Married couple Greg Bruce and Zanna Gillespie review The Grand Tour.
Assertion of alpha status by Jeremy Clarkson: 5
Toxicity of masculinity of Jeremy Clarkson: 5
Bafflement at success of Jeremy Clarkson: 5
What is The Grand Tour? I've spent much time on the Wikipedia page and I still don't really know. All I can say for sure is it's based around the laddish antics of the guys from Top Gear, there have been 40 episodes and the latest one - the first for a year - is as long as many movies and much worse than all of them.
Prior to this week, I had never watched a single episode of The Grand Tour, the main reason being I can't tolerate the gloating, sneering humour of chest-beating alpha host, Jeremy Clarkson. I know little of co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond, except that they have long been consigned to roles as sub-Clarksons and I have often wondered how that must feel. I guess they're pretty rich.
I didn't want to watch The Grand Tour and I knew Zanna wouldn't want to watch The Grand Tour but when I revealed the news, she took it in a good enough humour. The main appeal for her, as for me, was the modest 90-minute running time. As it turned out, though, I couldn't have tolerated a minute more. After two and a half lifetimes enduring Clarkson's hilarious nicknames ("Seaman Stains", "Roger the Cabin Boy") for his co-hosts , I hit pause to check the time remaining, thinking there had been a tear in the fabric of the universe. I was right; never had 90 minutes felt so unendurable.
The jokes were all along the lines of "my car is better than yours" and "I'm better than you" and "look - haha! - you've got poo on your face!" The sort of demeaning "banter" boys are bathed in from the time they're old enough to sink piss and often long before, as if such casual cruelty is not just a fact of life but one of its great pleasures.
Given my enculturation, I was at least able to understand these interactions, which is more than I can say for the show's narrative engine, which involved the "lads" driving around Madagascar on a "hunt for buried treasure". It was so ludicrous I would have found it laughable if I could have stopped yawning. At one stage, I said to Zanna I didn't think I could cope with another shot of James May bent over a table, trying to crack a coded message.
Hang on! Did I just say "James May bent over a table"? Hahahahahaha! Hilarious.
We are not Top Gear people. We have two cars: a 2009 Honda Stream, which we bought for $9000 (our most expensive car to date) because it had the seven seats we needed for our fast-growing family and because our previous car had "died", according to the mechanic who, before completing change of ownership papers, proceeded to get a speeding ticket in it.
Our second car, which we gratefully inherited, is a 2006 Toyota Yaris, which we can't drive on the motorway because the cable tie I fashioned to hold up an unidentified part hanging loose underneath has broken and said piece drags terrifyingly on the road whenever the car gets above 55km/hr.
This is all to say, as a couple, Greg and I have very little reverence for automobiles. Similarly, Greg has very little reverence for Jeremy Clarkson. I have no real opinion on him because I have never in my life seen him in a television episode.
I found the first 15 minutes of the "film" intolerable. The long boring descriptions of the cars, the toxic masculinity, the way they talk to camera - it was so not for me that I strongly doubted I had what it took to sit through an hour and a half of it.
There is something pretty disturbing about the premise of this show: To take brand new, top-of-the-line cars and see how far you can push them before they get destroyed is so out of touch. Care you not for the environment? Clarkson? May? Hammond? Probably not. Add to that the audacity to parade the destruction of these exorbitantly priced vehicles through rural Madagascar, where the hosts point out that most people are living on a euro a day. It's plain gross.
But here's the real twist. About two-thirds of the way through, I set aside my fixation on where the production crew were stationed and which bits were scripted and I started to take (guilty) pleasure in watching the cars attempt to defeat enormous potholes, boulders and waist-deep pools of mud. I finally got it. Machine versus nature. Man against the elements. It appeals to our most basic desires. I had what it took to watch it. I still think it's deplorable and I will never watch it again but good lord if it doesn't reel you in and have you rooting for a car like it's a human soul in a steel body. Damn you, The Grand Tour!
The Grand Tour launches globally on Amazon Prime Video on December 18.