Review: Drive


In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, Fox

In the UK: Not yet. But it’s Fox, so Sky One will probably get first stab

Each network has its own style, and producers have to tailor their projects to the networks they’re pitching to. USA Network has that “character” thing going, so it’s no use pitching a giant ensemble piece with indistinguishable, normalish people, such as Law and Order. NBC tries to go for classy and/or comedy, so don’t pitch that Jackass follow-up you’ve always wanted to do.

Fox, despite attempts to clean up its act with shows like House, is still pretty much the network that doesn’t like to confuse its audience with too many complicated thoughts. So imagine what Tim Minear, exec producer of shows like Angel and Wonderfalls, must have used as his pitch when talking to Fox about his latest project, Drive.

“It’s got lots of fast cars. And they go really fast. And they have crashes.”

Disheartening, huh?

Plot (the people behind The Race forced me to steal it from the Fox web site)

The next time you’re cut off by crazed drivers on your way to work, give them a little slack. They could be racing for their lives.

DRIVE is an action-fueled drama following a diverse group of Americans competing for their lives (or the lives of their loved ones) in an illegal, underground cross-country road race. Some of them have been coerced into joining “The Race”; others have sought out The Race themselves, hearing rumors of the $32-million prize. Each has a reason to compete. And each must win.

ALEX TULLY (Nathan Fillion, “Firefly,” “Slither”) is thrust into The Race in an effort to find his missing wife. New mother WENDY PATRAKAS (Melanie Lynskey) is on the run from her husband and competing for the safety of her newborn baby – or possibly something much more extraordinary. JOHN TRIMBLE (Dylan Baker) is a buttoned-down scientist who embraces The Race as the last chance to show his rebellious 15-year-old daughter VIOLET (Emma Stone) that he can be spontaneous. WINSTON SALAZAR (Kevin Alejandro) views The Race as an opportunity to leave his criminal past behind and bond with SEAN (J.D. Pardo), the half-brother he has only just met. Hurricane Katrina survivors IVY CHITTY (Taryn Manning, “Hustle & Flow”), LEIGH BARNTHOUSE (Rochelle Aytes) and SUSAN CHAMBLEE (Michael Hyatt) are determined to start their lives over and help rebuild their fallen city with The Race’s winnings. ELLIE HOWE (Mircea Monroe) sees The Race as an opportunity to keep her boyfriend, military specialist ROB LAIRD (Riley Smith), from being sent back to Iraq. And CORINNA WILES (Kristin Lehman), who becomes an uneasy partner with Alex, is a gorgeous and mysterious stowaway who may well hold the key to the secrets of “The Race” and its mysterious benefactors.

Although MR. BRIGHT (Charles Martin Smith), The Race liaison, has informed them that there are other competitors, the group does not know exactly whom they’re racing against, or even where the finish line is. With each mile clocked, the drivers get closer – not only to the end of the road and a critical, life-changing victory, but to understanding the mystery behind The Race itself.

Created, executive-produced and written by Tim Minear and Ben Queen, DRIVE is a 20th Century Fox Television Production. Greg Yaitanes serves as an executive producer and director.

Is it any good?

You can pretty much guarantee one thing in television: if Tim Minear has anything to do with it, it’ll get cancelled quickly. Standoff, touched by Minear’s presence for only a couple of weeks, is tottering on the brink, while there’s a whole group of shows, including Firefly, The Inside, Wonderfalls, Strange World and more, that died horrible deaths with Minear behind the scenes.

Drive, Minear’s salute to The Cannonball Run, Gumball Rally and other car racing movies, bears some of his trademark style like skidmarks on an otherwise pristine set of clichés.

Bits of it are fine. Nathan Fillion is as charismatic as ever, and not afraid to look a bit silly sometimes. Minear’s occasional twisting of the expected shows through well, with one particular act of machismo-destruction particularly amusing. We get the promise that not all the vital and necessary information about The Race’s founders will be elusive for three seasons, unlike on certain shows we could all name. And there’s a nice touch of The One Game/The Game about it, with anyone (usually someone who’s a respected character actor, mind) potentially being one of The Race’s nefarious clue-givers or obstacles.

But mostly it’s silly. Following the history essay/French dictation school of dramatic life, we see brave, white men rewarded for being brave and white, while uppity black people and strident women get punished for being strident or uppity (and let’s not get started with what happens to the black women). No one gets much by way of a character, only a back plot, with only Fillion and his Uma Thurman-clone partner given the sufficient mix of worthy traits necessary for the audience to want to root for them.

The theme, which should have been high octane, is pure ballad (Firefly strikes again). The title sequence has possibly the biggest set of spoilers in known TV history (you’ll know exactly who will get paired off with whom before the titles run out, as well as who are the important characters and who are likely to be dead before the end of the first four episodes). The entire premise is entirely stupid: what possibly could anyone want to gain from setting up The Race? If it’s been going on for as long as there have been cars, as the narrator suggests, wouldn’t that have made The Race’s founders really easy to spot and catch, back when there were only five cars?

Daft, then. I’m not sure I want to hang around to find out who’s behind the race, but I shall trail behind it for a while.


Watch the brain-meltingly stupid promo if you dare


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.