“The Grand Tour” is the British automotive series that follows Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May as they travel across the globe, driving and testing new automobiles from manufacturers in some of the world’s most unique and challenging terrains. The show came to life after the three departed from the BBC motoring series “Top Gear,”
The program launched in 2016, housing a similar format to that of “Top Gear,” which includes car reviews, motoring challenges, and celebrity guests, among several other segments. The show has run exclusively on the Amazon Prime streaming platform for four seasons.
- 1 The Men Behind the “The Grand Tour”
- 2 What is the difference between “Top Gear” and “The Grand Tour”?
- 3 The Fourth Season
- 4 Why was “The Grand Tour” Forced to Cancel Future Plans?
- 5 What is the location of the new special?
- 6 Controversy on the show
- 7 Why was Jeremy Clarkson sacked from “Top Gear”?
The Men Behind the “The Grand Tour”
The show was created by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, and Andy Wilma.
Jeremy Charles Clarkson is a journalist, game show host, and writer specializing in motoring.
He gained worldwide fame as a “Top Gear” presenter, and besides his active involvement in the TV programs, he also writes columns for the newspaper magazines “The Sunday Times” and “The Sun.” Since launching his career in 1988, he has published several books, including “Clarkson on Cars,” “Driven to Distraction,” and “What Could Possibly Go Wrong.” Additionally, he has served as a presenter for numerous TV shows, not only related to the automotive scene, including “Robot Wars,” “Have I Got News For You,” and “Inventions That Changed the World.” He is currently hosting “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”, “It’s Clarkson on TV,” and “Clarkson Farm.”
Richard Mark Hammond is a TV presenter, journalist, writer, and mechanic, who came into the limelight as a co-host of “Top Gear” from 2002 to 2016.
His other notable projects include hosting the entertainment documentary series “Brainiac: Science Abuse,” the game show “Total Wipeout,” and the documentary series “Planet Earth Live.” In 2016 he launched an automotive enthusiast online community platform with his friends Jeremy and James entitled “Drive Tribe.” Richard, also known as “The Hamster” based on his surname and his small stature compared to Jeremy and James, has served as a host for a number of TV shows and game shows, including “Richard Hammond Blast Lab’s,” “Richard Hammond’s Invisible Worlds,” and “Science of Stupid.” In 2021, he starred on Amazon alongside Tory Belleci from “Myth Busters” in the adventure series “The Great Escapists”.
James Daniel May is a host and motoring journalist, best known as a co-presenter of the “Top Gear” series.
Similar to his colleagues, he began his career in the ’80s, working as a writer and sub-editor for the magazines “The Engineer” and “Autocar,” from which he was dismissed after performing a prank. Holder of an honorary doctorate from Lancaster University, James hosted a variety of differing shows during his career spanning four decades, including “James May’s Big Ideas,” “James May’s Car of the People,” and “James May: Oh Cook!”. In addition, Bristol native James has lent his voice to three automotive video games – “Forza Motorsport 5”, “Grand Turismo 6”, and “The Grand Tour Game.”
Andy Willman is a TV producer and presenter, probably best recognized as the former executive producer of “Top Gear”, in which he also made several appearances. Andy mainly collaborated with Jeremy Clarkson, with whom he had also attended Repton School. Following the cancelation of “Top Gear,” he and Jeremy pitched a new project which would later become “The Grand Tour.”
As an executive producer, he has worked on several of Jeremy’s shows such as “Clarkson’s Farm,” “Jeremy Clarkson: The Greatest Raid of All Time,” and “Jeremy Clarkson: Meet the Neighbours.” Unlike the “Top Gear” series in which he appeared from time to time, in “The Grand Tour,” Andy does not appear and is often referenced as “Mr. Wilman,” who sends the other hosts tests, missions, and very often insults. However, he’s credited for both shows’ styles in terms of skits, humor, and segments.
What is the difference between “Top Gear” and “The Grand Tour”?
The shows are very similar in following a similar format, style and theme. However, considering that the show’s hosts departed from the original show and pitched a similar series, some fans perceived it as a copy of that program. Therefore, in order to avoid a potential legal clash with the BBC studio, after three seasons “The Grand Tour” changed its format.
The first three seasons of “The Grand Tour” housed a mixture of pre-recorded TV films, a combination of single or multi-part films, and a live-audience segment. The movies focused on car reviews, challenges, and road trip journeys, similar to those featured in “Top Gear.” “The Grand Tour” also included special episodes adhering to those of “Top Gear” specials – a presenter travels on a journey in a particular type of vehicle or class within a foreign locale.
The reviews are centered around how one of the presenters examines various cars, and subsequently performs several tests to ascertain their performance, handling and quality. Studio segments were typically filmed in a large studio tent that could provide accommodation for an audience of 300, with the hosts sitting around a trestle table with the audience in front of them. Over the show’s tenure, the tent was set up in various countries where the crew filmed, while the audience was acquired from the local population.
However, this changed after Jeremy contracted pneumonia, and Hammond crashed a car in Switzerland, leading to the “mobile” tent being dropped in favor of a fixed location. So some show segments for the second and third series were filmed in Chipping Norton, England.
Live-audience studio segments were to form a break between the pre-recorded clips. There was another segment entitled “Conversation Street”, in which the hosts introduced a discussion on various topics, with a running gag of opening with an intro of the presenters doing a skit.
A celebrity guest format was not initially a segment of “The Grand Tour”, due to potential legal issues with the BBC. However, they created a similar substitute segment entitled “Celebrity Brain Crash,” in which various celebrities were “killed” in some sort of an accident as they were trying to arrive at the hosts’ tent, mainly added for its comedic element.
Later the crew abandoned the segment, and replaced it with a new piece, “Celebrity Face Off,” which involved two celebrities with a similar background in certain things competing against each other on a separate race track. However, this segment was also dropped, as the creators wanted to focus more time on the films and automotive content.
The Fourth Season
In December 2018, the streaming platform announced that “The Grand Tour” would live to see a fourth season comprised solely of specials. With this, Amazon and the crew changed the show’s format, excluding the studio and audience format which consisted of talk segment, track and lap time, and others features. Instead, the new form focuses on the presenters’ individual adventures as they switch between locations and various vehicles chosen for the task.
The show’s first special entitled “Seamen” was filmed in the Mekong Delta in Cambodia and Vietnam, premiering in December 2019. It was soon followed by another special set on Reunion and Madagascar, entitled “A Massive Hunt”, and premiered in December 2020.
“Lockdown,” the third special, was set in Scotland and filmed in October 2020, while it premiered in July 2021. Finally, the fourth special took place in the UK in 2021, although entitled “Carnage A Trois,” and was released in December 2021.
Why was “The Grand Tour” Forced to Cancel Future Plans?
The fifth special was supposed to be filmed outside the UK in 2021. However, due to the global pandemic and travel restrictions, the crew was forced to postpone their plans for filming in Russia. The production and the team had to make certain adjustments in terms of filming and locations, as they tried to stay one step ahead of what would happen next. Talking of the third special, “Lockdown,” in August 2021, James May, discussed the technicalities of traveling and shooting abroad, saying: ‘We had to pull out with hours to spare, days at most. We could sense this lockdown was coming. So we pulled it, and then we were closed down [on March 23], so thank God we did,”
He added that it had been the first time they had to cancel the filming of a special.
A month before the official cancelation, James was said to have contracted the coronavirus, as he experienced fever, shortness of breath, and no sense of smell and taste, but he wasn’t tested. Additionally, domestic and international travel restrictions influenced the crew’s decision to film the third and fourth specials in the UK.
At the end of 2021, the fans were disappointed when the show’s producer Andy revealed that the future episode in the snow wouldn’t happen, though they had planned the special one year prior.
He said: ‘It would be back to being a proper road trip, but it will be across the Arctic Circle and it will be tough – at least I hope we will be tough, because we’ll be going in the depths of winter.” Talking of Russia, Andy disclosed: ‘We’re not going to try that one again, because for the next foreign special we want to go into the snow. ‘
What is the location of the new special?
Given that the pandemic had foiled so many of their ideas, the crew had to change their plans, Andy saying:’ So we want to go up into Scandinavia to do that. We have to plan five or six month ahead.
Sneak peek at #ClarksonsFarm S.2, sure why not. Excited?
And right now with Norway, Sweden and Finland, we can plan what the entry requirements are. We know what they want Covid wise.’
He added: ‘So if we do Scandinavia, I don’t see us going back to Russia for what we planned.’ The official filming of the fifth special has commenced in March 2022 in Norway. Sander Nilssen revealed the new vehicles to be featured, and the drivers – blue Subaru Impreza WRX (Richard Hammond), a yellow Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII (James May), and Audi RS4 (Jeremy Clarkson).
As they were filming in Tromso, James had an accident as the reporters spotted his damaged vehicle. Jeremy was stopped by a reporter who asked him about his experience in Norway, Jeremy disclosed: ‘It’s fantastic. Honestly I’m loving it here. It could be a bit warmer but it’s okay, it’s good. The scenery is amazing. I hope you enjoy the show.’
He was also asked whether he could share some details about the plans to which Jeremy simply replied: ‘No. We never tell anyone what we are doing.’ According to reports, the new special will premiere by the end of the 2022.
Controversy on the show
One of the presenters, Richard, faced criticism in 2016 after one of the first season’s episodes premiered in which he implied that men who eat ice cream are homosexual. Talking of the interior styling of a Volvo S90, Jeremy made a joke saying: ‘the only problem is that in one of those, you couldn’t enjoy a chocolate Magnum ice cream’ and Richard replied: ‘It’s all right, I don’t eat ice cream. It’s something to do with being straight.’ Richard’s comment was reportedly a reference to a famous advertisement in Finland where they were filming the special. However, the LGBT rights advocate took offense, and accused Richard of ‘pandering to prejudice’ and added, ‘it’s a perverse world when everyday pleasure like ice cream become the butt of homophobic innuendo.’
A year later, Richard talked about the situation, saying: ‘Look, anyone who knows me knows I wasn’t being serious, that I’m not homophobic. Love is love, whatever the sex of the two people in love… It may be because I live in a hideously safe and contained middle-class world, where a person’s sexuality is not an issue’.
Why was Jeremy Clarkson sacked from “Top Gear”?
Jeremy was fired from “Top Gear” in 2015, after the BBC conducted an investigation into ‘an unprovoked physical and verbal attack’ by Jeremy on a member of the production staff. While filming the series, Jeremy had a wrangle with the show producer Oisin Tymon, with the BBC disclosing: ‘The row was said to have occurred because no hot food was provided following a day’s filming.”
The attack lasted around 30 seconds as other staff members intervened, while Oisin did not try to fight back. After physical, Jeremy resorted to verbal abuse, which included ‘the strongest expletives and threats to sack him’ to Oisin and other staff members. In fear of losing his job, Oisin remained tight-lipped as he was taken to hospital for his injuries, and later refused to file a complaint against Jeremy.
Jeremy then tried to remedy the situation by sending texts and apologizing for his outburst, and after several days he reported himself to management and was subsequently suspended.
The anticipation of Jeremy’s fate following the altercation was duly monitored, as he was one of the key members and creators of the popular series. Moreover, it was said that the show was one of the BBC’s most significant properties, earning over $50 million in overseas sales for the corporation’s commercial arm. Naturally, Jeremy, his style, and humor played a considerable part, so it didn’t surprise that many wondered what would transpire next.
Following this incident, BBC opted not to renew Jeremy’s contract, which expired a month later, and the BBC director disclosed that ‘a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.”