With Apologies to Nathan Fillion

Filed under:Reviews,Television — posted by Anwyn on April 15, 2007 @ 11:17 pm

I didn’t expect much out of Drive, the new Nathan Fillion-led, Tim Minear-written/produced “drama” on Fox. The premise–a secret, illegal, cross-country race, as the cast of tonight’s premiere kept reminding us in those exact words–seemed weak and the previews were not promising. Unfortunately my suppositions were correct. Though I love me some Fillion, he alone can’t rescue the show from insipid, repetitive dialogue, a sinister but meaningless premise, and weak costars.

Briefly, the main characters are all in the race for a reason–Tully (Fillion) because the race’s backers have kidnapped his wife, his partner because they kidnapped her when she was a child and she watched as her parents’ car, racing to reach her, was forced off the road and over the edge of a ravine, killing them both. Others’ reasons have yet to be revealed, but Tim Minear, sick imagination that he is, saw fit to include the one thing that turns me off any show faster than anything else: endangerment of an infant. We know that “Wendy Patrakas’s” husband was abusing her and that she escaped into the race, leaving her newborn in a safe-haven care facility. But previews for coming episodes show that somebody, one presumes the abusive husband, is zeroing in on the safehouse to get to the baby. My first thought is not that the race backers will do anything to help Wendy save her child. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I can tolerate the show long enough to find out.

Like reviewers have said of Studio 60, which by the way looks to have held its last after-party at this point, it’s just too hard to accept the premise as seriously as its characters do. Like most of the TV audience seems not to care if a comedy sketch show gets produced properly, I can’t make myself care about the race as such–it produces instead only a healthy portion of, ahem, road rage at the kidnapping of Tully’s wife and the endangering of Patrakas’s baby. Not to mention the killing of “Corinna’s” parents. Though there are a few indicators–a few–that the race backers have some humanity about them, still, they are putting the “contestants” through a rat race of their choosing. One supposes that we will eventually see that these people might have something up their sleeves that makes them worthy of being “punished” in this matter, a la Lost, but unlike that erstwhile trial/judgment drama, the show’s already made me angry enough not to care about the ultimate ends and altogether disinterested enough not to bother finding out for sure.

In a nutshell, if a show makes it that difficult to see how they’re going to make sense of it all, and that boring along the way (we really need four or five scenes per hour of the cars zipping in and out of traffic as they try to outdo each other?), it won’t be long before a lot of the audience stops trying. Even dedicated Firefly fans like me.

Minear as a writer really seems to have something of a split personality. I’ve seen him put together a really incredible show, and I’ve seen him put together some junk. Come on, Minear, where’s the guy who wrote “Out of Gas”? Get him back, fast. Because, with apologies likewise to Adam Baldwin, the guy who brought us The Inside never did it for me either.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace