The Grand Tour – Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May’s little post-Top Gear project – is now available on Amazon Prime. Here executive producer Andy Wilman reveals what to expect from the new show, and exactly what it took to bring “three ageing imbeciles” back together.
I occasionally use Amazon to do some shopping and 18 months ago, I have to confess, I was spending quite a bit of time browsing the 1,000-piece jigsaw section. I mean, each to his own when you’re unemployed: Jeremy will have been in his pants watching box sets, James stripping down another motorbike with Jeremy Kyle on in the background, Richard taking that Tuscan cookery course he’s always dreamed of.
Amazon themselves called, we all slid down the Batpole, and here we are, 18 months on, my “Classic English Countryside” is still in its box, but we have gone and got another car show ready.
How do I feel? Knackered and panicked — but that’s inevitable. It took us a full calendar year to make 12 Top Gears when we were all slotted into a well-oiled machine, but this time we’ve had to make 12 shows, and devise new elements, and form a production company, and deal with the absence of a Stig, and find a name, and learn to speak American — it’s been a bit mental to say the least.
I think this also answers the question I’m often asked: “Did the break do you good?”
There was no break.
What there was, was a massive dose of nerves and uncertainty, and in those situations we tend to head for the comfort of what we know, which is filming, being on the road, shooting cars, falling over, following the Pringles 5:2 Diet (five boxes during the day, two more when you realise you’ve missed dinner).
Lunch time in Jordan
Our first film was in Portugal at a track where we’d gathered the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 and La Ferrari for the ultimate hypercar shootout. It was a setting we’d been in countless times but I recall that first morning thinking: “I know the cameraman knows what to do, but do those three still know what to do?”
The test is not the driving of a car past a camera but the banter between them. What a sigh of relief I exhaled when they blathered away, with no script, and I could see people chuckling out of the corner of my eye. I’m probably being a bit over-dramatic — the drivel coming out of their mouths is hardly Shakespeare — but the fact their drivel-producing capacity hadn’t diminished was important to me.
Anyway, that film is a belter. In fact we’re kicking the series off with it, which is contrary to all our plans. Logic says that when you’ve spent all those years building up a broad audience, you don’t kick off with a petrol head-ish film, but this one rocks. It is a statement. It is what you’re getting.
As for the second show, well, that couldn’t be more different. The boys are in Jordan, at a Special Forces training centre, where they have to mount a dangerous rescue mission. There are cars involved but my God does the needle shoot up on the Cockabout-o-meter.
And so it goes from there really, with the three of them over the 12 shows, tripping daintily from one adventure to another. I’m excited and proud of what we will serve up. It won’t be perfect — no way it can be under this time pressure — and the hype is making out like this is Skyfall coming, whereas in fact it’s a weekly car show with three ageing imbeciles.
But hopefully that’s what people want. And if we screw up, I already have an idea for a replacement show — Celebrity Jigsaw Live.