With five episodes in its bag, The Grand Tour has drawn plenty of criticism about the show’s format; how it feels a bit too scripted and just a rehash of old Top Gear. We’d like to tell those critics to shut up for a second, and to not take yourself or the show too seriously. For us at Shifting Lanes, a Grand Tour episode allows us to unwind, laugh, and be thoroughly entertained for one solid hour, scripted or not. With the latest episode, “Moroccan Roll”, The Grand Tour proved that not all of the show is scripted. How did it fare with the other episodes thus far? Read on through our SPOILER ridden review below:The Boys kicked the fifth show of The Grand Tour in Rotterdam, Netherlands, which meant that we expected the in-tent portion of the show to be filled with commentary about Dutch problems and Dutch inside jokes. We weren’t far off. We were served with facts like how the Dutch is stereotypically tall and beautiful, how the country is where the Brits go for prostitutes, and how Swaffelen is a thing. We’re not particularly fond with this segment of the show as it’s beginning to feel like an Amazonian attempt at marketing to a wider audience. I think James May captured our sentiments best when he said “Shall we get on with the show?”
Quickly, on with the show they went, to North Africa, where they did a proper test to see if the Mazda MX-5 is all the sports car a person needs. This episode, just like the Mazda MX-5 which we have done a proper review of, is already off to an exciting and excellent start. As Hammond laid down the MX-5’s basic formula of lightweight engine up front, rear-wheel drive, and two seats, he was quickly interrupted by James May riding in the Zenos E10S. We’ve seen this car before in an episode of the rebooted Top Gear with Chris Evans (Also the fifth episode! Coincidence?… Yes). May argued that the Zenos is now the quintessential sports car as it has stuck with the main sports car recipe, unlike Hammond’s Mazda which has gone and added extra frills to further weigh the already underpowered car down.
The two guys reviewing the cars is The Grand Tour sticking with a Top Gear routine that works: Have brilliant reviewers review brilliant cars in a stunning location. Marrakesh, Morocco was quite an exotic location as it had its fair share of curvaceous roads and stunning mountainous backdrop, perfect for these two cars to be strutted by Hamster and Captain Slow. As they bickered about May’s Zenos having a lack of doors, they were surprised by the sudden arrival of Jeremy Clarkson looking like a German game show host. The adventure was now a threesome sports car comparison, as Clarkson brought along an Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, which we have also reviewed here on Shifting Lanes. We shared the same sentiments as Clarkson did during his review, we just can’t imagine how he was able to fit in such a tiny car. It didn’t come as a surprise when Clarkson had to stop the car because he was suffering a foot cramp.
Not before long a drag race scene happened between the Alfa Romeo and the spartan Zenos E10S. The outcome of this race was predictable as the Zenos possessed a very potent Focus ST 250 horsepower engine, that’s been strapped to a doorless and roofless chassis, while the Alfa Romeo had a 1.7 liter 237 horsepower engine mounted in a fully featured car, regardless of how much carbon fiber it had. What took us by surprise was that James May actually won a drag race. Clarkson’s confusion over his loss helped setup the middle third of the film: Weighing the cars.At this point you may say to yourself, “Wow, this entire show is just one big script!” And you’re not wrong. Jeremy Clarkson casually strolling in the middle of Marrakesh wearing a silly purple sport coat, running into his two cohorts, while a three-way two seater sports car battle breaking out may just be the ultimate definition of scripted. But what came next, the car-weighing segment, showed us that even the most scripted show will have brief moments of unpredictability. When you combine that really fresh moment of unpredictability along with the Trio’s chemistry, that’s when The Grand Tour really kicks into top gear (pun intended).
As the three buffoons attempt to weigh their cars against livestock on a weigh-bridge with great difficulty, we can’t imagine the type of firestorm or the type of editing Amazon will have to do, regarding the use of dead and skinned cows as a means for counterweighting. We’ve seen that they will edit episodes in regions where the subject matter may offend the masses. While this insanity went on we were treated with a brilliant and unscripted moment where the weigh-bridge massively failed during an attempt to offload the MX-5. This failure was clearly unscripted as it placed the presenters’ and the crews’ lives at risk. Hammond became legitimately upset over this, perhaps because his life almost ended or because the Mazda got damaged from the ridiculous stunt. Still, we were a bit bummed that this fallout didn’t really unfold very much as it looked like it could have been another Oliver moment.Afterward, Clarkson was quickly jettisoned by both Hammond and May, as they felt both Clarkson and the Alfa Romeo were completely inappropriate for this sports car comparison. As a result of this conflict, we were treated with one of the best cinematography The Grand Tour has ever done. Supplemented by Dusty Springfield’s haunting voice singing “Windmills Of Your Mind”, Clarkson took the 4C to an audio-visual trip to review the two seater sports car. This art piece summarized what the Alfa Romeo is all about, and Jeremy Clarkson said it best:
“The thing about this Alfa is if you talk about it you’re going to criticize it, if you just look at it you’re going to fall in love.”
Capping the Moroccan Roll episode was a good old hot lap segment around an abandoned film set in Marrakesh. Here is where we witnessed how difficult racing can be around a loose dirt track, and for these old presenters to muscle the two-seater sports cars around with relative ease shows how long they’ve been doing this and how skilled they really are. James May, despite what the other two have said about his inability to drive fast has really disproved that stereotype in this show. However, his inability to find the track by the first turn further solidified his tendencies to get lost, a defining Captain Slow attribute in many old Top Gear adventures.Outside of the main film was a fairly lengthy but extremely entertaining take on the classic Battleship board game. Typically a dull and dated game of educated guessing, both James May and Richard Hammond has brought this tabletop game to a massive scale involving truly horrendous cars such as the PT Cruiser, Toyota Prius, some Limousines and RVs, and PLENTY of G-Wiz acting as missiles. We didn’t think this segment was going to be entertaining, as the tabletop version of the game rarely brings any excitement for adults. However, the combination of pure joy in May’s and Hammond’s eyes as the G-Wizzes hit or miss their targets, build an utter sense of excitement and suspense, that you’d have to restrain yourself from cheering on. This skit is one of the more entertaining motoring games this group has ever done.Overall, ‘Moroccan Roll’ was another brilliant Grand Tour episode despite what critics will probably call ‘scripted’. It’ll be difficult for The Grand Tour to continually top itself week after week, and season after season. As we cover this week by week we continue to ask ourselves when this whole show will just turn south for good. But so far the show has exceeded our expectations and we have been thoroughly impressed. This is a really expensive and gigantic show, and the level of effort Amazon has put into its development shines through the screen. The Grand Tour is one hell of a ride and it’s a ton of fun. We can’t wait to see what comes out next week! Will it be a Christmas Special?