Rarely is there a show with so much resting on its shoulders; The Grand Tour has to succeed on a new streaming service, with a gargantuan budget to recoup, against possibly the most ardent and easy-to-enrage fanbase in the business. That and it’s not allowed to break my heart.
Budget: Slightly Smaller Than The Apollo Program
The precise cost of making The Grand Tour isn’t exactly public information (my attempts to break into Jeremy Clarkson’s Swiss safe deposit box was unsuccessful) but it’s not hard to piece together that this is a colossally expensive production. If the first scene is anything to go by, The Grand Tour is the most expensive production.
The opening scene alone for GT reportedly cost $3.2 million, very likely the most expensive scene ever shot for TV.
Beyond that, this is a show that has three of the highest-paid people in TV, and it flies them around the world to drive the most expensive cars in the world, paying for insurance and race track rentals as they go. Not cheap!
Platform: Totally Different From What Worked Before
This is a difficult one to read. On the one hand, this is a totally new platform and distribution method for Clarkson, Hammond and May. Top Gear would go on every Sunday at 8 in the UK. Everybody watched it. People who didn’t care at all about cars watched it. That fostered the whole Top Gear ethos that was so successful around the world. The new Amazon format is set up so people will go and look for a car-related show, and have to pay to get in on the action. $99 for a yearly subscription is what you’ve got to pay for Amazon Prime.
That said, even if every single person in the UK just happened to tune in for the show because of its good TV spot, that wouldn’t account for its worldwide success. The show as a concept probably doesn’t need TV distribution to survive. Moreover, Amazon Prime is doing fantastic right now. At least, business articles I googled today say Amazon Prime is doing fantastic right now. I don’t have the service.
But people who do, love it.
Amazon Prime has 49 million members spending an average of $139 a month with a 91% subscription renewal rate, as Fortune reports. I don’t get why anyone would watch TV off Amazon, but the service actually looks pretty good for GT. Moreover, it’s not like people really have to hunt for the show. Amazon (like Netflix) works extremely hard to put its own shows in front of you, with algorithms, research and advertising.
Fanbase: We Will Cut You
To say that the TG fanbase is a hardcore bunch of sunsabitches is an understatement. It is a never-satisfied church of obsession that possibly drove Chris Evans, the BBC’s replacement for Jeremy Clarkson, insane. He got the boot from Top Gear proper after his first season. Fans are willing to turn on anything that’s not their beloved classic show.
Put simply, above their deep seated love for Clarkson, Hammond and May, nothing is good enough for their fans. They Hate, and they Hate with a passion that burns with the fury of a thousand suns. Will The Grand Tour break their hearts? Of course it will! Hell, fans were pouring out hate even back when Clarkson, Hammond and May were on Top Gear. The show wasn’t enough about cars. The show was too much about cars. The jokes are stale. The jokes are new and weird. Nothing was good enough.
So The Grand Tour has a lot of pressure to deal with. I hope they know that. I hope they don’t screw up the show. Because if they do, I’ll cut them.