Have you ever wanted to see Richard Hammond drive a tank through a wall? No? Me neither. But I didn’t know I did until tonight’s episode of The Grand Tour, “Up, Down, And Round The Farm.”
The first film is Richard’s stunt-and-crash-filled trip to the UAE. He starts out driving a massively overpowered dune buggy that does quite excellent wheelies, but thankfully for Richard, he’s doing them on a flat surface far away from any badly placed Swiss hills. Then we get the really fun bit: the Ripsaw, a fast, lightweight tank which is designed for the customer and is apparently legal to drive on a road (and atop roundabouts). At least in Dubai.
Visibility is reportedly poor, but since you can drive it over anything which might escape your view, it’s not too much of a problem. Taking it through a shopping mall, and through a wall within it, is somewhat opposite to Clarkson’s trip through a mall in the P45 on TopGear. It’s a crisply-produced, informative, and fun segment overall.
Up next is James’ review of the refreshingly tiny and underpowered Volkswagen Up! GTI, which is a wonderful little thing on paper. It’s quite slow, but it has retro paint and plaid seats, which makes it absolute petrolhead bait. Naturally, it’s got a couple of explosions too–the film, not the car, because Hammond’s not driving–as, of course, The Grand Tour doesn’t do subtle. I may smell a petrol-powered replacement once the lease on his i3 is up.
Its track time is barely worth mentioning, but it does a catastrophically slow 1:39.7 if you’re interested. But that’s simply not what the Up! GTI is about, and most people won’t care less.
During Celebrity Face-Off, two people who have failed former careers in a band, actor Dominic Cooper and comedian Bill Bailey, take the F-Type around the celebrity track. Bailey tells the story of how he bought a Citroen DS to escape France during the infamous explosion of that one Icelandic volcano whose name I can’t be bothered to Google, then Cooper discusses learning to drive in a Citroen 2CV and his current Austin-Healey Sprite. In the end, Cooper turns a 1:23.6, handily beating Bailey’s 1:25.1, despite the latter’s massive quantity of speeding tickets.
Clarkson then tries to create his own version of a Ken Block drifting video, using an old Subaru and a bit of farmland. The resulting…thing is “Farmkhana,” which, thanks to the show’s trademark astronomical production quality, initially turns out quite convincingly, all the shots of Clarkson’s exposed teeth notwithstanding. About halfway through, however, Clarkson’s innate lack of talent becomes clear as the Subaru gains a new crack or dent with virtually every shot, providing plenty of fodder during Hammond and May’s shot-by-shot takedown of the entire film.
The final film is much more fun than I expected it to be, as it provides a nice little peek behind the scenes of the show, such as what color t-shirts the cameramen favor and where the support van is parked. Until, that is, until we reach the sheep-herding part, in which many dead sheep are peppered all over the field and the Subaru ends up in a ditch, and the show’s utter inability to reign it in becomes evident. Humor quickly dissolves into disbelief, and it doesn’t help that in the very next segment, the Subaru turns into an Audi mid-jump and crashes into a tractor, only to be addressed back in the tent with Clarkson again feigning disbelief.
Overall, the episode has a strong start buoyed by the great Ripsaw and Volkswagen films and a Celebrity Face-Off with some engaging anecdotes and car talk. The contrived, sensationalized end to the otherwise fun Farmkhana film (which I shall do my best to criticize without saying “scripted”) undeniably drags it down, however, making for an overall unremarkable fifth episode, possibly the reason for its burial mid-season. Nevertheless, it’s still The Grand Tour, and as long as you can stomach the sight of some staged dead sheep, it’s worth a casual watch.