STUDIO: A&E Home Video
MSRP: $24.95
RATING: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 308 minutes
• Interviews with the Force family:
A Force to Reckon With
Force Family Matters
Girl Talk
Racing Fever

The Pitch

“You’ve got an interesting career and three hot daughters. Would you like your own reality show?”

The Humans

John Force, Laurie Force, Ashley Force, Courtney Force, Brittany Force

The Nutshell

John Force is the 13-time NHRA champion. He’s a drag racing superstar, which means he’s loud, bullheaded, and a fierce competitor. The man seems wired to clash with other people. It doesn’t help his cause looking like Gary Busey with a mustache. His personality and his commitment to winning have caused a divide between his wife and daughters. For the past seven years, John has lived in a separate house from the rest of his family. Watch John as he tries to balance his desire to win with his passion for keeping the family together. Why does this situation deserve a show? John’s daughters all drag race, and all of them keep it easy on the eyes. Interesting ugly people have no place on television.

"I’ll have the chicken breast. Hold the chicken."

The Lowdown

It’s hard to describe Driving Force. At some points it’s an entertaining guilty pleasure, other times it’s frustratingly bad. It doesn’t know if it should focus on the family drama, or give in to the standard, look at how wacky and dumb our father is, reality show. Thanks for nothing Osbournes.

As annoying as John Force should be, I found his personality to be pretty entertaining. He pushes everyone’s buttons, but you can sense that he truly cares. He is a man that loves his family and fears neglecting them further after years of focusing solely on racing. He worries that his daughters don’t understand how lucky they are to have the opportunities he’s given them. He’s afraid they’re spoiled. It doesn’t take more than two episodes to see the truth. Giving them a television crew at their disposal won’t be helping.

The fact that the family is so involved with drag racing sets the show apart from other reality fare. Unfortunately, somebody decided to jam pack the show with all the standards in the reality genre. (A sad genre indeed) There are shouting matches, crying, random trips to odd places, and moments where all involved say something totally ignorant. Those last moments make the viewer feel good about themselves while simultaneously making them weep at the fact that these people are multimillionaires. Too often, there are segments of the show that feel staged and far from real. They may have all been real moments, but the way the show is produced left me scratching my head.

John Force will start letting go of his kids when the swing stops being so fucking fun.

The most bothersome part of the show is the narration. John provides voice-overs for every episode. They are about as necessary as the two-minute warning. Oftentimes, John regurgitates things just said in a real moment followed by what he plans to do next. Have some faith in the audience. All racing fan jokes aside, they’re probably able to follow the storyline. The cameras are supposed to be taping every moment and proper editing should make it easy to follow. The narration only makes the show feel phony and scripted.

John comes across as a very opinionated person. He’ll go into a conversation having already decided his stance. It’s unwavering. However, during several episodes he’ll start one way, the way you’d expect from his personality type, and suddenly switch near the end of the episode. These shifts seem so unnatural. Did he think to himself, hey maybe I should lighten up because that will make for better television?

The change in attitude isn’t exclusive with John. The center of the episode always seems to learn something. Everything wraps up nicely in one episode. Will Ashley take a break from work and learn to have some fun? Will Courtney start to act responsible about her racing? Fuck yeah they will, and in under 25 minutes. You could watch one episode and never feel the need to watch another again. Keeping things more open-ended would vastly improve the show.

I’d like to start a small fire in your panties.

Easily, the best episode is The Rival. It’s the only episode that focuses squarely on drag racing. It’s also the only episode with any real tension. Not a single moment feels staged, either. The racing is real and the stakes are important. This is where the show is truly gripping. Sadly, more time is spent with John on wacky adventures than the real-life drama and dangers of high speed racing. I would have preferred more racing and less visits to day spas, cowboy ranches, and gondola rides.

This show is a lot better than my initial expectations. Not that it’s a remarkable piece of work or anything. Instead of a turd, it’s more of a vomit-laced burp. A lot worse is anticipated and you’re thankful it’s only mildly unpleasant. I know that sounds pretty harsh, but reality shows are a hard sell for me. The fact is, the show isn’t bad, but it’s not great. If it’s not going to be great, it better be a guilty pleasure. It’s just not quite enough of a guilty pleasure to get a strong recommendation.

So that’s what James Cameron’s been doing all these years.

The Package

Driving Force: The Complete Season One includes 30 minutes of special features, as well as an oddly worded title. Why not the complete first season? For some reason that bothers the hell out of me. Moving on. The sound and video are typical for a television DVD. Nothing looks too bad, except for John Force in his underwear.

"Interviews with the Force Family" is divided into four parts. Most of the footage is taken from the episodes in highlight-reel style, interspersed with interviews. There is about 10 minutes of new footage. That footage is pretty good and should have been a part of the series. There are several moments that give background on the family that was needed in the first episode. The series jumps right into the action, with John yelling at the wife and kids. A proper introduction would have given viewers some kind of emotional attachment. One of the best moments from the entire set can be found in the interviews. John and Laurie talk about the family while looking through old photo albums. The way John describes his kids, with tears flowing, really hammers home how much he loves his family. It’s a genuine moment. One that needed to be in the series early on.

Nobody listened to Hilary Swank when she said The Next Rocky Balboa was a bad idea.

One of the other interviews has Ashley giving some background information on the racing aspect of their lives. Again, it’s something that wasn’t clearly presented during the episodes that should have been there. There may not be a whole lot to the special features, but they do improve the viewing of the show, if only a little.

5.5 out of 10