James Norton talks about the new series 3 of Grantchester
Q: How does it feel when the first Grantchester script of a new series arrives?
“It is a bit of a homecoming for me every time. I get little teasers from writer Daisy Coulam, producer Emma Kingsman-‐Lloyd and executive producer Diederick Santer because we’re friends now. So when I know it’s being written I start to try and sneakily get some glimmers. Then when it arrives it’s lovely. Grantchester is always beautifully balanced between being familiar and welcoming, both for us and the audience, and having that sense of nostalgia and affection. But also it always has that bite in the stories.
not to rub my grubby little hands over some beautiful new yoi content but i’ve been thinking about those suits all day and i have some seriously sartorial opinions on them. chiefly i have seen people all over the place decrying phichit’s shorts and while i agree this would be a disaster in any sort of formal situation, it is absolutely ticking the posh boy box at the back of my mind which i only bring out when i am feeling most indulgent, the kind of small town village green aesthetic, playing cricket in the morning and pushing a boat out onto the river afterwards, phichit lounging with his hat pulled over his eyes and his legs crossed louchely while yuuri does the rowing, stopping at a crook in the river and relaxing under the shade of a tree in the midday sun, picnicking with champagne and strawberries for lunch and nothing of any nutritional value in sight, and all that time, phichit is rocking this boat shoes and blazer and perfectly pressed shorts look and honestly? #iconic
Lets the tiny smol mantis ride on a finger before placing in an aquarium set up to look like a tiny Asian village, with crickets and worms all around for him to hunt
From his spot on the finger, it really felt like he could see the ENTIRE WORLD! Of course, he tried to remind himself that the ‘ world ‘ was a great deal larger than he could even comprehend. He was very happy to live in just a small part of it. He briefly rubbed his two larger eyes as he was placed down in what looked like a village. For a moment, he wondered if he had suddenly become a great deal larger, but soon, he realized that it wasn’t he who was big, it was the village that was small. Nevermind that though! There were crickets and worms roaming the streets. Eagerly, he wobbled off ( he was really ungraceful when walking ), to find himself a good spot where he could stand and wait for his prey to step too close.
Having lost the rights to the Top Gear format, the Sunday Times columnist was glumly sitting at home when he had the best idea for a new motoring show … in the world Jeremy Clarkson, Chief imagineer
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.
Twelve years earlier, the producer Andy Wilman and I had been to the BBC and sold them the idea of hosting just such a car show from just such an airfield. They liked the plan and the two of us were charged with the task of finding one. And frankly, we’d have had more options in 1940.
Time and again, we’d identify a site only to be told that the RAF still needed it for, er, glider training, or its annual brass band parade practice, or parachute storage.
And when we did find somewhere the RAF didn’t want any more, we became entangled in disputes about newts, bats, grasshoppers, ancient thoroughfares, rare stones and unusual grasses. And then with the neighbours about noise. We’d tell them it’d just be Terry Wogan, once a week, in a reasonably priced saloon but they were having none of it and soon there’d be an action committee and housewives chaining themselves to railings.
Dunsfold in Surrey, the location we eventually found, was a one-off. There was no point looking for something similar for our new Amazon show because such a thing doesn’t exist. We considered northern France, which is near, and South Africa, because they don’t care about newts down there. Or health and safety. Or any of the other irritants that plague our lives in Britain.
But then the lawyers pointed out that we couldn’t host the show from a static location because, although it had been our idea, the BBC owned it. It was all a bit of a problem.
The eureka moment came when I was watching an episode of True Detective. In it, there was a scene where a Baptist minister, displaced by a fire at his church, had set up shop in a tent in a field.
“Yes,” I exclaimed to my colleagues the next day. “We shall host our new show from a tent that will be in a different part of the world every week.” Richard Hammond, who likes being damp and cold in Buttermere, was very excited at the prospect. And James May was excited too, but only because someone had just bought him a new penknife. So we agreed. We’d be rootless, peripatetic, like music teachers in the Seventies. Or gypsies. Maybe after the show each week we could sell pegs.
It sounds simple. But it isn’t. First of all, the tent would have to be big enough to house a stage, a lighting rig, a crane, five cameras, a car, a tech gallery, a 4K data logging server — which is bigger than the USS Enterprise and more complicated — and an audience of at least 250 people. Any fewer and we’d have the same atmosphere you get at a village cricket match.
This meant the tent would have to be huge. A Las Vegas circus marquee, only bigger. And do you have any idea how much it would cost to fly such a thing from location to location? Especially if we folded it away when it was wet and therefore heavier than a mountain?
It turned out we couldn’t fold it away when it was wet because the fabric would rot. And then we discovered that we couldn’t break it down in one place, load it on a plane and have it built somewhere else in a week. So we’d need two tents, which would leapfrog one another from location to location. And then the director pointed out that we’d need a solid floor for his cameras to rove around on, on their little wheels. And that would mean two solid floors, each of which would weigh more than Asia.
Our budget — contrary to what you may have read in various hysterical reports — was not much bigger than it had been at the BBC. Yet the cost of our tents meant we’d have only enough left in the kitty each week for two pints of petrol and a box of James May’s beef Hula Hoops.
Happily, a magnificent company called DHL then rode into the equation, offering to meet our transport costs in something called a “sponsorship deal”. Finally, The Grand Tour was ready to roll.
Choosing the first location was easy. The three of us, in our former lives, had toured the world with a live show and learnt one thing: South Africa offers by far and away the best audiences in the world. Crack a gag at a Friday night event in London and you get a chuckle. Crack the same gag in Norway and you get a taste of what it might be like to be in space. But crack it in South Africa and they laugh for about a year.
So we found a field in a place called the Cradle of Humankind — because it’s, er, the cradle of humankind — and up went Tent One.
Except it didn’t, because South African customs had decided to impound just one of our containers: the one containing the tent’s feet. That was a bit like the time Vietnamese customs officials confiscated one of our walkie-talkies. It renders the whole operation pointless. However, as is the way when you are far away, it’s always easy, in a quiet corner with the senior man, to find a resolution.
I’m going to be honest with you: as the filming day dawned, we were all nervous. No show of this kind had ever been recorded in 4K. A Dutch company had built a multi-camera server and was fairly sure it’d work. But would it? In a field? In Africa?
And how would the audience react to all the new features? The Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, the Cool Wall, the Stig — all that had been left behind at Dunsfold and replaced with other stuff. Would that be like the Rolling Stones suddenly appearing on stage in tweed suits and doing Abba songs because of some uninteresting intellectual property issues?
And then there were the films we’d made. The newspapers had got it into their heads that, because we had £400m an episode, we’d be reporting each week from a different planet. “Oh look, James has been crushed by the atmospheric pressure on Jupiter. Haha. And Hammond is on Mercury … on fire. Hahahahahaha.”
Would everyone be disappointed to find the films had all been shot on Earth? And that they were still full of three middle-aged men falling over? With the occasional car sticking its nose into the frame?
Our biggest worry, however, was the make-up girl. The job had plainly gone to the lowest bidder, who turned up with a bag full of Artex and some trowels. Hammond was first in the chair and after half an hour emerged looking like he’d just arrived from Easter Island. It simply wasn’t him any more.
The Grand Tour facts • 1 billion: The number of miles Clarkson claims were clocked up by presenters and crew filming the first series of The Grand Tour
She’d heard that 4K was extremely high-definition television that shows up every wrinkle and spot, and had decided that the best solution to the problem was to encase our faces in a plastered box. Speech was impossible because we couldn’t move our mouths. James had breathing difficulties. I couldn’t get my head off the floor because it weighed so much.
Some chisels were found and soon we began to emerge from our tombs, like skeletons unearthed at an archaeological dig. Would anyone notice when we appeared on the screen? It was another thing to worry about.
It’s hard to be sure whether our fears were founded because, of course, the audience was South African. Which means they laughed and cheered and clapped every time one of us even looked like we might be on the verge of saying something amusing or interesting. The acid test will come when we get to Germany. That’s many weeks away, though. Next up, it’s Los Angeles. Then there will be a two-week stint in Britain. And after that we will whizz round Europe for a bit.
It’ll be strange. For 12 years, we got up on a Wednesday and drove to Surrey, where we were surrounded by familiar faces and familiar things. Now we will be somewhere different all the time. In front of a different audience, with different values and different tastes.
The only constant will be James and Richard, whom I hate. But that’s really what’s at the core of The Grand Tour: our relentless and unending need to belittle and humiliate one another.
Yes, we shall be in a different place each week, in a tent, doing new stuff. But when James comes back from the lavatory, having not shaken himself properly, you can be sure Richard and I will bring it up.
So hopefully, whether we are in Scandinavia or the Middle East or the United States of America, it’ll be a case of meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
Packing for The Grand Tour: Jeremy • 290 boxes of cigarettes • Nicotine gum (for between cigarettes) • Spare metaphors • Quadruple espresso maker (extra strong) • Hammer
Packing for The Grand Tour: Richard • Hair products • Hot-weather waistcoat • Cold-weather waistcoat • Spare waistcoat • Waistcoast polish
Packing for The Grand Tour: James • Tea • Beef Hula Hoops • Ginger beer • Kit for polishing shoes • More tea
Pinocchio dances with marionettes and sings about he can do what he likes
Strombolli cages Pinocchio (and you) in ominous scene
Streets of the village, Jiminey Cricket warns you not to go to Pleasure Island
Pleasure Island fun and bright music transforms to run down, wrecked and creepy
Jackass transformation scene, Coachman is creepy and salt mines/crates scene with whip sound
The beach/shore and Monstro, Jiminey trying to warn you away
Gepetto looking for Pinocchio
Home in the village/workshop with Blue Fairy and then the toys/clocks, transition to daylight
Snow White’s Scary Adventures:
Dwarves’ cottage, yodeling song and dancing
Evil Queen spying
Queen’s castle and transformation to old hag, poison apple and dungeons
Creepy forest and witch at the cottage
The dwarves go to fight the witch/lightning crash
And they lived happily ever after
Winnie The Pooh (Critter Country):
Rustic stream and barn
Very blustery day/rainstorm
Tigger bouncing/Pooh falling asleep
Heffalumps and Woozles nightmare scene
Honey heaven/dream and waking up
Pooh’s birthday party
Return to natural rustic woods
Frozen Ever After:
Village and Oaken’s store
Olaf singing about Elsa and fun day to come
Rock cutesy trolls retell the film story, projection effect of the movie animation, talk about fun to come
Up hill with view of ice palace
Olaf sings about summer and fun and Elsa while skating
Anna and Kristoff with Sven, talking about going to see Elsa
Elsa sings Let It Go/backwards redirect down hallways
Marshmallow and snowgies/frozen rocks
Waterfall to fireworks over ice palace
Anna and Elsa sing awkwardly in response to Olaf about summer
Ride ends/unload station
What this illustrates, I feel, is even a ‘less renowned’ Disney dark ride like Pooh in the U.S. still has a sense of ‘changing circumstance ‘and rising action (if not peril, like Pinocchio and Snow White) utterly lacking in Frozen Ever After - there are no stakes, no story, no climax to the experience or character traits dictating what happens. Pooh wants hunny and encounters obstacles, Snow White wants not to die and the Queen wants her dead, Pinocchio wants freedom and adventure - all the trolls, Olaf, Anna, etc want to do is go see Elsa. So the ride does that, and nothing else happens, and it ends. It’s literally all very mild buildup with no conflict or personality, and once Elsa sings her famous song, there’s nothing else much going on, so you travel to the exit past the characters placed along the way so there’s something to see, and down a waterfall inherited from the original ride.
Utpal Kumar Mondal:While travelling in Bogra, Bangladesh, this winter, I found some boys playing cricket on a
ground which was a paddy field a few days earlier. It is not easy to
play cricket on this type of hard, uneven ground, but it’s all about
passion for the game in these parts.