Sunday, April 15, 2007

Drive: Fox puts the petal to the metal

Fox’s new action thriller series Drive is the story of a race. This race has a thirty-two million dollar prize and for at least one man, the chance to reunite with his missing wife.

The Fox Network does two things well, action and cartoons. While 24 re-defined action television, Drive seems to be the next logical step forward after Prison Break. This series looks like once again Fox is will deliver a high-octane (pun intended) thrill ride (another pun) with intricate story driven character development.

The most important part of a series premier is the segment before the first commercial break. Clocking in at roughly 18 minutes we are bombarded with information about the series plot and three driver back stories.

First there is Alex Tully (Nathan Fillion) whose wife has mysteriously disappeared one week ago in Nebraska. Next we get the motivation for Wendy Patrakas (Melanie Lynskey). She just had a baby and immediately joins this road race from Ohio. Finally we are introduced to Winston Salazar (Kevin Alejandro) on the day he is released from prison in Maryland.

These three have absolutely nothing in common save that on this particular day they all received a mysterious black cell phone. When it rings the voice on the other end gives each of them instructions to drive to Key West.

This takes care of the first eight minutes of the series. As we were introduced to three characters, the opening credits list no less than ten drivers are credited.

While the show will get it’s pacing comparisons to 24, the series is shaping up to be more like Lost. An ensemble cast drawn together through one common twist of fate. Like Lost each character not have a flashback to their life before the race, but in an unintended comment on society, they are also connected back to the world from which they came via personal cell phone (as opposed to the one provided to them for the race). Those conversations serve to shed light on the motivation for each character’s involvement with the race.

The premier episode focuses on the story of Tully the character with the most sympathetic cause: A missing wife who may or may not be at the end of the race.

While driving, Tully picks up a passenger who is another contestant. Now with multiple people in each car we have the means for conversational plot development.

On the other side of the circumstance of the show are those mysterious cell phones offering instructions. In what would otherwise be some sadistic reality show the phones serve to take the place of Phil Keoghan who introduces each week’s new challenge on The Amazing Race.

The cast, who is likely better looking than ten reality show contestants, is full of some recognizable faces and fine actors. Among the most recognizable is Nathan Fillion who has endeared audiences of nearly everything he has done. He is the classic blue-collar everyman.

Getting a chance to spread her dramatic wings is Melanie Lynskey who was most recently seen as the crazy neighbor on Two and a Half Men. Nowhere closer to resolving any romantic issues, she’s on the run from an abusive husband.

The most recognizable face on this road would be that of Dylan Baker who plays Peter Parker’s mentor and professor in the Spider-Man Movies. Here again he is an engineer who winds up in the race with his seventeen-year-old daughter.

One interesting stylistic decision made for the series is the music. Instead of promoting popular music to set the scene, the series soundtrack features highly recognizable classic rock remakes. Of course each song has a driving theme such as The Doors’ Roadhouse Blues and Golden Earring’s Radar Love.

Drive is somewhere between NASCAR, Lost and your choice of reality show. For those who will adopt the series as a favorite the fortunate thing is that this format will allow the writers to wrap up the series in a couple episodes should the show not live past the first season. On the other hand, as another serialized action/drama if you missed the first two-hour episode you’ll likely never see it until the DVD release.

No comments: