The new Amazon show puts Jeremy Clarkson in a more relaxed, genuine-feeling setting than the platform’s high-budget motoring series
If you’re after another hit of The Grand Tour, you’ll have to wait a while. The series abandoned its tent studio-based format early in 2019 to focus on feature-length specials, and thus far, there’s been a gap of a year between each one.
Seaman arrived in December 2019, with A Massive Hunt following around the same time in 2020. The third has already been shot in Scotland, and we’ve been told it’s going to be out by the end of the year, so don’t be surprised if that December window is used once more. For now, if you want to see Jeremy Clarkson doing Jeremy Clarkson things, it involves watching his new farming show. And that’s just fine by me.
Amazon Prime Video released all eight episodes of Clarkson’s Farm last week, and although I’ve so far only caught the first instalment, early signs are very good. Although it’s a bit of an apples to oranges kind of deal, it’s impossible not to make comparisons with The Grand Tour.
Early on, it seems to be business as usual, as Jeremy predictably buys an expensive and enormously complicated Lamborghini tractor. Which is much too big. But from that point on, it’s clear this is Clarkson in a relaxed, more genuine and less brash form than we’re used to via TGT.
The enormity of the task he’s set himself soon hits home. Clarkson has owned the 1000-acre ‘Diddly Squat’ property since 2008, and despite having no agricultural experience, he decided to have a go at cultivating it when the previous farmer retired. Yes, the content goldmine this presented wouldn’t have been lost on the former Top Gear host, but in the first episode, we see someone who realises he’s bitten off more than he can chew.
The key to making it all work is the supporting players who are more than happy to counter Jeremy’s ‘I know best’ mentality. We have Charlie Ireland, who carefully and calmly explains the ins and outs of the business of farming. Ellen Helliwell, a shepherd who repeatedly points out that Jeremy’s bought too big a tractor. And most importantly, the fantastically blunt Kaleb Cooper, a former Diddly Squat employee who has no trouble calling out bullshit when he sees it.
The show’s about more than just the fish out of water scenario and the resulting amusement, though. It doesn’t shy away from the convoluted mechanics of farming, meaning there’s much to be learned here. Watch all eight episodes, and I suspect you’ll come away with a new appreciation of how your dinner’s ingredients made it to the supermarket.
You might also yearn for The Grand Tour to be toned down a touch. All too often, the show seems to revolve around spending as much money as possible. Usually on pyrotechnics. It has a forced feeling to it that simply wasn’t there during the golden era of Top Gear, which Clarkson’s Farm proves isn’t necessary.
Whether you love or abhor the controversial Clarkson, he is undeniably a fantastic broadcaster and an eminently watchable personality, whether power sliding a supercar or getting kicked in the balls by livestock. On TGT, we often get an exaggerated version of the man who’s far less entertaining. It’s the same deal for the other two – Our Man In Japan proved for James May that he’s better without the explosions and heavily manufacturered drama. Richard Hammond’s The Great Escapists went the other way meanwhile by fully embracing the silliness.
There’s a question of how much longer the three will be willing to carry on with The Grand Tour, but there’s still time to bring back the magic that had us tuning into Top Gear week after week all those years ago. As we’ve seen from the presenters’ extra curicular Amazon activities, all it’ll take is a more relaxed approach.