A couple days ago, by some crazy twist of fate, Blogger.com chose, as a Blog of Note, the Drive blog. This was very fortuitous because I had just been contacted by the person in charge of the blog to write a review of the pilot script. He posted his own, which is really good. My review of an earlier draft went up today, and I will reproduce it here behind a cut because, well, I wrote it. But you should also go leave comments on the blog post itself to show interest and create buzz! Neither review contains any major spoilers; we've both done our best to keep as much under wraps as possible because the surprises in the pilot are so much fun.
Lost meets The Amazing Race. Magnolia meets North by Northwest. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Two of these could be used as pitches for Drive, the new series in development by Tim Minear (
BuffyAngel, Wonderfalls, The Inside) and Ben Queen (Century City). The other has no relevance that I know of, but the beauty of this show is that you can't discount the possibility that Abbott and/or Costello may be behind the whole thing. The pilot script draft I read presents the Race as a mysterious and dangerous event whose mystery is only exceeded by its danger.
Pithy references aside, the pilot does a fantastic job of plunging the audience into the world of the show and then expecting it to keep up, in exactly the same way the participants of the Race have been. Following a short introduction, the teaser kicks off with the camera frantically flying from vehicle to vehicle, briefly giving us a glimpse of the cast of characters. Even these brief scenes show the diversity of personalities among the teams. A reluctant father and his disaffected teenage daughter, who has no idea what her dad has gotten her into. A pair of bickering brothers, whose constant "Shut up"/"YOU shut up" exchange is one of my favorite recurring jokes, both because it's so true to brotherly interaction and for the payoff at the end. A mother and infant who aren't where they're supposed to be. All sorts of interpersonal relationships are accounted for.
All by himself, however, is Alex Tully, who begins the show as our partner, the Exposition Conduit. He has the amazing ability to have the camera on him when characters are explaining to him the rules, both official and unofficial, of the Race! Through him, we learn the shady, unnerving intricacies of this most dangerous game, and I would not dream of explaining any further. Suffice it to say that participation in the Race requires much more than simply hitting up Yahoo!Maps to find the dopest route.
One of the major strengths of the pilot is its breakneck pacing. You cannot have a show called Drive and have it be slow. That is a show called Stuck in Traffic that nobody wants to watch. The premise here demands scenes of people running to their vehicles, revving their engines, threading through traffic: whatever needs to be done to get to the destination. In addition, the pilot deftly juggles its multiple characters so that you're always jumping from one set to the next; not long after you're hit with a surprising revelation, BAM! you get another one. It had me turning pages excitedly, and if it's that thrilling on the page, I can't wait to see it on the screen.
The other major strength is the sense of discovery that is inherent to pilots but promises to pervade the entire show. Minear and Queen have set up a rich, complicated world where nothing is what it seems. One particularly brilliant move is that no one knows who else is in the Race. This lends the show a healthy vibe of paranoia, as any new character is met with immediate suspicion. Is he a participant? Is she an operative? Are they, perchance, completely unconnected? Even the characters we meet firsthand are suspect. Why are they in the Race? What's at stake? Is it just for the money, or is there something more? How far will they go to win? Although we only get a small taste of it in the pilot, it will be especially delicious when the competitors begin to get wise to each other and actually start...competing. Or even collaborating. I'm rooting for Alex, myself. Or maybe John and Violet Ashton. Or the Salazar brothers.
Reading the script left me thinking, "Holy crap, that was awesome. I want more." We can only hope that FOX has the same reaction after seeing the pilot and puts it in the midseason line-up. Because this show is primed to grab America by the balls and never let go.
Read the reviews and get anticipatory! I really think this one might actually have enough mainstream appeal to last till the end of the season. Conspiracies and paranoia are totally in these days. And did I mention Nicholas Lea plays an important role? With both arms functioning!