid GB£160 million for all three series. Wilman denied the show cost this much, but did admit the show was costly, partially due to Amazon's intent to have it filmed in 4K resolutions. The production of this show would be based in the United Kingdom, and done by W Chump & Sons, a company set up by Wilman, Clarkson, Hammond and May.
The show's name, The Grand Tour, was revealed in May 2016. Clarkson said the name brought to mind the tradition of Grand Tours, and reflected how the show would travel to several different countries to film. There was speculation that the show could be called Gear Knobs after a trademark application was made for that name by an associated company, but Clarkson stated in October 2015 that this would not be the title. He explained in April 2016 that the word "Gear" could not be used for legal reasons.
Initially, the show's format was to present individual television films, using location shooting without studio segments. They later came up with the idea of using a travelling tent to provide a mobile "studio", to go along with The Grand Tour name. They would be able to use local audience members, and would give the hosts the opportunity to explore the local culture around cars. According to Wilman, the idea to film audience segments in a tent came from Clarkson, who had seen an episode of True Detective that took place at a Baptist revival ceremony.
On 13 December 2018, while shooting the final episode for Series 3, it was announced that the show had been renewed for a fourth series. However they would ditch the tent and release big budget car specials, on staggered dates rather than regular episodes. Alongside this Clarkson, Hammond and May were all going to start producing individual shows for Amazon based on their own interests.
Wilman said that lawyers for Amazon were very mindful of any perceived similarities in segments to Top Gear, requiring changes to the format and regular segments. Named elements from Top Gear like The Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, the Cool Wall, and the Stig could not be used at all, but they also had to clear other legal concerns. For example, the lawyers said they could test cars on a test track, but they could not post the times using hand-written signs as they had done on Top Gear; instead, they used a digital leaderboard. Wilman said that some of the lawyers' concerns "got funnier and funnier", such as whether May could say "cock", or whether during one of their exotic roadtrips, if they could stop and admire the scenery by saying "it's beautiful" as they frequently did on Top Gear.
Many outlets falsely reported that the BBC had explicitly told the crew they could not have celebrities come on the show and race around a track. This was later confirmed to be false, with the crew admitting that the real reason for the nature of the segment was a last-minute panic.
"Celebrity Brain Crash" was replaced in series two by "Celebrity Face Off" where two celebrities compete to be fastest around a track, avoiding the legal complications with the BBC.
An episode was censored by Amazon Prime Video in India because it included footage that could have been construed as offensive by the Indian audience. The footage showed a windshield that was made of a cow's body organs and removal of the footage resulted in a significant reduction in the length of an episode.
During the first series, the studio segments were filmed in various locations around the world. Studio recording for the first series began in Johannesburg, South Africa on 17 July 2016. Recording in the United States took place on 25 September 2016 in Southern California, with further recording taking place in Nashville on 21 November 2016. Studio recording in the United Kingdom took place in Whitby on 13 October 2016, with further recordings taking place at Loch Ness in December 2016. Further studio recording took place in Rotterdam on 22 October 2016 and Lapland on 3 November 2016. Stuttgart (Ludwigsburg) was also a filming location. The final studio filming took place in Dubai in December 2016.
United Broadcast Facilities (UBF) in The Netherlands had won the contract for the outside broadcasting tent segments. Fourteen microphones were used for recording the audience reaction laugh track within the tent. The mobile studio audio setup used Lawo mixing desks connected via MADI for live sound mixing, recording and talkback intercoms.
For the second series, following Clarkson's pneumonia and Hammond's car crash, the producers decided that there would no longer be a travelling tent. Instead the tent would be in one location near Clarkson's home in the Cotswolds as this would be more convenient for the crew to operate. It also would be useful for new features such as Celebrity Face Off. In September 2017, West Oxfordshire District Council gave planning permission for three months of filming from a fixed tent location on the Great Tew Estate, near Chipping Norton. Two-hundred parking spaces already used for hosting the Cornbury Music Festival on the same site would be used to accommodate 350 guests per week, plus 80 members of staff. The time window allowed for the series 2 filming was between October and December 2017. For the third series, the tent was allowed to remain at the Great Tew Estate, with filming taking place between October and December 2018.
Following the public naming of the show, Amazon offered new customers a £20 discount for their first year on Amazon Prime during 14–16 May 2016. A trailer announcing the release date of the show as 18 November 2016 was posted on the show's YouTube channel on 15 September 2016. A second, full-length trailer, was released on 6 October 2016. Trailers for series one have used the music "Come with Me Now" by Kongos., while series two trailers have used "Live and Let Die" by Wings.
As part of their marketing campaign, Amazon placed crashed Toyota Prius cars at Hackescher Markt in Berlin, in front of London King's Cross railway station, and on the Hollywood Walk of Fame outside the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
In mid-2016 DHL began sponsoring the transport costs of the tent and mobile studio. In June 2016, in connection with the sponsorship deal, the presenters had uploaded videos of themselves attempting to assemble DHL-branded shipping boxes. The first episode stated that "promotional consideration" had been given by the Breitling Jet Team, DHL and Samsung. Eight of the Breitling Jet aircraft took part in the opening sequence flyovers. For episode 2, the list included 5.11 Tactical. A DHL Boeing 757 was featured in the opening sequence of episode 5, the tent was located in Rotterdam, and the DHL logo is featured on part of the crash barrier at the Eboladrome.
During filming for some episodes in the second series of the show, the production team suffered major technical issues with the tent lighting, which threatened to derail filming. Nonetheless, all episodes were released on the correct dates, with all delays having been averted.
Daily Express TV reporter, Neela Debnath commented that the first episode "resembled a Hollywood blockbuster" and added that "[The Grand Tour is] basically Top Gear on steroids". However, BBC Arts Editor, Will Gompertz said of the opening that "there is no irony. It feels uncomfortably hubristic" but once the presenters were in the tent "Normal service has been resumed" and that "It seemed to me that Grand Tour is a TV show that wants to be – and quite possibly should be – a movie". The Independent described The Grand Tour as "the best of Top Gear but with a greater budget". TheWrap reported an estimate by Symphony Advanced Media that the opening weekend viewer count for The Grand Tour was three times the size of the opening weekend of The Man in the High Castle.
Episode 2 was somewhat less favourably received by fans and critics. The Telegraph wrote about the Jordan segment: "[...] a tedious action movie segment suggested that they were in danger of losing the run of themselves slightly and that Amazon's hands-off policy towards the production had potential downsides." Radio Times said that "many of the viewers were disgruntled to say the least, branding the show as dull and not funny."
Hammond was criticised by Stonewall, Peter Tatchell, and Olly Alexander, among others, for a comment he made in episode six where he implied that men who eat ice-cream are homosexual. It was later revealed that the comment was an in-joke for the Finnish audience as a reference to a controversial TV commercial that aired in Finland.
Kevin Yeoman of Screen Rant gave the show a positive review, stating "Fans can rest assured Top Gear hasn't gone anywhere, it's just hiding out at Amazon under a different name." Sonia Saraiya of Variety was also positive of the show, stating "When it comes to the cars, The Grand Tour delivers gearhead porn in spades... Clarkson, Hammond, and May's love for machinery... is still present, pure, and appealing, even with the shift in networks and formats."
Conversely, in April 2017 Brad Anderson of CarScoops stated that he prefers Top Gear to The Grand Tour. According to Anderson, Top Gear had "become even better", whereas The Grand Tour "seemed more scripted, less natural and at stages, forced... attention is often skewed away from the cars as the presenters, namely Clarkson, seemed to chase controversy and headlines". Anderson continues that in-studio segments became repetitive quickly, particularly "Celebrity Brain Crash", also noting that all three hosts seem to spend far too much time needling each other, and test driver Mike Skinner offers no worthwhile commentary.
Digital Spy was positive of series 2, episode 1, calling it "An understated premiere for a show that feels like it's finding its feet." The Times was also positive, giving the show 4 out of 5 stars, stating "Some parts of the show are flat but mostly it works, the production values remain high and it has clearly been hit with a juggernaut of money." The Daily Telegraph, while not as positive, still approved of the episode, stating "The writing is still rather ropey. Clarkson's suggestion of a new nickname for May – "Dingleberry Handpump" – failed to raise a titter even among the super-fans gathered for the London premiere" but also said that "for each wobble, there are just as many moments when The Grand Tour manages the clever trick Top Gear could pull off at its best: raising a chuckle while sneaking in a bit of serious journalism at the same time." and ultimately gave the episode 3 out of 5 stars. Jeremy Clarkson himself believed that they had "hit the ground running with series 2 of the Grand Tour".
On 15 January 2019, Amazon Game Studios released a companion video game for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, to coincide with the third series of the programme, entitled The Grand Tour Game. Designed as an episodic, casual racing game, players take on a series of challenges based upon those from the series and using the same cars involved - for each new episode of the series, an episode of the game is simultaneously released with approximately 15 new challenges for the player to undertake. The game includes single player mode alongside local split-screen multiplayer for several of the challenges, with footage from the programme included in each episode's release. The presenters Clarkson, May, and Hammond provided voice-overs for the game.
Since the game's release, The Grand Tour Game has been met with mixed reviews. Although the game received praise for the graphical detail to locations for challenges and the cars featured, and for being appealing to fans of The Grand Tour and Jeremy Clarkson, most criticised the driving controls and the basic designs of the challenge, and in some cases, the repetitive nature of some challenge designs in the game, although fans of the show have given the game fairly positive reviews. 
- List of original programs distributed by Amazon
- DriveTribe, an automotive enthusiast website by Clarkson, Hammond and May.
- From episode 15 credits
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The program will be U.K. based
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(2:01) ...they want everything in 4k, they want a specific framerate, they want it in HDR ... (17:35) ...built a new server to deal with the 4k framerate, the 23.98... (22:18) first show ...comes out at 70-odd minutes. ... we're trying to discipline ourselves to 60 minutes
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The new motoring show, which will be available to Amazon Prime customers next year, will feature at least 36 episodes over three years.
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will be 12 episodes in each of the three series, and each episode will run for around an hour. ... deal was brokered by Amazon U.K. film and TV strategy director Chris Bird and Conrad Riggs, the U.S. company's head of TV production.
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Despite the difficulty, the trio's debut was an undisputed success, becoming Amazon Prime's most-watched premiere in the streaming service's history. The previous record-holder was The Man in the High Castle.
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[Test driver] Mike Skinner. A stubbly, Commie-hating 59-year-old Californian prone to drawling
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West Oxfordshire District Council has given approval for 13 weeks of filming at the Great Tew Estate, near Chipping Norton. ... temporary studio ... Chump Productions, the production company owned by Jeremy Clarkson, James May, Richard Hammond and producer Andy Wilman. ... shoot will involve 80 staff members and 350 ticketed guests, with the latter expected to generate 150–200 cars on a filming day. ... during two five-week periods between October and December. ... 200 parking spaces, a marquee and a catering bus ... parking during the Cornbury festival will be utilised
- Daly, Emma (26 November 2016). "Jeremy Clarkson forced to 'kill off' celebs on The Grand Tour after BBC 'bans Top Gear rip-off star interviews'". The Sun. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
- Reed, Jason (24 January 2018). "The Secret Story Behind The Grand Tour's Celebrity Braincrash". Shifting Lanes. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
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The show has a new test track in Enstone, ... there planning problems when [Clarkson] tried once before to use the Enstone track, back in Top Gear days ... The noisier testing of fast cars will continue to be done in Wiltshire at RAF Wroughton ... nicknamed "the Eboladrome"
- McCreesh, Louise (27 November 2017). "The Grand Tour season 2 confirms celebrity guests including Kiefer Sutherland and David Hasselhoff". Retrieved 19 December 2017.
The celebrity guests this series include Luke Evans, Kiefer Sutherland, Hugh Bonneville, Kevin Pietersen and Dominic Cooper [...] Dynamo, Rory McIlroy, Michael Ball and Alfie Boe will also appear in season two.
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a future episode [...] will see Nick Mason and Stewart Copeland competing for the title of fastest rock drummer.
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