Putting the Top Gear ‘fracas’ behind them, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are back in the driving seat for The Grand Tour…
If you thought you’d seen the last of Jeremy Clarkson and friends, you’d be wrong. Top Gear may have moved on without them, but there’s a new motoring show in town, full of fast cars, fun skits and not a fracas in sight.
Jeremy, 56, Richard Hammond, 46 and James May, 53 are sitting on the starting line for their new 12-part Amazon car show, The Grand Tour, which sees them pitch their tent in a new location each week, from California to Lapland.
We meet them on home turf, in a West London pub, where they are extremely diplomatic about Top Gear, but don’t hold back about each other…
Was it an easy decision to get back together? James: "Tragically I don’t think we ever separated – a new show was on the cards after about 15 minutes." Richard: "We are stuck because we’re all bigger and better working together. We don’t really get on, but we’ve got no bloody choice."
How similar is The Grand Tour to Top Gear? Richard: "Well, it’s three middle aged men driving about in cars getting things wrong and sometimes catching fire… so it’s completely different in every way! The show just feels revitalised, it’s done us the world of good." Jeremy: "We were too lazy to change Top Gear, so eventually it would have gone downhill, but this move forced us to think about new ideas. Our viewers have had 12 years of eating cottage pie on a Sunday night, and now you’re getting shepherd’s pie. It’s still meat and potato-based comfort food, but it’s different." Richard: "It was a bit scary at first. We’ve worked very hard to make sure that anybody who goes to the trouble of following us is rewarded with good stuff."
Where did the idea come from to travel round the world? Richard: "Jeremy’s good at claiming ideas are his, but filming around the world for The Grand Tour in a tent actually was. And then it turned out to be colossally expensive! But it gives the series something special, and how wonderful that we can do it on this scale. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us." James: "Audiences are markedly different in each place, which changes the mood of every episode. It’s like a comedy club feel, but not as funny."
Has everything gone to plan so far on The Grand Tour? Richard: "Things go wrong all the time, but luckily our viewers expect that from us – building failure into the show was the best thing we ever did." James: "I broke my arm, but it’s a really boring story, I just slipped on a wet pavement like an old person. I had to drive an automatic for a bit, but it’s OK now." Jeremy: "There are so many deer living near our test track, they could film Autumnwatch there! It’s only a matter of time before we run one over and I’ll be sad. Incidentally, Autumnwatch is literally my favourite programme, because they cut live and the animal has always just run away…"
We’re guessing fans can look forward to more of your trademark banter? Richard: "Put us in whatever circumstance, we’ll still fall over, argue, get lost, bicker, shout and be bombastic. It’s what we are." Jeremy: "We hate the word banter, but we do like bickering, we are like three old women. It’s a three-year contract so at the end we’ll just have a massive fight and kill each other. It’s what we’ve always wanted." James: "We don’t like each other. I’m sick to death of them by the time we finish filming, so we don’t socialise. I can go home to the woman I love or I can go out with Jeremy Clarkson, I mean…"
Do you have more freedom at Amazon than the BBC? Jeremy: "Everybody thinks that the BBC was a nightmare, but it was brilliant until [former Director of BBC Television] Danny Cohen arrived. Before that they never interfered with what we were doing at all. Amazon is tremendous though, they even said we could swear, but we’re not going to. I’m dimly aware that’s not the done thing. It’s hard not having those words in your lexicon when you’re describing a Peugeot though…" Richard: "It’s got to be free of swearing because I want my family to be able to watch it, that really matters to us. We’re quite nice boys really… well, I am!"
You must have watched the new Top Gear, what did you think? Jeremy: "I think I’ve been concentrating on our new show! Matt Le Blanc was a good choice though." Richard: "Nothing good can come out of that conversation. I wish the BBC all the best, I haven’t fallen out with them in any way so good luck to them in any shows they make." James: "I liked it and I’m mates with a lot of the people working on it. I wouldn’t wish bad ratings on them."
The Grand Tour season 1 is available now to stream on Amazon Prime
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