With thoughts lingering on the final cryptic moments of the Prison Break season finale, Fox is wasting no time in debuting a new series to fill that lead-in to 24 slot. Now why should I care about this replacement? Fox doesn't exactly have the greatest of track records when it comes to new series; not every new show can be 24, and more often than not they get screwed with and mistreated like Firefly. Anyway, to their credit, Fox has done a good job at hyping up this replacement series as being a big event, an event that has finally been revealed as Drive.
Over the past few months, Fox has gradually ramped up its advertising campaign. The commercials put the spotlight on a wide array of characters involved in a cross country car race. They showed characters that were in it for money, for love, and some more ulterior motives. The ads sucked me in and actually made me excited to see what they had in store.
Drive is a high concept show whose premise has equal potential to be a slice of greatness or an even bigger piece of cheese pie. So far, through three episodes, it is leaning towards the side of greatness. It is a show that has equal parts character, action, and mystery, offering up a variety of bits to appeal to a wide range of people, leading them out of their safe zones and into something a little more exciting.
The show is based on a road race, top secret of course, that is run by a shadowy organization about which noting has been revealed outside of them observing and exerting control over the racers involved. As for the competitors, we are introduced to a number of them, covering all sorts of backgrounds: a landscaper, an astrophyicist, a new mother, an military man and his wife, as well as a man just out of prison and his newly found half-brother. There really isn't anything that could be seen to tie them together, outside of a desire for the $32 million prize at the end.
On the surface it sounds like an interesting hook, but where the show excels is in the characters and their interactions. All of them have a unique story, and each story is being cleverly woven into the show's tapestry. The creators effortlessly slip between characters, never allowing you to lose focus on what the others are doing. Sure, some of the characters are more interesting than others, but the season is young. Another exciting facet is the way that the those who are running the game mess with the characters — they get involved to give them hints, encouragement, or words of warning. It will be interesting to watch as these elements work themselves together.
With the sheer number of characters, they have to give you a lead character to root for, or identify with, or just to anchor it. 24 has Jack Bauer, Prison Break has Michael Scofield, Lost has Jack, and Jericho has Jake. Drive's central character is Alex Tully, a landscaper whose wife has been kidnapped and may be waiting for him at the finish line, but only if he wins. He is clearly the main character, and a strong one at that, and with each passing scene has become increasingly interesting as more layers are appearing.
Now, time will tell if the show continues to be interesting, but it is off to a fantastic start. I like the sly way that it has already begun building the organization's mythology and history. This race is not a new event, and evidence has been given to show that it has been going on for a long time, and the way some of the representatives talk hint at something large and sprawling and deadly serious. It is a high concept that seems to be working, and I can only hope that it continues.
There are a few names involved with the show that give me hope for its continued level of entertainment. The biggest name that I like to see involved is Tim Minear. Never heard of him? Well his is a name that should generate a bit of excitement. He is the show runner, meaning he is the man to keep everything on track, offering much in the way of creativity. He has served as a writer and producer on such series as X-Files, Angel, Wonderfalls, Firefly, and The Inside. Sure, some of those were rather short-lived, but a few were also Fox shows, whose track record is less than stellar when it comes to nurturing up and coming shows that may not be hits out of the gate.
The other name that is worth mentioning is Nathan Fillion, who plays Alex Tunny. He is an actor with an easygoing charisma who can be laid back just as easily as he can crank up the intensity. He has been seen in the shortlived series Firefly, its movie Serenity, last year's horror movie Slither, and the upcoming romantic comedy Waitress. The guy is a very talented actor, which is not to take anything away from the rest of the cast, as each of the supporting cast members are bringing an interesting flavor to the table.
Overall, Drive is off to a strong start. It offers drama, mystery, excitement, and some fun car chases down crowded freeways. It is the latest serialized series to offer up a taste of excitement to the primetime lineup. I, for one, will be there each week.