Back in the Summer of 2016, Andy Wilman, The Grand Tour producer, went on an interview at the Edinburgh International Television Festival where he somewhat seriously joked about the thought of The Grand Tour being sued by BBC for being too familiar to Top Gear. Fast forward to now and that concern has not subsided and have become more serious as Jeremy Clarkson has expressed the same fears.
In the interview Wilman shared that:
- It cannot have a Test Track. Top Gear has a test track in Dunsfold Aerodrome where countless vehicles and Stars in Reasonably Priced cars, and Formula 1 drivers have blasted around. The new show will not be allowed to have a test track in fear of infringing on the old show’s intellectual property.
- It cannot have The Stig.
- It cannot call the News segment of The Grand Tour “The News”
- They cannot say “This scenery is beautiful.”:
“We went to Namibia to make a big film. The lawyers got out a film we had done [for Top Gear] in Botswana. The lawyers go through everything and they said, ‘There’s a scene in [Top Gear] where you’re in the middle of the Okavango and you go, “This scenery is beautiful”, so watch that you don’t do that.’
So we were in the desert in Namibia and we had to go, “for legal reasons, this scenery is shit’.”
- It cannot have a handwritten Leaderboard time:
“There’s [a leaderboard], but we can’t have handwritten stuff, that’s all got to change for the lawyers. We still test cars and stuff though.”
All of that sounds a bit of an exaggeration as Wilman might have been drumming up some drama to get people riled up about the show, and that the BBC might end up looking a bit too petty and risk damaging their own Top Gear brand.
However, as the films and tent sessions have been completed, Clarkson alongside Richard Hammond and James May have looked back and are genuinely nervous about the format of the new show being too similar to Top Gear and that they might actually get sued. He wrote in The Sunday Times magazine:
“The Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, the Cool Wall, the Stig – all that had been left behind … and replaced with other stuff. Would that be like the Rolling Stones suddenly appearing on stage in tweed suits and doing Abba songs?”
In addition Clarkson has revealed the reason behind shooting inside a tent was to avoid looking similar to Top Gear because that was shot in a static location. Clarkson said he got the idea while watching True Detective where a minister was preaching in a tent. He said to James May and Richard Hammond:
“Yes! We’d be rootless, peripatetic, like music teachers in the 70s. Or gypsies.”
The Grand Tour will also have a test track, which despite Wilman’s original concerns they still went forward with anyway. Rather than Top Gear’s RAF airfield in Dunsfold, The Grand Tour will be filming in RAF Wroughton.
“When it became obvious that Richard Hammond, James May and I were going to carry on making a car show, I knew only one thing for sure. It would not be based in a hangar, on a former RAF airfield, in the British countryside.”
Clarkson was fully aware of the potential legal battle that may arise from this similarity, but he’s fully convinced that the use of a test track was an essential part to a car show.
It’ll be interesting to watch how Top Gear and the BBC will react to the unveiling of The Grand Tour shows when it premiers on Amazon Prime on November 18th. As per our usual Public Service Announcement: The only way you can watch The Grand Tour (legally) is to subscribe to Amazon Prime. If you haven’t subscribed yet you can do so by going here. If you want to watch The Grand Tour for free, there are ways to do so…
(Source: The Sunday Times Magazine)