The Grand Tour - has there ever been a television show that carries with it as much expectation and anticipation before its first episode has even aired?
Due to make its world debut on Amazon Prime tonight at one minute past midnight, the show brings ex-Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May back to Britain’s TV screens more than 18 months since their last episode of Top Gear.
However, while we might be expecting the trio to pick up exactly where they left off – playing clearly defined character roles in front of the stood audience of an entertainment show – legal issues surrounding the ownership of the old Top Gear formula means The Grand Tour has been forced to start anew.
Clarkson featured on The Jonathan Ross Show last weekend and confessed to having to “start again” when defining The Grand Tour’s identity. “You can't do the same show because of 'intellectual property’,” he told Ross.
Will this new design damage the on-screen relationship of the world’s most watched television trio? We won’t know for sure until tomorrow, but if the opening trailer and following YouTube clips are anything to go by, the answer is almost certainly going to be no.
Clarkson looks to have held onto his leading role, with Hammond and May both assuming their natural positions as his less brash companions. In a fashion typical to its presenters, expect The Grand Tour to jest and joke its way around legal issues, indirectly referencing the fact it can’t say or do certain things due to BBC ownership.
One area that won’t be affected by the trio’s former employer will be The Grand Tour’s ability to feature the world’s most desirable and expensive cars. We know exotic models including the Ferrari LaFerrari, Porsche 918 and McLaren P1 will feature in the opening episode, and rumour has it the opening scene features £20 million worth of metal… The Aston Martin Vulcan, DB11, Rolls-Royce Dawn and Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat are all also due at some point in the first season.
With a budget that’s reported to reach £4.5 million per episode – roughly seven times the budget of a Top Gear episode – we can expect even farther-reaching locations and more extreme storylines. Whether that’ll reignite a chemistry that once helped Top Gear draw in 8 million UK viewers per show, we’ll have to wait and see...