You may be a bit puzzled seeing me write an article about three guys famous – well, let´s say synonymous – for automobiles. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have over decades not just been the benchmark of TV-car shows, they have invented the Mother of all Car Shows – Top Gear. With the BBC and Clarkson cancelling that show in 2015 after some differences in opinions, this successful format had been re-started by Amazon Prime one year later. With now the fourth (!) season currently in the broadcast, “Seaman” is the first episode of season 4 and – for you, dearest readers as keen sailors and skippers – from my point of view the most interesting one.
Well, “interesting” is as understating as understating can: This episode is the most hilarious, over the top, funniest, most exciting, belly-wrenching piece of TV-docutainment I have ever seen. I have been cracking and laughing out so loud, almost wetting my pants in a manner I haven´t done it since the wonderful “Captain Ron” movie. Although the guys are on power boats (of course, they need engines) it is absolutely worth watching: And believe me, it will be an unforgettable, most funny streaming evening for sure!
Clarkson, Hammond & May: Stalwarts of TV-History
I am with Jeremy Clarkson, the mundane boss of the Trio Infernale, Hammond, the all-too short wannabe and May, the clever underdog since I am watching English TV. I am not very much fancying cars, but their style, their biting humor, the omnipresent mutual competition is something that made their shows so special ever since they´d aired the first time. I was glad seeing Amazon retaining that format which never seems to get old.
In “Seaman” the three meet up in Cambodia near the giant Tonle Sap lake as Clarkson tells the guys that this time they won´t be travelling in cars, but in boats. Of course, the first laugh of the “Grand Tour” format is always the choice of their vehicles which follows always the same rules: Clarkson gets the biggest, most sophisticated, most powerful and most “British” one, Hammond, in his trial to overtake Clarkson, mistakes himself in choosing the overpowered, overpaced and over the top vehicle. Hammond, clever, contained and so calm that it is almost sweet, usually comes in a hilariously small, underpowered and most likely to fail gadget. Same with “Seamen”, of course …
“Top Gear” is gone – here comes “Grand Tour”
As the guys meet up (in the midst of a ferociously raging thunderstorm) it´s Richard Hammond who´s Miami Vice-borrowed Scarab power boat roars in and – of course – crashes into the jetty. The guys can drive a boat, but skipper´s essentials (like manoeuvering, landing, tying a knot or alike is completely alien to all three of them. Minutes later it´s Clarksons waterjet-powered PBR-replica of an American Vietnam War inshore Navy boat that steams out of the mist: A behemoth that seems like time-beamed from the Sixties. His argument seems plausible: “If any boat can take on these waters, than this American Patrol Boat.” Unarmed, of course.
Amazon Prime and the “Grand Tour” producers deliver a visual masterpiece, perfectly orchestrated, the sound design and slight enhancement (for example the sound of crashing, cracking and screeching GRP, May´s moans and the various killing the engine-scenes) is equally perfect like the cut of the episode and the story arc. After – kind of – mastering their boats, of which James May´s 1939 wooden slow steamer is so terribly misplaced, much more than the other boats, that you simply cannot stop to laugh out loud every time you see these boats among the Cambodian and Vietnamese classic river boats.
Why “Seaman” is such a perfect TV-gem
Seldom I have spent such a funny hour, full of perfect visuals, laughing out my intestines cracking on jokes which never seem to get old. The guys simply make any mistake a sailor could think of: Ramming, grounding, mechanical and technical failures, getting lost by mis-navigation, overestimating their own capabilities, storms and waves … it is absolutely funny and worthwhile to watch.
Besides that it is a documentary about a region of our Earth we seldom see in TV and every now and then the three interact nicely with the locals. Unforgettable their horror sleep-in in a makeshift floating hotel with a Diesel-generator rumbling loud all night and a screaming Karaoke-bar next door – or Clarkson´s fail to negotiate the narrows of a seaborn market, crashing into floating shops. Their dash down Cambodia and the famous Mekong River culminates in a stormy – and dangerous – high seas-ride in the open Ocean shortly before arriving to the finish line.
“Seamen” is also a good piece for education, showing your mates in a funny way how not to do it. It´s no finger pointing and, what I loved most, no sense behind that at all. Whilst other “Grand Tour” or “Top Gear” episodes are a giant commercial for BMW, Aston Martin and all the other car makers branding their latest models, “Seaman” is free of advertisement and commercial interest. Just three guys having a hell of a fun-ride in impossible boats. Absolutely worth watching!
My overall assessment for “Grand Tour: Seamen” is 10 out of 10 points
All pictures © by Amazon Prime and “Grand Tour”
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