I got up at 7am to watch 'The Grand Tour' and if you don't read this I want my money back.
All screen shots via Amazon Prime
Your dad loves you, but he became a different person the moment you were born, and that's a man he can't claw back. When you were born he was imbued with responsibility and reason, and suddenly had a thing for picking the miniature screwdriver sets out of Christmas crackers, holding them rapt to the light, and saying, "That'll be useful, that". When you were born your dad was happy, but he also lost the ability to be truly happy: sometimes, when your dad approaches happiness now, a sick lurch jolts him from his chair, and he remembers you need money, and food, and clothes, and shelter, and that it falls on him to provide them, and maybe he should take more shifts, maybe he could do some taxiing, maybe he could crack an ISA open, give you the yolk inside. Your dad loves you, yes, but a very dark part of him just yearns for a singular moment of peace.
Today is that moment of peace. Day booked off work, sent mum off with nan to the garden centre, bit of WD40 on the action on his Laz-E-Boy, all the instructions for making Amazon Prime work on the big TV written in hand on the back of a big A4 envelope. He is ready. The Grand Tour just dropped.
The Grand Tour, if you did not know, is TV for dads, because Top Gear was TV for dads, and The Grand Tour is, obviously, just Top Gear again. But how "for dads" is the new episode of TV for dads? Well, let's get up at seven o'clock in the fucking morning and watch it and find out. First, obviously, we must consult the "yer da" matrix.
THE YER DA MATRIX
Being a father is a straight fact: you have a child, you are its primary male carer, it looks up to you, you will teach it to shave one day or threaten its first boyfriend, you will have complex feelings of shame and pride when it grows taller than you; this animal you must protect from harm without outwardly loving it, like fathers do. Being a da is different, ethereal, harder to pin down. You can be a father and not "yer da". But you cannot be "yer da" without being a father. Listen, it's complex, and the matrix explains it better.
Here are the five base states of da-dom, driven down to the quick:
Encountering literally any traffic on an early morning drive to an airport
This is the angriest yer da can possibly, possibly be. There's two Astras and a Jeep between him and a car park, and he's losing his rag. Your flight isn't for another six hours. Yer da has forgotten the machinations of speech and is just yelling. Yelling and yelling and yelling. This is the angriest he can possibly be. This is Peak Da.
Discovering that a foreign football player is wearing pink or orange boots
Yer da is angry about Phillipe Coutinho, but he's not fully angry about Phillipe Coutinho. This elevated state is called, in da lingo, "in a tizz".
Taking an hour-and-a-half shit with nothing but the racing pages for company
This is yer da's latent state: he is neither happy nor sad, he is just there, quivering in the vague area of contentedness, putting two pink dents into the crooks of his thighs.
Sipping a real ale for the first ever time and going, "yeah: it's alright, this."
Yer da is approaching peacefulness.
Watching cricket for eight straight hours without anybody saying a single word to him
Other things yer da can get angry at: a mole he thought he'd won a months-long war with leaves a mound in his lawn; being poured a Guinness in any way that deviates from the way he knows; Snapchat. Things that can soothe him: a really well-done Airfix model; black coffee served in a polystyrene cup at a crisp-in-the-air garden centre; watching F1 qualifying. You can make your own da matrix at home, but this is the one we're using today. Onwards.
LET'S WATCH THIS EPISODE OF 'THE GRAND TOUR', TOGETHER
The first thing you notice when The Grand Tour rolls onto the screen is that the first episode is a bumper one hour eleven minutes long, so yer da's initial excitement is akin to that time he heard Myleene Klass had split from her husband and he genuinely thought he might be in with a chance.
A cold opening that obliquely references the BBC and your dad is rioting in his chair again. "And that's another thing about The One Show—". A strong start.
First car, a Mustang, Jeremy pulls this face when he sees a Mustang. It's four minutes in and somehow we have already broken the graph.
The big season opener is an LA scene montage with "I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Has Gone" playing in the background, which is essentially the most orgasmic your dad has felt since i. your conception ii. that one time he pried a lid off a pot of paint and there was no paint on the lid ("Come take a photo"). Jeremy, James and Hammond spend honest-to-god five minutes doing choreographed driving out in to the desert, where a baying crowd of American da's await them, whooping and hollering, the best days of their life finally here.
Here they are, the fellas:
Your dad is crying at this point. "Don't look at me!"
Then they get up on stage (the band are called Hothouse Flowers and we are accruing da points at an unfeasible rate of knots). Jeremy Clarkson starts speaking at 5:20 minutes in and makes his first "James May drives slowly" joke at 5:31. Your da doesn't like things changing: he doesn't get political correctness, doesn't feel the need for it; you remember how agitated he got when your mum got that Marie Kondo book and threw out that wad of AutoTraders he'd been keeping by his chair for six years. This is why he likes Top Gear, The Grand Tour: nothing changes. He's had to deal with enough conversations over roasts from you about why he's not allowed to call it a "chinky shop" anymore and he's given up. But this is his safe space. In the desert, with 100,000 other sunburnt dads, laughing openly at how slow James May drives. Sometimes things don't need to change, do they, to be good. That's what yer da thinks.
A hero's welcome for the deposed king.
Jeremy makes his first joke about "the internet". Your dad doesn't, truly, get it. First low.
JC: "We're going to be like gypsies... only the cars we drive, are going to be insured."
RH: "Stop saying things that are going to get us fired."
Yer da's rubbing his hands together with glee at this. "Jeremy's back!" he's saying, pointing to you. "Nothing 'trans' about Jeremy, is there!"
There are a lot of reveals of The Boys to a crowd of adoring dads in this show. It's honestly pathetic, but to yer da, this is nirvana, so let's let him have this. We're back at a peaceful keel:
This is what the new studio looks like. Same as the old one. Your dad's feeling content.
Your dad thinks Jeremy's check shirt, large-shouldered blazer, bootcuts and Chelsea boots is the height of fashion. He tried to wear this exact outfit to your cousin's wedding but your mum sent him back upstairs to get changed. "But it— it's smart-casual, Lynn!" Fuming, all night. Kept bumming fags off your uncle even though he quit eight years ago. Absolutely fuming. "She's a bitch, mate," he kept saying. "She's ruined my life."
Jeremy's doing a bit about how Americans have different words for things, because honestly "the jokes worked in the '90s didn't they and we had fun then so why have anything new now? Why? No, I don't like Michael McIntyre. I think he's rubbish." Yer da's having a go.
Jeremy's just flashed a photo of a Prius up and the crowd is booing. 2016 has been a year of intense upheaval and change, and nobody is feeling this more than your dad. He needs to hear the same nine shit jokes he's heard since this show began. He needs an anchor in the storm.
They've made it way more cinematic, which is nice. Yer da doesn't notice.
First camera-on-the-road-with-a-car-driving-over-it shot of the series. Your dad's gone mental. The graph, right now, is all over the shop:
It didn't, to be fair to them, take long to get back into the swing of things: Hammond and Clarkson are doing some tight banter about whose car can do a better MPG, I am not even joking, and then they lead into a bit. The bit, here, is: Jeremy doesn't like Richard's car, a Porsche, and Richard doesn't like his, a McLaren P1. How will this play out, I wonder. Will they both concede each others' cars are good. Like they always do. I wonder. What could happen.
RH just said "I didn't know it was possible to shit yourself to death" and your dad's paused it again. "You don't get THAT on Hollyoaks, or whatever that toss you watch is!" he's saying. "Lynn!" he's shouting. "LYNN!"
There's a pause.
"What?" your mum says, from upstairs.
"They don't say 'shit' on Emmerdale Farm, do they?"
"I'm upstairs!" your mum says. Point proved. 1-0 yer da. A new high.
DING DING DING and if you're playing along at home, please take a drink at this: the first shot that really, really looks like one of them drove a car so fast they came.
They just argued about cars while May slowly drove in behind them with a car, like it always does, because NOTHING HAS CHANGED. But then, think: yer da has a pair of underpants he is proud to tell you "he's had since 1988", and the elastic has gone and the crotch is threadbare too, but he wears them, still, on principle, grumbling "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" – stretching the very concept of "ain't broke" to breaking point, ironically – and this, this is that: the exact same thing, just again, because why change, because what's change ever done, why is change so good, stop going on about change.
They've got computers now, it's a bit Tom Cruise film. Your dad's not into it. Full "glistening skin sounds" when the chassis comes off. Bit gross. A lull:
Extended supercar montage just for yer da. This is honestly close to erotic for him. Minutes upon minutes of glistening HD sports cars is exactly what he needed.
They've set Clarkson up as The Main One, just like yer da used to argue they always should.
They both decide their cars are good and May, the jester, the buffoon, struggles to reverse a lorry through a tiny Portuguese village. Is your dad weeping?
They do a bit where Jeremy calls James May "slow" again and says bicycles are toys. "They fucking are!" yer da's saying (he's had a cider). We are sustaining:
James May's been done for speeding and your dad is loving the banter. "The gang's back together!" This is important to him. Your dad spends most weekends holding your mum's purse and fleece while she walks slowly around Debenhams. Who really hangs out with your dad, honestly? May, Hammond and Clarkson do. They are always there. And getting the gang back together is like all his old mates – before the marriages, before the children, before the bankruptcies and the divorce – got back together, and caught up about old times in the pub, and said how James May was slow.
We're going round the new track and Jeremy is giving all the corners really, really overthought nicknames. Your dad is home.
Jeremy has some bangles and bracelets on this series – real "trying to pull 30-year-olds in Dean Street Townhouse" vibes.
They have another tame racing driver with another nickname. Am I having a stroke, and all my dying mind can muster is the same old shit as before? Or is this genuinely, no about-fucking, the exact same show as Top Gear? How is this legal? Stig Mk. II has a face and a voice and makes a load of jokes about how the car is shit because he is American. Yer da's not here for it. "If I wanted to hear someone chatting shit I'd turn on Talksport," he says, while turning on Talksport.
And then we move towards a crescendo. Back in the studio, Jeremy gets into some banter with the American audience about World War II. "Spark the cunt out, Jeremy!" your dad's saying. He's had another cider. The rhythm of the old series is there – the same uncopyable patter, that golden bond between the three of them – and it's like it never went away, and yer da, love him, is smitten all over again.
There is a weird bit with Armie Hammer and Jeremy Renner. Yer da does not know who either of them is. Yer mum says something about Armie Hammer being "dishy", and he puts it on mute.
There's a whole bit about cars racing each other, you know how it goes. I don't need to recap the exact 20 minutes of it but needless to say yer da abso—
And then, the last minute. "He's gonna say it," yer da's saying. "He's gonna say it." What. "He's gonna say, 'on that bomb shell', and light will be restored, and Top Gear shall return to me, and I will be happy, truly, in my soul, for the first time in months – I signed the petition, love, I made a noise, I wrote a letter to the local paper, I watched the BBC version, for god's sake, and all I ask – I, as a dad, as your dad – all I ask is one hour a week where I can look longingly at cars I'll never afford. And there is he: just as it ever was, and Jeremy's going to say "on that bombshell", and everything's going to be alright, and order will be restored again, Top Gear is ba—"
Jeremy Clarkson says "on that disappointment" instead. Your dad has to go to the shed and smoke an entire sheathe of duty-free Camels before he'll come back inside again. Final tally:
So look at the final graph and there are some real peaks and troughs for yer da there: on first glance, you might think the first episode of The Grand Tour might be a disappointment. But you haven't factored in the sustained da control, which is illustrated here:
Note here that yer da's expectation for the series start high, and they get higher. No, The Grand Tour isn't for you – it's a throwback, the same format with slightly more gloss, it's about three middle-aged men saying "wow" in borrowed Ferraris. It isn't for you. It's for yer da, an hour a week for him to be himself. And for that, I guess, it's fine.
Don't call yer da today – "It's Grand Tour day, you mad twat! Why you ringing on the house phone! The dog's going mental!" – but call him tomorrow, have a chat with him, see how he is. You probably don't do it enough, do you? He can be hard to talk to and even harder to get through to. But today he's happy, and if you can, you should share in it. He's just got his mates back. Let him have them.
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