Well, it's here and I woke up this morning to find episode 1 ready to watch on Amazon Prime. First thing's first: were the main season 1 problems corrected? Yes!
Thing No. 1 that didn't work about season 1 was "The American." As was previously reported, Mike Skinner is gone. Good riddance. However, as there was no hot new car featured in the premiere, there was no need to take it around the Eboladrome and therefore no clue as to who or what will replace The American. Stay tuned.
Thing No. 2 that didn't work was celebrity brain crash. Personally, I didn't hate it - it sort of worked in a "You killed Kenny! You bastard!" kind of way - but it always dragged on too long, a symptom of the show's general pacing issues. Nevertheless, it too is gone, because as they say on this week's episode "We're not doing it anymore because too many people died ... And because you all hated it."
In its place is "Celebrity Face Off," where a pair of celebrities from a similar field will each post a lap time in a Jaguar F-Type around a new, rather nifty track that is part paved and part gravel. Looks fun. As it was on "Top Gear," the interview itself drags on too long and its quality will obviously depend on the celebrities in question. In this case it's a battle of former talent show judges: David Hasselhoff from "America's Got Talent" and Ricky Wilson from the British version of "The Voice" and lead singer of the Kaiser Chiefs. It's as thrilling as you might imagine, but then "Top Gear" basically had the exact same feature. Except there are two people competing against each other rather than adding their times to a big board, and the car is good instead of reasonably priced, and it's totally different enough that the BBC won't sue them.
Beyond that, I suppose it's important to note that "The Grand Tour" isn't really touring anymore. Well, at least the tent isn't. It would seem it's parked permanently in what is apparently Jeremy Clarkson's backyard. And by backyard I mean palatial English estate. As the moving tent didn't really add that much to the show, I'm fine with it.
"The tent may be here," Clarkson says in the episode. "But this is still 'The Grand Tour' and the globe is still our playground."
Conversation Street is back once again and like the rest of the show it continues to feel more scripted than "Top Gear" ever did. It's hard to know why but the banter feels more contrived now, as do the scenarios in which the guys find themselves on their adventures.
Specifically, in the first episode, they are driving super cars through Switzerland: Clarkson in a Lamborghini Aventador S, May in a Honda NSX and the Hammond in the Croatian electric super car, the Rimac Concept 1.
"Well, we all know how that ends," Clarkson muddles under his breath, telegraphing what had previously been widely reported during the segment's filming. But I won't spoil it in case you missed it. If you do know, however, the event in question is rather nail biting. I thought it was handled well.
Like many past TG/GT challenges featuring a trio of super cars, though, this one isn't quite as entertaining as those featuring old cars or more ordinary cars where more can naturally go wrong. Or rather, go wrong without ending in a fireball, a medivac chopper and the premature end to the challenge. But there I go spoiling things.
So, should you watch it? Sure! The preview of the season showed plenty of interesting cars (Ford GT, Kia Stinger, Mercedes GT R) and adventures (I'm particularly looking forward to their trip to Colorado in a trio of old Jaguars), so I'm going to say there is in fact improvement, they've heard the criticism and although this particular episode could've been better, it felt more like the "Top Gear" of old.