I can understand why the Grand Tour had to stick to Blighty for their first special made during the pandemic, but I wish they hadn’t bothered.
Their 90-minute Scottish roadtrip from the Borders to North Uist was wildly overstuffed with filler and only moderately entertaining.
It felt more like one of their old mid-series Top Gear segments than the ambitious films we’ve come to expect from their mega-bucks Amazon deal.
While I appreciate Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond or James May’s antics are very divisive characters, their Amazon specials are always supremely well made and put together – which is why this one was so notable in how half-hearted it all felt.
“Welcome to McScotland,” quipped Clarkson as they drove their massive American cars across the border.
It was the first of many tedious remarks about Scotland that peppered the show. Guess what? It always rains in Scotland, we all drink Irn Bru and we deep fry everything. Bet you’ve never heard that before.
I don’t mind jokes at our expense, I just wish they were a bit more original.
Elsewhere, the programme was awkwardly padded out with moments that I suspect would have ended up on the cutting room floor had they been able to do one of their normal foreign road trips.
The ending, when they drove their cars across a perillous home-made pontoon to a tiny island, was the highlight of the show because it was the only bit that felt remotely real and genuinely dangerous.
Real-life stunts like that are what makes their specials watchable – and make up for all the scripted banter and contrived cock-ups that we have to suffer through along the way.
But the Scottish special was too much of the latter and not enough of the former and a waste of everyone’s time.
They made Scotland look beautiful though.
A joyless exercise
I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an actor, but his new AppleTV+ show Mr Corman – which he wrote, directed and stars in – was a real struggle.
He plays the title character, a depressed LA teacher sleepwalking through life and lamenting the musical career that never happened, and as good as Gordon-Levitt is in the role, by the end of each episode as felt as bummed out as Mr Corman.
I suppose that’s the danger of creating a series about a character who lives in a fug of unhappiness – it can rub off on the audience.
Levity (or should that be Levitt-y) is few and far between, so watching Mr Corman eventually felt like a bit of a chore.
A jolly good jolly
Although the sight of Richard E Grant’s rictus grin normally makes me want to throw something heavy at my TV, his new travelogue Write Around the World (BBC4) was relatively pleasant and even my telly remained in one piece.
Although the hook of the three-part show is that he travels to places that inspired great literary works, let’s be honest, it was really just a chance for him to go on a jolly.
When foreign travel is such a rarity for us all, these types of shows can feel achingly nostalgic.
It certainly was for me, since two of the places he went to visit – Positano and Matera in Italy – were the last destinations I travelled to before coronavirus hit.
Dull rehash of 80s classic
If you fondly remember The Equalizer starring Edward Woodward from back in the 1980s, the kindest thing you can do for yourself is not watch the new gender-switching reboot starring Queen Latifah on Sky Witness.
It’s The Equalizer in name only and isn’t even as good at the Denzel Washington film versions, which were pretty bad anyway.
If you need reminded of how much fun the ’80s series was, watch clips on YouTube.
Film of the week: The Kid Detective (Sky Premiere, Friday 8pm)
Although the title makes this sound like a breezy family movie, it’s actually much darker – and much better – than that.
Adam Brody plays Abe Applebaum, who as a child became a minor celebrity when he set up a detective agency and solved low-level crimes around his sleepy small town.
But he’s an adult now, and his ‘kid detective’ moniker isn’t half as charming as it once was and he’s become something of a joke among the townsfolk. That is until a high school student steps into his life and asks him to solve a murder …
This black comedy – the debut film of writer-director Evan Morgan – is delightfully deadpan in the way it bounces between genres but never once feels out of place in any of them.
And the ending, when it arrives, is surprisingly chilling.