TV Review – Hyperdrive: Season 1

TL;DR – This is part Fast and the Furious, part Ninja Warrior, part tyre-screech aficionado love letter. What a fantastic idea, however, to make an idea work you need execution and here is where it falls down.  

Score – 3 out of 5 stars

Hyperdrive. Image Credit: Netlfix.

Review

Rarely in my life have I heard an idea that clicked as much as I did today “Ninja Warrior but with cars?” I mean just think of that and your mind is racing through all the possibilities. Indeed, watching that first episode it all started to click and then as that episode went on I started to notice things not quite coming together and as the rest of the season went on it was only compounded by one odd moment after another. So today we are going to have a look at a show where there is this interesting divide between ambition and execution.

Hyperdrive is a show all about putting the cars and the experts that drive them to the extremes. The drivers come from America, Brazil, Japan, and Europe and are absolute experts in their fields. Now before we move on I do want to say none of the critiques I have are for the drivers who are clearly doing an amazing job with what they have been given and are clearly skilled technicians and experts in their fields. Each round they go through a set of challenges like doing a reverse 360° turn in-between tight penalty pylons or drifting your car back and forth along the sides chicane trying to hit targets with the back end of your vehicle. All while wanting to be the fastest because if you are too slow you are eliminated. As far as a concept goes you have a winner here and there are a lot of touches that help add to this, like putting the commentary booth over the top of the finish line, or having the targets full of balls that fly out when they are hit, or the industrial setting that really gels with the aesthetic of the race. However, while there are these small touches and some interesting challenges it is soon clear that there are some things that just have not translated as well as they wanted.

Hyperdrive. Image Credit: Netlfix.
This is such an interesting idea, but the execution is lacking. Image Credit: Netlfix.

The first is the design of the show with regards to progression. In the first rounds there are twelve racers at the end of the round three proceed to the knockout round, three are eliminated and the other six get a second chance. Okay I thought that is a good way of distributing it out, but then in the next episode they just added six new racers to the six from the first round, and so on and so on. This means those drivers in the first round had multiple chances to succeed, more than those who followed. This has the effect of making the entire first round feel like a complete waste of time.

One of the issues that all of these types of shows have, like for example Ultimate Beastmaster, is that when you run the same course time after time it starts to get repetitive. This is escalated here because there is no real chance to bond with any of the drivers in the first round so there is nothing to pull you through the rest of the episodes. To add to this all of the challenges start to feel really samey after a while. It is clear that this is a course that was designed with only drifting in mind, which really limits what challenges the show can do and what cars they can focus on. To add to this, the one big set-piece moment in the show is called The Leveller. This is basically a large metal seesaw and the first time you see it, it is really cool, however, it has a very short half-life. This challenge appears in every race and it only really achieves grinding everything to a halt killing all the momentum both literally and thematically.

Hyperdrive. Image Credit: Netlfix.
The Leveller is so cool the first time you see it, but it loses its impact fast. Image Credit: Netlfix.

All of this is compounded by a number of factors that feel like the show was almost amateurish in its construction. The big thing we see this in is the moment that it is clear that they did not do enough safety testing of the challenges leading to one contestant having to go to hospital due to an incident from a water cannon and not because of some problem with their driving. But it is more than that we see this in every facet of the show from the small things to the big things. For starters this is a show that billed itself on the fact that anyone can compete bringing a much needed egalitarian spin to the contestants. However, that did not seem to extend to the commentating staff as the one women on the team was almost instantly relegated to course side interview role and barley seen again for the rest of the show. This would not have been too much of a problem if the rest of the commentary team was engaging but this was also not the case. Casting a sports event is something that takes real talent and knowledge and having a deep voice is not the same as having a personality. We also see this in the way things are shot, with the use of slow-motion cameras at moments that don’t actually look visually impressive (like say screeching tires full of smoke or targets being smashed to oblivion) but in moments where it just makes the cars look slow.

Now I do have to confess, I am not a car guy, I could not tell most of those cars apart with their companies let alone the makes and models. So to do my due diligence for this review I asked a friend of mine who is a car guy what he thought. He came away from the show even more frustrated than I did because they didn’t go into any real detail about the cars, not even a little bit. The depth of their analysis was telling you if this was a custom or factory model and not a whole lot else. This was, of course, the point where he started talking about the differences in the models of Nisan cars and my eyes started to glaze over. However, this raises a point as to who the show was targeted at, for me who does not really know much about cars I don’t think I learned anything new throughout the ten episodes, and for those who do know, there was so little information to be actively frustrating.

Hyperdrive. Image Credit: Netlfix.
There are some amazing talents in this show, but the odd progression system and other issues really hold the show back for demonstrating that talent. Image Credit: Netlfix.

In the end, do we recommend Hyperdrive? For me honestly no I wouldn’t. Your mileage with this show might be longer than mine, and if you skipped right through to the knockout stages you would free up a lot of the frustrating aspects of the show. All in all, this just felt like to me as a great idea that didn’t quite follow through on the execution and that was a real shame.  

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you seen Hyperdrive yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.    


Credits –
All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Hyperdrive
Directed by
– Patrick McManus
Production/Distribution Companies – Whalerock Industries, Denver and Delilah Productions & Netflix.
Starring – Mike Hill, Rutledge Wood, Michael Bisping & Lindsay Czarniak with Charlize Theron

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