Friday, April 13, 2007

Drive: Are We There Yet?

My column about "Notes From the Underbelly" (short version: I hated it) never made it on-line, but today's review of "Drive" did. A sampler:
With most of the serialized dramas that came and went this season, the nagging question of "What happens after the first 10 or 15 episodes?" proved moot, as almost all of them were canceled long before the writers had to figure out how to keep the story going once all those kidnappings and murders and bank robberies were solved. Fox's new drama "Drive," about the contestants in an illegal, high-stakes road race across America, seems to have less long-term potential than all the other serialized rookies, but that doesn't matter, because it's a Tim Minear show and will probably be canceled in four to five weeks.

Minear's a talented writer and producer, don't get me wrong, and he's been a key backstage figure for some good-to-great TV shows over the last few years: the better seasons of the "Buffy" spin-off "Angel"; the cult classic outer space western "Firefly"; the eccentric do-gooder dramedy "Wonderfalls," and the FBI criminal profiling drama "The Inside."

It's just that he kills shows dead -- or, rather, that Fox does.

For the last few years, Minear has been involved in a financially lucrative but sado-masochistic relationship with Fox, producing these shows, then handing them off to the network, where they'll suffer a quick, ignoble death in an out-of-the-way timeslot.
To read the full thing, click here.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really want to give this show a chance, but the premise just sounds so incredibly stupid.


I'd be fine with a high stakes cross-country race. But one run by a shady unknown orginazation? Where people are "recruited?" And where the main character has to race in order to save his wife? It honestly sounds like something SNL would do as a spoof.

the2scoops said...

I'll watch this show to see how it shakes out. I've been a fan of Minnear and Fillion for a while. but with the premise, i think this would have been better as, to use a comic book phrase, a "limited series". Plan it out for 12 - 22 episodes, so that we know there will be a beginning and an end. Even if the fates are kind and this show works, how do you carry the premise over into subsequent seasons?

BTW If we're taking bets for head of the shady organizers, my money is on Jamie Farr as a mysterious sheik.

Eric said...

Alan,

Have you seen "Bullrun"? It's kind of like Amazing Race minus the airports and challenges, plus a whole bunch of testosterone and a Jewish ex-pro wrestler.

One of those off-brand reality shows that's way more entertaining than it has any right to be. (It's on Spike.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

And where the main character has to race in order to save his wife?

That, to me, is the biggest problem with the show being open-ended. Going months or even years without Fillion finding his wife is going to be this big matzoh ball hanging out there (to quote Jerry Seinfeld) that's going to get more frustrating the longer it goes on. Plus, it so thoroughly places the audience's sympathies with Fillion that time spent with anybody else almost feels wasteful.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the "shockingly tall for a TV star" bit.

Fillion isn't even that tall, he is more of a big physically imposing guy than a tall one, there are many TV stars out there who are taller or as tall. Conan, John Krasinski, Isiah Washington, Jeff Goldblum, Goran Visnjic, Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson, Jason Segal, Greg Grunberg and I'm sure there are plenty of others.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Fillion isn't even that tall, he is more of a big physically imposing guy than a tall one, there are many TV stars out there who are taller or as tall. Conan, John Krasinski, Isiah Washington, Jeff Goldblum, Goran Visnjic, Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson, Jason Segal, Greg Grunberg and I'm sure there are plenty of others.

I see what you're saying, but with the exception of Visnjic, who has towered over everybody on ER since Anthony Edwards left, I notice it more with Fillion than any of the other actors you mention. Part of it is that many of those actors are on shows with other people of near-equal stature (Krasinski and Wilson), where Fillion often is placed, sometimes deliberately, against much smaller co-stars. (He makes Charles Martin Smith look like a member of a different species.) But it's also that Minear, both here and on Firefly, takes advantage of Fillions size (both the height and the muscles) to give him the presence that, say, Goldblum or Grunberg don't have.

Maybe not the best way I could have described it, but Fillion always seems unusually large for a TV actor. I'm around his height, and I'm used to having to look way down to make eye contact with most actors of either gender.

Taleena said...

Fillion has presence. In Firefly, Adam Balwin is a big guy, ad the guy who played the Doc was better looking, but Fillion owned that show with his charisma.

When he was on Lost I actually wanted to watch the Kate flashbacks and I am tempted to watch a stupid movie about a pie waitress because of Fillion making the character vibrant and likeable.

Some folks grab the screen and fill it because they have presence.

Anonymous said...

Minnear's shows get cancelled for a reason: they are dumb. Alan, don't drink the Buffy alum Kool-Aid. Please.

Buffy and Joss are great.

Minear, not so much. The Inside was the most ridiculous criminal procedure show on the air at that time. I am so tired of writers who know nothing about the subject matter of their shows trying to pass themselves off as knowledgeable of same. What Peter Coyote character did was just silly and no law enforcement agent would ever do those things. But in the name of attempted drama, we are supposed to permit that? I think not.

Wonderfalls was okay but I stopped watching it after the protagonist used the word "frenemy." Joss was able to have his characters use silly words and phrases but also develop the characters so you cared about them. Minnear, not so much.

These writers need to tell stories, not try and impress us with all their cutesy wry slang. These writers need to know what their characters do for a living and why they do the things they do in their personal lives, not try and impress us with their made-up language and pop culture references. These writers need to tell compelling tales of conflict and human interrelations, not pass of recylced plots they learned from other writers who didn't bother to learn what their characters do, either.

I think Minnear's fans so want to find a show that they enjoy that they are willing to settle for whatever a Buffy alum produces. They think that because the like or enjoy a show that it means the show is good or brilliant. No way.

Dark Tyler said...

But "Drive" isn't open-ended.

The first (and, come on now, sole) season has a 13-episode order. In the highly unlikely chance there'll be another one, it's going to be about an entirely different race.

Tim Minear has said many times in the past that's he doesn't hate producing what is, essentially, BBC-like miniseries. And that's why both Wonderfalls and The Inside have a very clear and definite closure. Not that they couldn't have continued, but they work just fine as 13-episode miniseries.

I don't see what's wrong with that. Why should everything run forever? If Minear had a good idea for a show (and, him being Minear, I'm sure it's going to be excellent) why should he throw it away just because it's not going to run for 100 episodes?

By the way, in case anyone has faith that this in going to be The One, I should remind everyone that FOX has already canceled the thing. Well, not canceled, but how else do you call an already-short season being cut in two parts, the latter of which is going to play midsummer?

I'm fine with it, by the way. Just gonna wait until it airs in the U.K. so I can download the rest of the episodes, a la The Inside. (If 20th Century wants my money, then they should release the thing on DVD.)

PS. anonymous, I don't remember anyone celebrating the brilliance of Point Pleasant just because it was created by a Buffy alum. That's because it wasn't brilliant or anything resembling that. If people still like what Minear does, 3 shows and five years after working with Joss, then there must be a better reason; they like what he's been doing.

Anonymous said...

I've heard the word "frienemy" in lots of places. I think Sex & the City even had a whole episode about it. So I don't blame Minear for that one. Though, while I liked Wonderfalls, I did find it a bit overrated.

The one Buffy alum whose work I cannot stand is Marni Noxon. She was in charge of Buffy's worst seasons, Point Pleasant was completely godawful, and she was behind the awful Grey's Anatomy episode where Meredith dies. And I think Grey's Anatomy is one show where the cutesy, "hip" dialogue just does not work at all.

Dark Tyler said...

I came back to correct myself. The one race per season rule applies to full seasons, apparently, so I guess that this race should be complete after another 13 episodes or so. In any case, this specific storyline is not supposed to run for more than 20, give or take, episodes.

Anonymous said...

The point is: Only television writers trying too hard to sound original or clever use the word "frenemy."

I don't think I made it through the first hour of Point Pleasant.

The Grey's Anatomy episode would have been great if Meredith had stayed dead. And if they had killed Izzy, too, it would be my favorite show.

That said, I will watch the show for Fillion, who is cool.

Tosy And Cosh said...

KInd of off-topic, but isn't Ray Romano really tall, like 6'4, and Brad Garrett 6'7 or something? Made Romano look of average height on Everybody Loves Raymond, which I always found kind of funny.

J said...

I really wonder why Fillion hasn't made it as a big-screen leading guy, yet. He might be a bit too jokey, or not have enough lines on his face. But he's got (as others have said) the presence and the charm.

It's sort of weird how small he looked next to Michael Rooker in Slither, though.

I kept the tube running through Underbelly while I was doing other stuff and, while it never made me stop doing other stuff, it did make me laugh more than Two and a Half Men ever has.

Anonymous said...

The real fun will be watching what the obsequious die-hard fans will name themselves and how much they will complain when the show is cancelled in three weeks.

Anonymous said...

Has Fillino done anything that was not in some way ironic or self referential?

TuckPendleton said...

Great line about Harrison Ford, Alan.

I think someone sort of hinted at it above, but I think part of the reason that Fillion seems "big" on TV, is that he is a movie star waiting to happen. He should be on the big screen, not small.

And in another time, he would have been. However, currently we are in a cycle of our leading men being more "feminine" or "pretty" (Damon, DiCaprio, Pitt) not the rough and tumble quality that a Ford or McQueen has. I think Fillion also possesses this, as well as that undefinable quality that marks a movie star.

(In opposition to, say, David Boreanz, who is also a pretty big guy for TV, but who seems very at home on the small screen -- which is not meant as insult, as much I like(d) him on Bones and Angel.

jim treacher said...

Damn, dude. Give the guy a chance!

jim treacher said...

As for making it a mini-series, I would've said the same thing about Prison Break (actually, I think I did), but they've managed to wring a lot of good, stupid fun out of that idea for 2 whole seasons now, and I want to find out what happens next. So let's see what Minear's got before we start grimly declaring the time of death.

Dan Coyle said...

Prison Break was initially planned as a two season series, wasn't it? Though Ratner claims Scheuring has had five years planned. That show's a blast.

velvetcannibal said...

Yeah, Prison Break was planned for two seasons. I think the story is that when it was so successful, the showrunners were told it's continuing through season three "with or without you." So they started cooking up more plots. I'm still stuck on that show.

And I'm hoping Drive will be the next Prison Break for me. I like to have one action show with good, ridiculous fun, a few good twists, and some new actors to grow on me. I like that there are a lot of cars in the race, which leaves potential for new characters to cycle in too. I'm giving it a chance. I found the first two hours entertaining.

J said...

Okay, so I completely missed the premiere. Is FOX planning to put the eps online? Or rerun the first 3 hours, like, immediately? Because, if not, it's just another show I won't be watching.

J said...

Okay, I'll answer my own question (which wasn't rhetorical): Looks like FOX is posting episodes on the show's myspace page.

Just in case anyone else wanted to know.

jim treacher said...

"Prison Break was initially planned as a two season series, wasn't it?"

Maybe, but I wouldn't have believed they'd have been able to pull it off so entertainingly after the breakout.