Naturally, this story starts with the outspoken and incorrigible former host of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson, whose list of run-ins with the BBC, the British public, and communications regulator Ofcom is too extensive to include here. If you're interested in the most egregious examples, we have a list. But things didn't get truly bad until Top Gear's Burmese special.
March 2014: Towards the end of the Burma special, Clarkson was looking on the bridge the team built over the River Kok, and said there was a "slope" on it. Now yes, the bridge definitely had a slope, in the geometric sense. But there was also a local man of Asian descent on it, creating an insensitive double entendre. Indian-born actress Somi Guha promptly filed a $1.66 million suit against Clarkson and Top Gear over the remarks.
April 2014: Top Gear Executive Producer Andy Wilman exacerbated the situation with a weak apology, saying "When we used the word 'slope' in the recent Top Gear Burma Special it was a light-hearted word play joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it."
As we said at the time, "Claiming ignorance that a term is racist and then admitting that you were using said term to refer to someone of a different race kind of indicates that you knew what you were up to."
May 2014: If Top Gear and Clarkson had kept their noses clean from that point on, things might have been fine. But then outtake footage from Top Gear's Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ film surfaced, allegedly showing Clarkson mumbling the N-word while reciting Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe. The host apologized via Twitter video, and issued a tweet saying "I did not use the n word. Never use it. The Mirror has gone way too far this time."
Co-host James May supported his colleague, tweeting that Clarkson "is a monumental bellend and many other things, but not a racist."
Barely days later, Clarkson admitted in a Sun column that "I've been told by the BBC that if I make one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time, I will be sacked. And even the angel Gabriel would struggle to survive with that hanging over his head."
"It's inevitable that one day, someone, somewhere will say that I've offended them, and that will be that," Clarkson wrote.
October 2014: In a case that might not have been Top Gear's fault, the show's arrival in Argentina for its Patagonia Christmas special sparked an international incident. Argentinians, allegedly Falkland War veterans that Clarkson offended with the license plate on the Porsche he was attempting to drive to the city of Ushuaia, mobbed the team. The hosts fled the country, while according to Clarkson, "thousands" of protesters chased the Top Gear crew.
October/November 2014: Clarkson made a pair of Twitter gaffes, enraging opponents of drunk driving in Australia after sending out a tweet describing a sublime drive that involved a BMW M6, a sunset, the band Blind Faith, and "beer in cup holder." The next tweet showed a picture of a sign that read "Entrance to Slope," which Clarkson allegedly captioned by saying "This is just obscene." Clarkson claims someone hijacked his phone and that he didn't send out the offensive tweet.
March 2015: The fracas heard around the world. After a long, soggy, cold day of filming, Clarkson and the team return to the hotel, where he got into an argument with a producer over the lack of hot food. Clarkson allegedly punched producer Oisin Tymon and was promptly suspended by the BBC. Barely a week later, the BBC shelved the rest of Top Gear's 22nd season, later releasing two final films, presented by Hammond and May, in a single episode later that summer.
Later that month, Clarkson claimed in a profanity laden rant that he'd been sacked.
"It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly," BBC Director-General Tony Hall said in a statement. "I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts and after personally meeting both Jeremy and Oisin Tymon."
Tymon chose not to file charges against Clarkson.
April 2015: Top Gear host James May and EP Wilman announce they're leaving the BBC. According to May, "Me and Hammond with a surrogate Jeremy is a non-starter, it just wouldn't work. That would be lame, or 'awks' as young people say."
May 2015: Rumors that the former Top Gear team would join streaming giant Netflix gain steam, getting as far as a rumored name – House of Cars, which is of course a play on Netflix's political thriller House of Cards.
July 2015: Days after Clarkson, Hammond, and May hinted in Australia that they were filming a new show in the US, the former Top Gear trio and behind-the-scenes boss Andy Wilman announced a contract with Amazon. The move was a shock, considering Netflix's deep pockets and widely publicized push for original content.
According to a release from Amazon, Clarkson said "I feel like I've climbed out of a bi-plane and into a spaceship," taking a swipe at his former employers.
Amazon allegedly shelled out $250 million for three seasons and 36 episodes of Clarkson, Hammond, and May. The following month, reports indicate Clarkson was netting $15M per year, with $11 million each for May, Hammond, and Wilman.
Chris Evans takes the helm of Top Gear. We all know how that went.
October 2015: Filming begins of the still unnamed show, and it looks like old team are picking up right where they left off – testing the Porsche 918 Spyder, Ferrari LaFerrari, and McLaren P1 in an eagerly anticipated comparo. Clarkson revealed the news via Twitter.
February 2016: Clarkson settles with former colleague Oisin Tymon over the assault that lead to his separation from the BBC.
March 2016: Filming picks up steam on the new show. Reports emerge that Clarkson was injured during filming in Barbados – we're guessing during filming of the artificial coral reef segment. The following day, a video popped up of the three amigos rolling through a British town in a monstered-out Mercedes-Benz SL-Class.
Later that month, James May confirmed the still unnamed show would launch in the fall of 2016.
April 2016: Clarkson, Hammond, and May begin taking the Mickey out of their still unnamed Amazon show, coming up with the absurd hashtag #TheStillVeryMuchUntitledClarksonHammondMayAmazonPrimeShowComingAutumn2016. Amazon released the hashtag as part of a short brainstorming clip that showed the team's chemistry is still very much intact.
Finding a name becomes a recurring theme for the show, with Clarkson writing in a column that "Every morning, I'd make a £7,000 call to the lawyer with an idea, and every afternoon I'd get a £7,000 reply saying the name was already in use by someone in New Zealand or France or Ukraine. Prime Torque. Autonation. Skid Mark."
May 2016: The Grand Tour is officially born. This is also when we find out about the show's rather wild plan to film each episode in a different location. Clarkson hints at a giant tent, but Amazon didn't confirm that particular detail until later in the summer, when it launched a Twitter contest for tickets to the first filming, in South Africa.
June 2016: There's a logo!
July 2016: The Grand Tour announces plans to film in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. July also saw the team complete its first episode, and promptly launch a barrage of short video clips showing the antics we've come to expect from Clarkson, Hammond, and May.
August 2016: While the first The Grand Tour story focused on the show's visit to the Game of Thrones set, the bigger one was Andy Wilman's account of the legal pandering the new Amazon team had to go through to appease the BBC. According to Wilman:
"We went to Namibia to make a big film. The lawyers got out a film we had done [for Top Gear] in Botswana. The lawyers go through everything and they said, 'There's a scene in [Top Gear] where you're in the middle of the Okavango and you go, "This scenery is beautiful", so watch that you don't do that.'"
"So we were in the desert in Namibia and we had to go, "for legal reasons, this scenery is shit'," Wilman said while speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.
September 2016: Amazon announces a November 18th debut – that's tomorrow! – for the new show. But unlike House of Cards, which Netflix releases in a full-season binge-worthy drop, Amazon is releasing one episode of The Grand Tour each week.
October 2016: Allegedly, the first episode's opening scene cost $3.2 million. So if anything, The Grand Tour will start with a bang. We also got our best look at actual footage of the new show, thanks to an expansive trailer.
Later that month, Autoblog's sat down with Clarkson and May for an interview about the new show.
November 2016: Earlier this week, The Grand Tour released a bewildering array of stats about the first season's filming. Allegedly, May lost 52 drag races, while Clarkson claims the team covered over 1.4 billion miles. Other likely hyperbole-laden stats? TGT destroyed 27 cars, enjoyed seven romantic meals, and had 549 constructive debates.
November 17, 2016: Yes, this shouldn't be on the timeline, because it's today. Not only is this when you can actually watch the first episode of The Grand Tour, but it's when you can read our official review of the new show. Check back later tonight.