Wednesday 26 June 2019

'U2 have been going strong for 40 years - I bet they hate each other' - Clarkson, Hammond, and May talk two decades as a TV trio

The Grand Tour Series 3 launches on Prime Video today.  Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May tell about the the secrets of their success

Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson, James May, The Grand Tour
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson, James May, The Grand Tour
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

A proposal to launch a new television show fronted by three dominant male hosts may not get past first base with television chiefs in a modern era that demands gender neutrality.

Yet political correctness has never been high on the list of priorities for Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

After their infamous exit from the BBC’s Top Gear following Clarkson’s fight with Irish producer Oisin Tymon in 2015, it appeared to be the end of the road for a trio whose exploits on what started out as a show reviewing the latest cars had become a global hit.

However, their fall from grace turned out to be a pothole in the path of these broadcasting giants, who are back on our screens again today for the third season The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime.

As the boys sat down with for a chat in London recently, it was evident that their unexpected change of career path has, in fact, opened new doors and Hammond believes the success of their partnership should never be tampered with.

“What we have in our trousers should not matter, but if we were starting this show now, it is possible that someone would say you cannot have three men leading a show,” began Hammond.

“What makes this show work is it is three blokes talking about and driving cars and there has never been any need to change that. We weren’t created by any television company or a in a laboratory. We just fell together and are just three mates doing what we do. This is not a cynical television format, this is our own show that has appealed to a global population.

“We started out with the aim of making a car show and never imaged it would have this kind of impact. We are proud of what we do and the scale of what this has become continues to amaze us, so we don’t need to change what we do and it has never been suggested we should change it.

“Things that we get upset and aerated about in the papers every day don’t exist as problems for my daughters, so a lot of these political correctness debates are only important to those who are talking about it.”

It seemed like the end of a television era when the BBC’s wildly successful Top Gear was shaken by Clarkson’s momentary loss of control, yet the leader of this pack seems content to be making the television he enjoys on a whole new platform.

“I wish the people on Top Gear well, but we have moved on and working with Amazon has been a delight,” he told us.

“They give us freedom to make the programmes we want, they pay on time, they seem to like us because we are their top rated show and everything has moved on very nicely for us.

“What we were never going to do is change what has made this successful. The three of us have a formula that works.

“We know what will be funny, what will be interesting and we know what our audience wants. It takes time to work all that out. You need to be focused and have a good vision of how it’s going to work out.”

The Grand Tour season three sees Clarkson, Hammond and May travel to a host of improbable locations including Mongolia, Georgia and China, with the leader of this pack revealing he formulates the itinerary for their adventures.

“It’s always my plan, I’m the ideas guy,” states Clarkson. “Hammond and May go along with what is decided and it’s a formula that has worked for us.

“It doesn’t mean I get paid more, not at all. We all get paid exactly the same. All the most successful bands pool the money. It always goes wrong when one member gets more money than the rest, so we have always avoided that and it has worked well.”

The fusion of diverse characters in this television dream team is what makes them special, with May telling us their friendship is very much an on-screen affair.

“We spend a lot of time together filming, so we tend to stay away from each other when the cameras stop rolling,” states May with a smile.

“We insult each other on Twitter occasionally, but that’s part of the TV machine in a lot of ways.

“I probably wouldn’t describe us as mates. Rock bands famously hate each other and yet they can still perform on stage when they need to. U2 have been going strong for 40 years now and I bet they hate each other, but that’s irrelevant if they are still doing what the fans want.

“My real friends are high minded intellectuals who enjoy art, write poetry and know a lot about engineering. So nothing like Jeremy and Richard!”

Hammond has been involved in some high profile crashes during the filming of Top Gear and The Grand Tour, so he was delighted to report he came through his latest batch of filming unscathed.

“I can confirm there were no major accidents in this season, apart from Jeremy slightly cutting his finger and making a real scene over it,” he adds. “Thankfully there were no major injuries this time and our insurance company will be delighted.

“I dread that phone call every year asking if I have had any accidents. Health and safety people are not big fans of ours and insurers really don’t like us, but that is primarily my fault!”

A wonderfully interactive computer game is being launched to coincide with latest series of the The Grand Tour, allowing viewers to watch the show and then play racing game replicating the locations where Clarkson, Hammond and May have visited.

It’s the latest innovation from three television icons who continue to rewrite the rule books.

The Grand Tour Series 3 launches on Prime Video today.

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