June 15, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Blood Drive”


BLOOD DRIVE:  Wednesday 10PM on Syfy – If Nothing Else Is On…

Syfy is in the midst of a rebranding, the focal point of which seems to be a new font for its logo.  Creatively, if the premiere of BLOOD DRIVE is to be taken as a guide, the network intends its model to be Z Nation rather than Battlestar Galactica (or even The Magicians).  Like Z, Blood Drive is ferociously grungy, dark-humored and splattered with gore; this time, the network has added an enthusiastic embrace of the FX-led loosening of standards and practices for basic cable, with semi-nudity and the word “fuck” sprinkled generously throughout.  The move makes some sense, since Z Nation has been a moderate success for Syfy at a low cost, but it certainly offers little hope to viewers who have been waiting for Syfy to produce something of quality in its given genre.

Blood Drive, which hails from newcomer James Roland but is showrun by John Hlavin (who also does Shooter for Syfy’s sister network USA), riffs on Death Race 2000, with some Cannonball Run, Crank and Mad Max: Fury Road for good measure.  In the near future, gasoline and water are strictly rationed, and society is run by the evil Heart Corporation.  America’s secret sensation is Blood Drive, a coast-to-coast race with plenty of nasty gimmicks.  The cars, for one thing, run on human blood, so the drivers have to constantly feed unwitting victims into their vehicles’ engines to stay in the race–and they have to stay in the race, because although the winner goes home with $10M, the losing team of each leg is blown up by the chip implanted in his or her neck.  The contestants are all wild caricatures–The Gentleman, a courtly psychopath, and master mechanic The Scholar, to name two–with one ringer.  He’s heroic and hunky LAPD cop Arthur (Alan Ritchson), who stumbles onto the race while tracking down a drug ring, and finds himself forced into competition alongside tough chick (and, it goes without saying, absolute babe) Grace (Christina Ochoa).  The race is administered by Mad Hatter-ish Julian Slink (Colin Cunningham).  Oh, and there are killer robots.

People will either be in or out on Blood Drive in short order.  Based on the pilot, the show–which proudly bills itself as “grindhouse”–has no interest in any hidden depths, or even in the kind of world-building that Z Nation has been doing.  In addition, while Z Nation has a team of heroes, which allows the show to periodically kill its major characters with some surprise, Blood Drive is centered squarely around Arthur and Grace, so it doesn’t have the same room to maneuver.  The new series is interested only is providing a rush, with some dropping of jaws over the levels of violence and general outrageousness it allows.  Director David Straiton efficiently orchestrates the cars and crowd scenes, but without any particular style.

Blood Drive insists on its own coolness, dotting itself with fake commercials that aren’t very different from the episode.  It shows very little originality, though, content to be a stew of better forebears.  That’s apparently enough for the new Syfy, a network that has let every other programming service around eat its lunch in its signature genre.  Now, like the cars in its new series, it’s eating itself, and offering its entrails as original programming.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."