It is nothing short of a Christmas miracle that The Grand Tour continues to rattle along like a middle-aged Morris Marina, with the car show launching a new set of “adventure specials” on Friday 13 December.
The first feature-length episode, titled The Grand Tour presents: Seamen, sees man-children Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May forced to confront the realities of global warming when they arrive in Cambodia and are shocked to see that the usually vast Mekong river system has been affected by water shortages. It is an hour-and-a-half of schoolboy sniggering from a trio who have drawn much criticism over the years for encouraging toxic masculinity and cracking colonial-style jokes.
After the screening, Clarkson, dressed in a white shirt and a dark blue blazer, sits down with a group of journalists – in his words, “a table full of millennials” – and asks one of them if they are a “snowflake”. This is hardly surprising from a man who has made a career out of his bullish disregard for other people’s feelings. Take his response to Will Young calling him and The Grand Tour homophobic – he said he couldn’t possibly be as “I very much enjoy watching lesbians on the internet”.
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Perhaps the public is finally tiring of his shtick. While Amazon doesn’t reveal viewing figures, I suspect that the show’s switch to special episodes rather than a full series is a sign that it’s the end of the road for Clarkson and his pals.
It’s certainly tough to justify, let alone promote, a show dedicated to cars when the European parliament has just declared a global “climate and environment emergency”.
But Clarkson has a lot to say about all of that – as well as about Jeremy Corbyn, toxic masculinity and wokeness. You can see for yourselves in our lively roundtable interview, below…
In The Grand Tour presents: Seamen, you eat spiders and duck embryos, what was that like?
The seven-day egg – that was pretty tough, pretty rank. It had an eye, I wasn’t expecting that.
Did it make you feel unwell?
We’re not millennials. Only millennials are ill – “I don’t know what it is, I think I’ll just go to bed for a year.” We’re older so we just get up and get on with it. The Earl Haig didn’t say, “It’s diarrhoea, l think we’ll just cancel the First World War.”
I’m at a table full of millennials. Are you a snowflake?
I’m definitely a snowflake. I’m deeply offended. Did you think people who believed in climate change were snowflakes before you witnessed the impact of global warming for yourself while filming?
I just thought it was a political machine, but then you go there and you see it and you think, ‘I’ll mention that.’ It wasn’t a biggie. The same as when John Simpson goes into another war zone, you go, ‘This is the thing that I’m reporting on.’
Did it change your perception of the climate emergency?
No, we’ve been aware of climate change for quite some time, and there’s that weird Swede running around making all sorts of ‘we’re going to die’ noises, so we’re all aware of it. But rather than having her jumping up and down and waving her arms in the air, you can actually go there and say, ‘Bloody hell, fire! Look at what this climate change has done to this place.’
We simply said, ‘Here’s an example of it.’ What do you want me to do now? Get on my carbon fibre yacht and go and shout at Donald Trump?
You have criticised Greta Thunberg a lot on Twitter and in your Sun column.
She’s a stupid idiot.
Some people might argue that you criticise her because you feel guilty about The Grand Tour’s carbon footprint, what would you say to that?
I’m completely carbon neutral.
I’ve got a thousand-acre farm and plant hundreds of trees a year and grow crops, so I have no carbon footprint at all, quite the opposite.
And you’re certain that the good your farm does matches the harm that all the car engines running on the show do?
It’s nothing compared to what I’m soaking up with the farm. Nothing.
Your daughter Emily is a vocal supporter of Thunberg, could she make you soften your views on the 16-year-old at all?
No. We’re never going to agree. She thinks that Greta Thunberg is this deity put on Earth. She’s Jesus, basically. Jesus-esque. Whereas I think she’s a weird Swede with a bad temper. Nothing will be achieved by sailing across the ocean in a diesel-powered yacht, and then lying about the diesel engine.
[Thunberg’s sailing boat relied on wind power, and its diesel engine was only there for emergency situations and going in and out of port in case an electric tug boat was not available.]
And did you see she went to Chile for the climate conference which was then moved to Madrid? I literally s*** myself laughing. She’s an idiot because scientists will solve this, and nobody is going to solve it by running around and going on strike and not going to school, because then you’re not in your science lessons, so she’s a fool. I know you lot don’t think she is, which is fine.
You compared Jeremy Corbyn to Pol Pot in the programme at one point.
I mentioned him a lot. You should have seen how much was edited out.
What did you think of the leader debate?
I mean, Corbyn’s glasses didn’t fit. You can’t vote for a man who can’t shave and can’t even buy a pair of glasses that he can get straight on his nose. [Puts glasses on his face at a lopsided angle.] I could run the country. No, I’ll just vote for ABC.
What does that mean?
Anyone But Corbyn. No one specifically, I don’t give a s***. You. I wish this programme was going out on 11 December but it isn’t.
Another criticism that is levelled at the show is that it encourages toxic masculinity.
It’s just a TV show. It’s not The Bible.
Do you not think people are influenced by the shows they watch?
Do you think everyone on television should influence the views of others? Because I don’t. I think we should go out there, have a bloody good laugh and then go down the pub.
Do you think toxic masculinity is a problem, whether you are encouraging it or not?
I don’t experience toxic masculinity in my life but that’s probably because I am…
I don’t know. I don’t pay any attention. I just sit in my tractor all day long. Sure, it’s awful. I’m just in the entertainment business. Sorry. I think you’ve perhaps mistaken me for someone who could do something about these things.
Is it harder for shows like The Grand Tour to succeed in the context of “woke” culture?
I think there’s quite a lot of wokeness. Not a word my computer recognises. Most of the people I know aren’t.
Yeah. I’m 60 – it’s not my job to be woke, it’s my job to die soon.
Do you think The Grand Tour has a future?
God knows. Well, judging from here, we’re toxic people and environmentally lethal. We should be really put in Level 5 with CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] as soon as possible, but thankfully other people don’t agree with that. I don’t know, we’ll see.
The Grand Tour presents: Seamen will be available on Amazon Prime Video on Friday 13 December