Episode 6 is The Grand Tour at Its Best... And Its Worst

By James O Malley on at

It's now six weeks since I accidentally began the thankless task of watching every episode of The Grand Tour on Friday mornings and then writing about my disappointment - much to the frustration of Giz UK's below the line commentators. I was hoping though that this week, perhaps... just perhaps... things could be different? It's Christmas - can I make peace with Clarkson, May and Hammond?

Judging by Episode 6 - "Happy Finnish Christmas" - we're probably not going to have a football match in No Man's Land, but perhaps we'll be able to declare an unofficial ceasefire.

For the first few parts of the show things carried on much as they always have done: Jeremy Clarkson sounded faintly sexist (with his comments about Finnish women), and then there was a comparison film in which - surprise! - Clarkson unexpectedly turns up and he and the other presenter (in this case, Hammond) disagree about which is the best car. Admittedly, the Cenotaph dig was pretty funny.

In fact, the show perhaps reached its nadir so far in some of the studio segments: First we got some incredibly weak banter suggesting that it isn't 'straight' to eat ice cream - material that would have felt out of date and regressive 30 years ago. Then we discover that - astonishingly - it wasn't even off-the-cuff as the presenters then produced a Flake and a Doubledecker, and we got to watch them catch crumbs. It appears that, yes, someone actually spent time in front of a word processor writing this skit.

The low though was hit during the Christmas segment, when the presenters retired to their 'grotto' to make some Christmas gift suggestions. It wasn't fun, it wasn't edgy. It was just embarrassing for all involved.

I'm pretty sure Jeff Bezos must have been wondering what his big investment was doing.

But then, suddenly, almost in a smash cut from the lowest moment, the episode was rounded off by what is easily the show's best film yet: James May's solo effort, taking a look back at the battle between Ford and Ferrari in the Le Mans 24 hour race in the 1966s.

What was striking was just how different to the rest of the show it was: Gone were the dick jokes, or the scripted banter and in its place was a genuinely interesting story. It featured the voices of people who were involved at the the time and worked hard to paint a picture of the historic atmosphere. And when May took to the track in the vintage cars, it was easy to get swept up in his enthusiasm and passion for what he was talking about - even if, like me, you couldn't tell a Mondeo from a Mustang.

It was perhaps reminiscent of Clarkson's film about Senna on the old Top Gear. Who knew that despite their best attempts, the show would work best when it was more like something parachuted in from BBC Four, and significantly less like the ITV2 gutter?

And as with everything in The Grand Tour, it was beautifully shot. Seeing such beautiful cinematography without the usual bullshit elevated the show to new heights. And the best bit? It means that at Christmas - a time of peace amongst men - I can finally, sincerely say, congratulations, Grand Tour. Good show (er, just as long as you scrub forward to about 40 minutes).

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