Ask any Top Gear fan which is the worst episode of TG and they would mention the India Special. For those who do not know what is the episode about, in summary, the boys are sent as British representatives to try and foster trade relations with India. Thus, they brought the best British cars they can find for £7,000 and along the way building relations with India. This being Top Gear, they obviously failed but overall the episode does not seem to be getting anywhere. It’s just an hour of them humiliating themselves and Britain, plus there’s nothing much about the cars they were driving. No wonder fans hated it. It was a pointless and meaningless episode that brought out cheap entertainment.
Fast forward to the second episode of The Grand Tour and unfortunately this episode is reminiscent of the India Special. I know that this is just the second episode of an entirely new program but already I am confused at the end of the episode. Let’s start off with a small intro about today’s episode. This week, the boys are in Johannesburg, South Africa. More specifically, The Cradle of Humankind, the land where paleontologists believe modern humans began evolving from. It’s just then, things got a little bit weird. Hammond started posing Clarkson, widely regarded as a giant orangutan by Hammond, how long has homo sapiens been on this planet to which things get political. Clarkson’s answer evoked a footage of South African President, Jacob Zuma having difficulty reading aloud 769,82(0?).
Zuma himself is a controversial figure and we know based on old TG, the show loves a little controversy, especially Clarkson. However, this time, I feel a little uncomfortable with the joke which reminds me of a segment in The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. The Grand Tour is about cars and maybe a little bit of Brits showing the middle finger to the world while at the same time oblivious to the fact that they are not the superpower that once was. TG was good at mixing British nationalism while at the same time retaining itself as a car show but they do it so subtly just like their humour. TGT though is trying a little too hard and things become awkward here. Of course, they continue to make fun of South Africa by inserting in some stereotypes into the mix. In the first episode, they made fun of Americans for calling some parts of the car differently and comparing the air force. In South Africa, they made fun of the wildlife and the incompetency of the South African civil servants. Needless to say, this looks like a trend for their episodes.
From making fun of South Africa, the next segment is Clarkson reviewing the Aston Martin Vulcan. Actually, it also makes fun of his tall frame for struggling to enter the car and later stalling it. The Aston looks complex to drive and Clarkson shows it but overall the video looks really good. A step up compared to the BMW M2. Then again, the Vulcan is loud. Really loud but they managed to balance it all out. Great review and respect to Clarkson for eventually getting the hang of this car. Heck, the gears are connected to the removable steering wheel. Unfortunately, this is the only segment in the ENTIRE episode worth watching and everything else falls down here on out. Let us begin with the follow up lap time by TGT’s in-house American Mike Skinner, which I skipped entirely. Nevertheless, the Vulcan goes top on the leaderboard.
On the bright side, this week’s Conversation Street looks better than last week. There is that banter we all loved in the Top Gear news segment when the three of them are discussing about downforce after seeing pictures of Aston Martin’s collaboration with red Bull Racing. The later parts of Conversation Street sees them talking about the alarmingly high car-jacking cases in South Africa and a device to prevent one’s bicycle from being stolen. Overall, this week’s Conversation Street actually sparks a conversation about something more entertaining than May’s pathetic speed ticket.
Moving on to this week’s main video, which, to be honest I do not really know what is the point. The premise is that the three boys would have to rescue a VIP, in this case the “Queen” from hostages. The catch is if anyone of them gets shot, they would have to restart it all over from the beginning. Kinda like that Tom Cruise movie, Cocktail. Along the way, there is also a review of the Audi S8 hidden somewhere in that messy pile of…something. There’s a Dacia Duster which should be GOOD NEWS but it is badged as a Renault instead. I would like to see May doing a review on the Duster while the other two haplessly try to shoot out the baddies but that did not happen. Also, since Clarkson, especially him, likes to talk about the armed forces, they could be presenting about the vehicles used in warfare rather than to turn it into a B-movie action parody disguised as a review for an Audi sports sedan.
I was disappointed to say the least. While the 23rd series of Top Gear slowly toned down the shouty ginger after the first episode, The Grand Tour still tries to find its footing in the second episode. I hate to see them fall backwards and while there is still hope for the next ten episodes in this first season, I can’t pretty much say the same for my optimism.
- The Vulcan review
- Conversation Street talking about downforce
- James May’s short spinning segment. It should have been longer and it would be interesting to see May trying to spin a car or perhaps a short segment about the car culture in SA
- May vs the “Queen”
- Mike FRIGGIN Skinner
- The intro went a little too political comedy show. It’s The Grand Tour not The Governmental Thrashing
- The jokes. SIGH
- 3/4 of the show
Episode 2 – Operation Desert Stumble: 1.78/5
Images credit: Amazon, Top Gear India Special: BBC