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The 'Grand Tour' Returns to Amazon Prime Video

I may be one of the very few people who never watched a single episode of Top Gear before watching the Grand Tour. I think I may have seen the name clicking through the DirecTV guide on BBC America in the mid-naughts, and if so, I had assumed it would be a very stiff magazine-format series on the newest British cars*. Deucedly boring to an American whose late father owned a Chevrolet dealership, old chap! It was only when I read Charles C.W. Cooke’s article in National Review on Jeremy Clarkson’s firing by the BBC in 2015 after he slugged a producer that I began to become intrigued. Cooke’s headline dubbed Clarkson “The Anti-Scold,” and at the time, I wasn’t sure such people still existed in England:

If he disappears from view, somebody else will come along. Why? Well, because Jeremy Clarkson is what happens when a nation’s cultural elites set out to forge an environment in which nobody is allowed to say anything remotely risqué without drawing condemnatory looks and an open invitation to apologize. As yin invites yang and positive necessitates negative, political correctness has created Jeremy Clarkson to serve as the anti-scold.

This he did with great aplomb. On Top Gear, in a series of best-selling books, and in the pages of Britain’s many rightward-leaning newspapers, Clarkson has for years now played a starring role in the country’s national life. He is the man through whom the commonsensical meek can live vicariously; the man who can say what others will not dare to say; the man who has never had to grow up. Most important, perhaps, he has been the grumpy old codger who still remembers the days when it was acceptable to poke fun at everything — including oneself — and to do so without being hauled into court.

Unlike, presumably, Clarkson, I go to the gym more or less daily, and do about 50 minutes total on the treadmill. So poking around Amazon Prime on my iPad, I began watching the Grand Tour. This was fun stuff -- beautifully photographed (in 4K high-definition video) high-MTV-style shots of exotic supercars, comedy out of Monty Python, and whacky video gags inspired by Ernie Kovacs, David Letterman, and Britain’s own Goon Squad. Letterman may have dropped bowling balls off of the roofs of tall buildings – Top Gear dropped a Toyota pickup off one:

Top Gear also knew its music; a surprisingly moving segment at the end of their 13th season (from Obama’s dreary first year in office) is built on Brian Eno’s ambient piece “An Ending (Ascent)” from the 1989 Apollo documentary For All Mankind, seemingly anticipating Clarkson’s departure from the BBC: