And so that's it, season one of The Grand Tour has hit the parking garage and the protective dust covers have once again been pulled over Clarkson, Hammond and May. The most eagerly awaited show of the internet era, it has shocked, surprised and satisfied in equal measures over the last 12 weeks.
It wasn’t perfect though. Far from it in fact. For every episode that wowed and ticked all the right Top Gear nostalgia-heavy happiness, there was at least one more that frustrated, offended or just plain sucked.
With the former Top Gear trio having signed a 36-episode contract over three years, The Grand Tour Season 2 will be here towards the end of the year. Before bringing it back though, Clarkson, Hammond, May and Amazon need to address a few issues with the show. As well as making more use of their host countries and, y’know, actually including a few more cars, they should start with this lot.
1. Ditch 'The American'
Amazon might have secured the services of Clarkson, Hammond and May, but they couldn’t get the secret talent of Top Gear, The Stig, with the BBC winning full custody in the divorce proceedings. Needing a professional driver for the hot lap tests, The Grand Tour settled on ‘The American’ and, well, he sucks.
Former NASCAR racer Mike Skinner is the stars and stripes lover behind the wheel and although a solid driver, his bit just doesn’t work. Proclaiming that every car is crap because it doesn’t kick a baby polar bear while chugging a beer as Clarkson dubs him a communist just isn’t funny.
He’s stood out as a painfully misplaced problem since the first episode and needs to be killed off - preferably by being fired off the end of an aircraft carrier like the original Stig.
That’ll leave a vacancy though. Fortunately there’s a perfect candidate just waiting to be signed up, one with a cheeky personality who’s less repetitive and needlessly crass - Jenson Button.
Recently out of work, Button would pair reputable knowledge and insight with serious skills behind the wheel. No, he might not appeal to the U.S viewer like 'The American’, but the rest of the world would love him.
2. Keep it Real
The truly laugh out load moments that made Top Gear a must watch have been in short supply for The Grand Tour’s debut series. Instead, the show’s been more likely to raise a smirk and a sceptical scoff as it has a true belly laugh, and that’s because everything’s become a bit slapstick.
Large swaths of the show have become overly scripted and forced. Sure, back in the Top Gear days things followed a script, but there was still a truth to what you were watching.
You could believe they were being threatened by Americans for their NASCAR-bashing comments or genuinely struggling, emotionally on a trip up the side of a volcano. Here though things have become farcical.
The season’s worst episode by far was the SAS training session. Painfully unfunny, it paired childish-levels of comedy with a serious dollop of self indulgence. Reign it in a little to find that balance we used to love and the show would instantly become a can’t miss again.
3. Scrap Celebrity Brain Crash
Just lose it already. This was funny in week one as a statement of how this was a new show going against the grain of pandering to celebrity plugs, but the joke got old, and unfunny, very, very quickly.
Getting the real Jeremy Renner and Armie Hammer to briefly render their services before being ‘killed’ showed the calibre of star the show could draw if they wanted. But they don’t want or need to help plug whatever movie’s coming out or endorsements are being banded around. Clarkson, Hammond and May are the draw.
There’s no need to keep hammering this home though. Instead this has become a tediously repetitive wasted 10 minutes that feels like filler for a lack of other ideas. Kill it and get James May to make an additional mini film per week, something insightful, something, actually about cars.
4. Stop Trying to Shock
It’s official, eating ice cream doesn't make you a homosexual. Science has proven as much. Why the headline-loving trio still feel the need to come up with such over-blown, intentionally shocking and offensive nonsense then is beyond is.
They’ve made a living out of these contentious comments, but with Amazon not releasing viewership figures, it’s not like they need the publicity in order to chase a weekly ratings number.
When they were on the beeb many would tune in simply to be offended, enjoying the sense of shock with mock outrage. You’re not going to pay £79 a year for the same thing though.
5. Go Big on the Adventures
It’s widely agreed that The Grand Tour series one hit its peak with the two-part Beach (Buggy) Boys adventure that saw the travelling trio drive 1,000 miles along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast in three custom beach buggies.
Yes there were moments of farce (if Clarkson punched a producer over the lack of a hot meal there’s no way he’d sleep under a car in the desert - just give up the pretence), it was a visually stunning, emotively engaging and throughly entertaining two hours of TV.
It was the best of Top Gear recreated, and isn’t that what we all wanted from The Grand Tour? So why isn’t there more of this?
It’s well publicised that they’ve got the budget to do pretty much whatever they want, so give the viewers what they really want - epic adventures in the most hostile parts of the world when the focus is simple three men and their cars.
6. Get the Tool Kit Out
We all love supercars that are beyond the wildest dreams of our budget, but it’s nice to see something a bit more realistic.
It’s time then for the three presenter to break out the tool box and bodge together something that’s equal parts cool and calamitous, or tinker with rusty old second hand machines while trying to drive them across the country.
There were touches of this in Series one - most notably James May’s over the top brick-building echo car, but they can afford to ramp it up whilst toning down the slapstick. The sheer panic of driving an endlessly breaking ‘70s Rover is what brings out the best in the presenters.
7. Quit the bickering
We all know the setup. Clarkson is a petrol-guzzling, power-craving, hammer-wielding Neanderthal. James May is a finikity but methodical swot, and Richard Hammond is the adorably puppy that you can’t be mad at despite it peeing on your carpet. At least that used to be the case.
The Grand Tour has seen the traditional bickering banter transform into a more negative, often snarky sense of dislike. It’s quickly transitioning from a funny set-up to watching three grumpy old men having a genuine moan.
Like the slapstick, tone it back a touch and we’ll be back into winning territory.