So in the early hours of this morning, after 17 months in the TV wilderness, Jeremy Clarkson returned to our screens, via Amazon and subscription streaming (that's Lloyd's speculative blog answered). And he brought Hammond and May.
There’s been a lot of buzz about their new show, The Grand Tour. More so since the unmitigated critical disaster that was Top Gear as brought to you by Chris Evans and Joey from Friends.
Would it be any good? Has it lost its charm? And after 17 months, would anyone even care anymore?
Well, the reviews are in and The Grand Tour has been deemed a success. Both with viewers and critics.
It’s a savage blow to the BBC.
I can’t pretend to have been a massive fan of Top Gear – I can count on one hand how many complete episodes I’ve watched – but it made for okay ‘background television’, something to have on when your attention is elsewhere. And, for the most part, I understood why it was popular – the cars, celebrities, and the chemistry between its presenters. It’s the sort of effortless TV that appears easy to make, but as the BBC has found, is damn hard to replicate.
The show’s success has been a great piece of personal PR for Mr. Clarkson. It may only be one episode old but, no doubt helped by Top Gear’s failings, he looks to have come out on top, following his ignominious departure from the BBC.
For the corporation themselves, it’s back to the drawing board. Top Gear was the BBC’s cash cow. It was the Beeb’s most internationally recognised brand, a globally distributed asset, translated into hundreds of languages, and a merchandising goldmine.
The brand itself is still hugely popular, but with the format having been altered to appeal to everybody, it now appeals to almost nobody. Not even diehard petrolheads.
I can’t help but think The Grand Tour’s success will make Clarkson even more self-satisfied and smug. And that can’t be a good thing for a country still reeling from the wounds of Brexit and Wayne Rooney’s drunken antics at a wedding (he’s England’s captain, don’t you know?!?)
Hasn’t everybody suffered enough?