The Grand Tour officially began its second season December 8, with Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May at the helm. Although the spirit of the show remains the same, there are plenty of changes from its inaugural journey.
1.Is it still a big tent tour?
There’s still a big tent, but it isn’t touring. The tent is now permanently situated in England, near the home of Clarkson in the Cotswolds. The set is still virtually unchanged from last year, which is a good thing, but now the panoramic view from the giant window behind the hosts may be fixed on one location all season long. That almost defeats who purpose of why they created the tent in the first place.
What really stinks about this is now those from other parts of the world (like me) hoping to see a live taping of the show in a city near them will no longer have that chance. They’ll have to make their way to England if they want to vie for this privilege.
2. Does this static location mean the boys are slowing down?
Absolutely not. They may have a set “home base,” but they are still heading off all over the world for their adventures this season. The first episode sent them to gorgeous locations in Switzerland and Croatia, and upcoming shows will take them back to the United States, including Colorado and New York, Spain, Mozambique, and more—and nearly killing themselves in the process.
There was no shortage of beautiful locations, challenges, high-speed driving, or excitement in the first show.
3. Will we see Richard Hammond’s heavily publicized crash?
The very first episode does, indeed, include Hammond’s near-fatal crash in the Rimac Concept One supercar, and it is intense and frightening. Since the tent segments are filmed much later than the trio’s world travels, they are all able to joke about it. Also acknowledged was Clarkson’s debilitating bout with pneumonia, another focus of attention between the seasons.
Both Hammond and Clarkson have recovered well, and they even used these incidents as ongoing jokes about keeping anything from happening to James May.
4. What are some other big changes?
In addition to the traveling tent no longer traveling, there are two big changes in Season 2, which are both improvements.
First, driver Mike “The American” Skinner is gone. He didn’t resonate well with the audience at all. He was a blatant, insulting stereotype to American viewers and an irritating bore to those from everywhere else. There was no test track driving of a new car in the first episode at all, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be in future episodes.
UPDATE: Episode 2 revealed their new test driver to be champion race car driver Abbie Eaton, and fans have so far been very receptive to her no-frills, straight forward driving style, sans snarky commentary.
Second, the Celebrity Brain Crash, in which a celebrity “guest” meets their gruesome demise before making it to the tent, is also nixed. I actually really liked this segment for the first couple of shows—the first one with Jeremy Remmer was pretty hilarious—but the joke got stale and predictable by the end of the season.
With the Brain Crash gone, they now have actual celebrity guests, but instead of mimicking the familiar formula of one celebrity trying their time around a track, they pit two celebrities with similar occupations against each other in a timed lap. The first show featured two “former talent show judges,” Ricky Wilson from The Voice UK and David Hasselhoff from America’s Got Talent, in their new competition they called Celebrity Face Off–they shortened it to “F Off,” of course.
5. Is there anything returning from last year?
Their Conversation Street is still the same, along with its clever silhouetted intro. This was an ideal way to fit in a brief sight gag before their commentary last season, and viewers liked seeing what they’d do with it each week. It is nice to see they kept this concept intact.
6. Is it still TV-14?
Yes, and from the looks of it, they will continue to push the envelope.
Last year’s season got progressively cruder each episode, from “naughty words” to rubber “naughty bits” and a town named F**king (pronounced FOO-king), but they ignored that fact.
In this first show alone, there was mild cursing, innuendo, some scatological commentary, and a cheap pot shot at the American response to the World Trade Center 9-11 attacks from Clarkson. So we’re pretty much on track to head in the same direction as last year. Viewers also got to enjoy Clarkson getting a colonic, which resulted in some very funny comments.
Proceed with caution in watching with younger views, or simply preview the episodes first. That’s one of the great things about streaming content.
7. Is it still Amazon Prime’s main event?
No, but that’s to be expected. Last year, when Amazon snatched up the coveted car threesome of Clarkson, Hammond, and May, there was publicity and promotions everywhere. This season’s fanfare has been more low key. Yes, Amazon is still pushing it plenty on the site, but there doesn’t seem to be the overkill of last season, where The Grand Tour pretty much owned every advertising space on Amazon.
One thing you won’t see is a big, expensive opening scene like the one that kicked off Season 1. This season starts out with a plain, no-frills opening. It’s better to keep the episode consistently entertaining than try to beat an over-the-top opening segment.
The honeymoon phase may be over, but the relationship is still happy. The first episode of Season 2 is still fast-paced and high quality.
8. Is it all fun and games, or will we actually learn something?
This first episode still had plenty of car facts and comparisons, as well as a nifty look at the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne that includes an interactive exhibit resembling a big warehouse bay area. Visitors can use a touchscreen to bring the vehicle they want to see to them, like a giant vending machine or automat. The vehicles themselves weren’t exciting, but the presentation was incredibly innovative.
Thanks to Hammond’s crash, we also learned a pretty alarming fact about the batteries in electric cars that I never before considered. Definitely could “spark” some discussion if having a gas vs. electric debate with friends.
Really, it contained copious amounts of the reason people love Clarkson, Hammond, and May working together, as Clarkson himself said, “Driving around corners a bit too quickly while shouting and bickering.”
9. Do we need to see Season 1 to enjoy the new episodes?
Not at all. The Grand Tour, like other motoring shows, doesn’t work that way. It isn’t a linear story, and you can jump in any time. Unless it’s a two-parter, every episode stands alone.
Of course, this is a streaming Amazon Prime show, so you can still catch up on last year’s show before watching, or wait and binge Season 2 once all the episodes are released. Make sure to also see our review of The Grand Tour Season One for a refresher on the series.
The Grand Tour Season Two Episode 1, “Past, Present or Future,” is now available on Amazon Prime, with Episode 2, “The Falls Guys,” available next week.