The Force family is not your typical American Brady family. Then again, if they were, they wouldn’t be interesting enough to get their own reality television show. Still, just because you’re interesting doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will want to watch you. John Force is apparently the winningest drag racer in the sport’s history. His wife and three daughters live on his property but in a separate home. His daughters have decided to follow in Daddy Dearest’s track marks and are also circuit race car drivers. Oldest daughter Ashley is, in fact, creating quite a name for herself in the sport. While she expresses doubts often, her pre-race interviews show a real addiction to the thrill and adrenaline rush the sport provides her. The girls’ level of commitment sometimes wavers, and Dad finds the whole situation frustrating at times. Dad constantly reminds us that he wishes he’d had sons instead. This might be cute if I believed for even a second he was kidding around. And so, camera crews follow this real-life dysfunctional family through their daily trials and tribulations. Dad’s a hothead who, while he expresses genuine pride for his girls, is terribly self-centered most of the time. The series follows the family from the beginning of a new racing season. We get a nice inside look at the workings of a racing business. The opening episode also brings home the stark reality of the inherent danger the sport operates with each day. John Force warns his daughter during a training session that you only get one shot at dying. Laurie, John’s wife and mother to the girls, is quite the tragic figure. Most of the time she looks like she’d rather not be there. She shows all the classic signs of an emotionally battered woman and expresses constant fear and frustration at being near John. What a role model these two make for their daughters. The only appeal this series had was to drag racing fans. Truth is, it doesn’t look like anyone in this family enjoys each other’s company, so why would we want to spend any time with them?
Each episode of Driving Force is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. The quality is typical digital video. Colors are stable and, for the most part, reference. There are focus issues at times, but then again this is a very documentary style presentation. With that kind of a program you have to expect jittery camera work and imperfections in focus and lighting. Black levels and contrast are pretty much average. Some of the footage is inconsistent as race scenes and location shots are utilized to fill out the story. Overall I’m sure the DVD looks as good as or better than the original cable broadcast.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is pretty much camera mike quality. This is a reality show with no looping or sound replacement, so the quality will vary according to setting and strength of the original source. Most of the time you can hear things pretty well. When voices might be drowned out, subtitles are offered to lend you an ear.
“Interviews With The Force Family” These four small collections of bits look like they could have been outtakes or deleted scenes from the show. The Force family talks about everything from John’s meltdowns to a tour of Ashley’s keychain and what each item means to her. Pretty much just more of the same.
So should you buy, rent, or pretend this thing never came out? That depends on you. There are really only two kinds of people who will enjoy this series. 1. Drag racing and particularly John or Ashley Force fans. 2. The kind of person who revels in watching other folks talk about their problems. I guess these folks get the thrill of eavesdropping on a famous person or two and discover their lives might just be more messed up than their own. Either way, like his wife Laurie, I can’t take John Force “for more than a few hours at a time”.