Since The Grand Tour became more of An Occasional Jaunt, the three presenters have been trying their hand at other things, usually turning their hobbies into business ventures. James May learned to cook and bought a pub, Jeremy Clarkson got into farming in a big (tractor) way, and Richard Hammond ploughed all his time and money into a classic car restoration business. All of them have made TV shows along the way, and somehow, despite enjoying all three of them, I haven’t written about a single one.
Thus, this post is a rectification of that.
A workshop in progress
In the kerfuffle to get access to the Australian Open, I ended up with a temporary Discovery+ subscription which gave access to Richard Hammond’s Workshop, the latest of the three I have watched. It was brilliant… albeit a little frustrating. Hammond is generally naturally likeable so you’re rooting for him from the get-go, and he’s teamed up with a father-son duo who are so adorable and talented at their chosen profession, you can’t help but want them to succeed.
So it’s a bit frustrating that Hammond doesn’t necessarily get the planning side of things right. He actively turns his nose up at the idea of a business plan, despite ever-patient wife Mindy mentioning it on several occasions. There doesn’t seem to have been much thought into the fact that building a brand new workshop from scratch will take some significant upfront investment, and that it takes a while for business to happen, even if you’ve got a ‘celebrity’ name attached.
Nevertheless, he’s got good ideas and his heart’s in the right place, and he puts his money where his mouth is - selling his classic car collection to fund the workshop setup must have been a wrench (pun intended), but shows how dedicated he is. The programme was entertaining from a ‘watching the team do their thing’ point of view but it was also very educational in the pros and cons, rights and wrongs and dos and don’ts of setting up a business. Education and entertainment is the best of both worlds.
The cook report
James May has always been a bit more eclectic in the programmes he’s made, and whilst this one wasn’t about setting up a business, it did seem like him diving headfirst into a hobby that he wasn’t so great at and showing us all the journey along the way. Ably assisted by a home economist that he keeps in the cupboard, James learns to cook by doing, trying out basic recipes such as steaks and lasagnes, revamping some store cupboard essentials, and trying out special dishes on occasion.
The best thing about watching James May is that he’ll break the fourth wall (or whatever the equivalent is for a to-camera piece) by talking to the crew, arguing with the director, and discussing what will and won’t make the edit. It’s the absolute opposite of pretentious - homely, friendly, and more importantly than anything, wants to get you cooking… probably aimed more at reluctant men, but anyone can be inspired by the simple dishes.
And of course there’s a cookbook to go with it.
Down on the farm
Of course the most high profile of these three’s latest endeavours is Clarkson’s Farm where our intrepid presenter spends his lockdown time learning how to farm, how not to farm, and how unprofitable the whole thing can be. I’m genuinely surprised I didn’t blog about this show at the time because I was determined not to like it - Clarkson not being my favourite of the three - but being bowled over by the whole thing.
It was intensely funny, Clarkson was happy to be laughed at and shouted at, he didn’t always listen to the advice given to him but when it counted, he knew when to listen to the experts he had around him. And those experts shared fascinating insights into the world of farming - the land agent who knows what to do when, and Kaleb who just gets on with the job at hand without a second thought.
More importantly, of course, it raised awareness for how challenging farming can be, bringing those conversations to a wider audience - food security, climate change, farming subsidies - and that can only be a good thing.
In the end, May, Hammond and Clarkson are still making The Grand Tour specials which are interesting enough, but seeing them put their time into different and more recent passions is even better. I want more of all three of these, please. Discovery and Amazon, get on that.