Ever feel guilty for wishing that just once, the participants of THE AMAZING RACE would crash and burn? If so, then does FOX has the series for you. DRIVE – debuting on Sunday, April 15 at 8 p.m. ET – kicks off with a pilot that offers thrills, chills, laughs and a cliffhanger to die for. In other words, this is how to get our attention!
Centering on an underground, illegal race, DRIVE quickly introduces us to a diverse group of participants, each of whom has his or her own reason for competing. For Alex Tully (FIREFLY’s Nathan Fillion), it’s in the hope of locating his missing – and possibly kidnapped – wife. New mom Wendy (Melanie Lynskey) is running from her husband and toward a new life. And Winston Salazar (UGLY BETTY’s Kevin Alejandro, aka Justin’s dad) literally has his eyes on the prize – rumored to be $32 million – and an unexpected passenger in newly discovered half-brother Sean (J.D. Pardo).
There are moments of sheer brilliance scattered throughout the first hour, such as when the contestants – who do not know where the finish line is or even who they are competing against, but receive each new clue via cell phone – turn a hotel’s parking lot into a nightmare of choreographed chaos upon learning of their next destination. And anyone who believes the age of the CB radio to be long gone will think again following a clever twist.
But the true genius of DRIVE is in its chameleon-like nature. While other shows have failed miserably in their attempts to be all things to all people, DRIVE’s writers, actors and directors throw everything but the kitchen sink into the pilot without dropping a single one of the numerous balls they’re simultaneously juggling. Better, despite borrowing dashes from this genre and smidgens from that – enough action to make 24′s Jack Bauer feel pokey, the “who is behind this madness?” of LOST – DRIVE manages to avoid feeling derivative.
With any serialized program, the audience desperately needs a single star who shines brighter than the others and through whose eyes we view the action. And DRIVE has a true winner in Fillion, whose alter ego is an every-day guy caught up in extraordinary circumstances. In a fascinating twist, Alex misses an all-important orientation meeting which would no doubt have provided him – and, by extension, us – with answers to several major questions. As Alex gathers information on the mysterious race, so do we. Of course, because viewers also have insight into what is going on with other contestants, there are moments when we actually know more about what’s going on than our hero. But like LOST’s Matthew Fox, Fillion perfectly serves as our eyes and ears in this brave new world.
It doesn’t hurt that Alex is almost immediately thrown into an unwanted partnership with Corinna Wiles (T3′s Kristin Lehman), who may (of course!) know a whole lot more than she’s telling. There’s chemistry to spare between this duo. Another nice little bonus is that where shows like PRISON BREAK and 24 don’t offer a heck of a lot of laughs, DRIVE has more than it’s share, including one moment in the pilot (involving Alex’s decision to make an impromptu trade-in of his beat up truck) which is laugh-out-loud funny. And thankfully, director Greg Yaitanes realizes that in a show centered on a cross-country race, we’re gonna need some kick-ass action sequences, which he delivers in spades.
As with the contestants unwittingly dragged into the race, DRIVE makes an offer you can’t – and trust us, shouldn’t – refuse. Fasten your seat belts, ’cause you’re in for an addictive ride!