Watching TV in 2016 couldn’t be easier – a few simple clicks and you’re right in the action of your favourite show.
This is mainly thanks to the pay-to-view video streaming conglomerates Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video who have changed the face of TV viewing as we know it, whilst taking over the world along the way.
After Jeremy Clarkson demonstrated his infamous public popularity divide by landing a sucker-punch on a BBC producer he is suddenly the property of Amazon Prime.
The company offered Clarkson a stupendous £160 million budget (that’s £4.5 million an episode) to basically make Top Gear again; but with a new name, new ‘touring’ studio, and unfortunately, more awkward Dad jokes.
The Grand Tour starts with a speech about “The end of the road”, but clearly hints at a new beginning for Clarkson, Hammond and May. A Mad Max-inspired driving-across-the-desert sequence with hundreds of cars attempts to enhance the spectacle of the boys being back on the screen.
In truth, another popular British TV show has been Americanised by big money companies who have spread across the industry like a disease.
We’ve seen it before with countless shows, most recently Charlie Brooker’s mind-bending dystopian future series Black Mirror which was sold by Channel 4 to Netflix when the latter offered Mr. Brooker huge support and a giant budget that he simply could not refuse.
The result was a fourth series that lacked the grit and rawness of the original, in order to suit Netflix’s vision.
While there are other streaming services attempting to reach the levels of the big two, such as NOWTV and Wuaki.tv, Netflix and Amazon remain the undisputed titans who buy the rights to anything successful. Or in the case of The Grand Tour, revive a once successful show with “car journalists who have spent the last 20 years getting fired”, as Clarkson puts it.
The results, however, can be awkward. To the point where even Top Gear USA looks like an attractive proposition – a show which somehow ran for six seasons and 72 episodes on the History channel in America despite poor reviews, particularly from British viewers.
The Grand Tour does boast some very neat production, sexy camera angles and shots, but the ‘basic’ feel in the Top Gear studio added charm to what was a very simple but effective show.
The processed version Amazon have attempted to bring back from the dead does nothing for those watching out of nostalgia.
Incredible 950bhp hypercars and fighter jets aside, jokes sound scripted, the new Stig is just some guy called Mike, the new track is apparently in the shape of the Ebola virus and the celebrity section is (purposely?) abandoned in episode one when Jeremy Renner ‘dies’ when his parachute doesn’t open as he enters the studio.
At which point the two back-up guests, Armie Hammer and Carol Vorderman, also ‘die’. Yes they are demonstrating to the BBC the calibre of stars they can get on their show, but what’s the point if no one actually does the lap?
With such a varying degree of guests it seems difficult to pinpoint The Grand Tour’s exact target audience. Whereas Top Gear focussed mainly on famous Brits as well as huge Hollywood celebrities, it is questionable whether The Grand Tour is appealing to car lovers from both sides of the pond, a bold ambition if achieved.
Regardless, Netflix’s new high-budget Queen Elizabeth II drama The Crown is set to be the new show everyone’s talking about and there are certainly a lot of other franchises Netflix and Amazon would love to get their hands on, both here and in a galaxy far, far away…