Executive producers of Top Gear may be kicking themselves after firing host Jeremy Clarkson for punching a producer on the show. Why? Well, not only did Clarkson’s co-hosts, Richard Hammond and James May, walk off the show as well, the trio have landed a new show on Amazon and it’s breaking all records.
Rewind three years. The producers and hosts of the British Television series Top Gear were awarded a certificate by Genius Book of World Records declaring the show to have the highest viewership of any factual show on earth (approximately 350 million, worldwide).
What was the magic? Apparently the hosts. Top Gear revolved around its three hosts: Clarkson, Hammond and May. The British trio test drove some of the world’s greatest cars in some of the world’s greatest locations.
Yet, last year was a rough one for the show. The three hosts were attacked during a shoot in South America, and then, there was that unfortunate punching incident. Then all hell broke loose. The show recast, but viewership has plummeted to about half of that of previous years.
Fast forward to present. Our British trio, you know, the guys with all the magic, are now hosting a competing show, The Grand Tour, on Amazon. Adding insult to injury, the new show nabbed several producers and crew members from the original Top Gear as well. However, the most painful part of this whole debacle for Top Gear must be this. Since the first episode aired in November, The Grand Tour has shattered online streaming records and has become the highest-rated television show of all time on IMDb. Why? You got it. That merry little band of British hosts! Let’s review.
The success of Top Gear has been the subject of conversation for years for a couple of reasons. First, many argue the cinematography and production value of the BBC show demanded attention. Others praise the unique blend of exotic car fetishism mixed with travel adventures. What no one can argue, especially now, is the importance of the on-screen chemistry shared by the three hosts.
Clarkson, May and Hammond clearly love hanging out together. Watching them is like watching three brothers argue. It’s strangely endearing, and, quite frankly, enjoyable. It also makes them unbelievably relatable. More importantly, it means the foundation of the show isn’t cars at all, but their friendship. That’s why Top Gear had 350 million viewers worldwide.
Friendship transcends gender, culture, location, class, color and even language. It’s also why when Clarkson was “let go,” May and Hammond immediately walked out with him. There is something special about that kind of friendship — special enough for Amazon Studios to shell out over $180 million (Netflix claims $250 million) for the trio to make three seasons of a new car show, The Grand Tour.
The new show is fun and eerily similar to Top Gear. It’s not groundbreaking in any way. It merely showcases the close, friendly relationship of its hosts. There are still some good laughs, the cinematography is just as good, and the cars are as exotic as ever.
What’s crazy is the impact it’s had on Amazon. Prime subscriptions set a new record, second only to last year’s Prime Day. International demand was so high, that Amazon bent over backwards to ensure streaming availability in dozens of new countries. The Grand Tour is a statistical hit.
So, maybe there’s something to be learned here. Perhaps entertainment is simply better, more relatable, more fun, more everything when it showcases that which we all want — true friendship.
Then again, it could be the cars.