The Perfect Introduction: The Grand Tour

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Has there ever been a better opening to a TV series than what Amazon produced for the first episode of The Grand Tour?

The much anticipated series was finally released on Amazon Prime back in November 2016 following Jeremy Clarkson’s heavily publicised departure from the BBC and Top Gear. His co-stars Richard Hammond and James May followed and the three embarked on the new show with the streaming service.

The opening is played out perfectly, spectacularly and with some not-so-subtle flex towards the BBC.

The introduction opens with Clarkson leaving a building in London, one we presume to be the BBC studios. It’s a grey and rainy day as he climbs into a cab and heads to the airport.

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Soon after he is landing in Los Angeles where the skies are clear and blue. The sun is shining in stark contrast to dreary London.

Clarkson climbs into a Mustang and leaves the airport parking garage just as the lyrics begin to be sung to Hothouse Flowers cover of the Johnny Nash classic “I Can See Clearly Now”. He drives through LA and out into the desert.

The song begins to pick up the pace as Clarkson is joined by two more Mustangs (tellingly one each in red, white and blue) driven by May and Hammond. The trio speed off down the desert road.

“We’re getting the band back together.”
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It all comes to a climax on a salt like where they drive through a sprawling convoy of cars of all shapes and sizes. Sports cars, hot rods, pick ups, bikes and more, they’re all there in an immense cloud of dust. It’s got a real Mad Max vibe to it.

Through this the three men arrive at the puntastic “Burning Van” festival, greeting by a horde of cheering people and a flyover by the Blue Angels.

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It’s a stirring, dramatic opening that gives a middle finger to the BBC, not just claiming the three former Top Gear hosts as Amazon’s own but flexing a budget the BBC could never match. It’s an epic sign of things to come, tempting the viewer with promises of a Top Gear on steroids experience, which the show essentially is.

You could say The Grand Tour actually plays it safe by not straying too far from the Top Gear format that its three hosts thrived in, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Sadly the pandemic has limited The Grand Tour to a handful of specials instead of the full seasons we initially received but the Clarkson-May-Hammond magic remains.

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The opening to season one raised expectations and it’s fair to say they have been met. The revolving door of Top Gear hosts and the lesser ratings since the big three left demonstrate that the BBC needed Clarkson and co more than they needed the BBC.

Thankfully Amazon was there to fund their next chapter in The Grand Tour. And what a spectacular way to kick it off.

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