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"The Grand Tour:" An Oversteer Review

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author photo by Will Kinton November 2016

"The Grand Tour," Amazon's new Web series, was released to the world on Friday after much anticipation. If you weren't already aware, "The Grand Tour" is the new project of the three former "Top Gear" hosts -- Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond -- as well as the BBC show's former executive producer, Andy Wilman. The arrival of the series was highly anticipated by an entire world of automotive enthusiasts, so there was a lot riding on this first episode. So, did the show manage to live up to expectations?

Yes. Yes it did.

The show was undeniably good, and Clarkson, Hammond and May clearly still have what it takes to make a show about cars that even non-enthusiasts can watch. It starts with Clarkson getting on an airplane in rainy London bound for sunny Los Angeles, with background news anchors reading reports about how he's been sacked. He lands in California, makes his way to a parking garage and hops in a custom Ford Mustang with 725 horsepower. Richard and May pull up alongside in two more Mustangs -- the red-white-and-blue imagery of the three cars not lost on the viewer -- before heading out onto a desert plain. As they cross the desert, they make their way through a pack of cars ranging from modern supercars to pre-war classics and art cars, while they head towards a stage and a cheering crowd. A formation of jets flies overhead. They then say some things on the stage before heading into the tent that will serve as their new roaming studio.

The primary video segments of the show focus on a shootout between a Mclaren P1, a Porsche 918 and a LaFerrari, as well as a review of the BMW M2, which Jeremy really liked. Separating these segments are some pieces of studio time, which show the three presenters interacting with each other and the crowd.

Overall, the approach went well. Some bits fell a little flat, but it's a new show. One bit involved a new celebrity segment, but they ended up killing off three celebrities instead of actually interviewing them. I'm hoping that was really just a nod to the old show, while sending a message that "The Grand Tour" won't be going down that path.

The one criticism I had of the show is that it felt a bit too much like "Top Gear" -- and there were many moments that seemed a little too familiar. I was hoping that the show would go in a different direction or try something new and different, but this episode felt like it was tying up loose ends from "Top Gear," with the hypercar shootout they were never able to do. There were other elements that seemed a little too close to the old show, too, like a segment in which Jeremy gives a tour of their new test track involving a professional driver that isn't wasn't a Stig. At the end of the show, it seems like Jeremy desperately wants to wrap things up by saying, "And on that bombshell..." but can't because of copyright infringement.

That being said, we can't yet know if this criticism will continue to hold true. In many ways, the first episode called back to the old "Top Gear," while at the same time pointing in a new direction. It's very possible that this first episode felt a lot like old "Top Gear" on purpose, so that old fans would be shown that the three still have what it takes to make a good show -- similar to how J.J. Abrams approached starting a new "Star Wars" era with "The Force Awakens."

Regardless, this is television at its finest -- and we're tremendously happy to welcome Jeremy, Richard and James back into our lives and our living rooms after months of anticipation.

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"The Grand Tour:" An Oversteer Review - Autotrader