Do not try this at home.
For decades, we’ve been warned by the Fast and the Furious franchise not to replicate their street racing antics – not even in the name of family. I’ve brought great shame to the Williams’ dynasty by resisting the urge to do doughnuts in a McDonald’s car park.
Hyperdrive is the insane new reality series that asks elite drivers from around the world, please, try this at home, and then come to an abandoned chemical plant where we’ve built one of the world’s biggest racecourses and we’ll film it in the name of television.
Netflix has been in the reality TV lane for a bit with riffs of cooking competitions (Nailed It!), home makeovers (Tidying Up with Marie Kondo) and reinvented classics (Queer Eye). They’ve even made shows that seriously blow like the high-end glass blowing series: Blown Away. But these shows slot into pre-existing formats and do little to push the boundaries of reality TV. It’s feel-good background noise, aside from that time Marie Kondo gave everyone folding brain worms and enraged a bunch of nerds by suggesting people chuck out a few books.
Hyperdrive is a game-changer because it’s the reality show Netflix was destined to make; expensive, loud, outlandish and addictive. Yes, it’s Ninja Warrior meets Top Gear, but no other network is asking a guy named Fielding Shredder – yes, that’s his real name – to try and outrun a high-pressure water cannon in a car.
Hyperdrive has a B.Y.O car policy. Each high-performance vehicle is a character, kind of like the way New York City is the fifth lady in Sex and the City. The racers come from all walks of life, but they are all equal behind the wheel despite the fact the show makes a big deal there’s a millionaire, law student, lumberjack and a model – ridiculously good-looking people have a need for speed, too.
The competition begins with each driver doing a lap of racecourse to see who’s the fastest. The drivers communicate with a member of their support crew who act like a motivational GPS. Each section of the course has a different challenge. Drivers get punished with time penalties if they don’t complete are challenge correctly. One sounds like a Batman villain, ‘the leveller’, which tests each driver’s ability to balance their car on a giant seesaw that doubles as a bridge.
Other obstacles take on more biblical references like ‘walk on water’ where drivers must navigate a waterlogged section of track like an automotive Jesus. Amen. My personal favourites are the obstacles that sound like the titles of action films about sky diving from the 1990s: ‘target zone’ and ‘double supernova’.
The course humbles a lot of fast cars and it’s satisfying to see water destroy the engine of a neon mechanical beast; mankind verses nature, will we ever learn? The track has special bumpers the drivers must hit to advance and it’s gratifying when they drift into them perfectly. Drifting is like a specialty skill in the driving world and they make a big deal about it. In many ways drifting is driving, but, to quote Days of Thunder: rubbin’ is racin’. The people who love cars have a lot of sayings but there’s much more to it than just pushing the pedal to the metal (here we go again).
At the end of each round a driver’s rank on a leader board decides who progresses and who gets eliminated. As the competition intensifies there are knock-out rounds and second chances. New obstacles are introduced like ‘the gauntlet’ where drivers must weave through cars that dangle overhead like medieval axes. Hyperdrive ups the stakes in ludicrous ways to the point where I would not be surprised if they introduced a challenge where drivers had to takedown of a fuel tanker like in a Mad Max film.
If you’re worried you won’t understand why certain cars are not immune to water, never fear, Hyperdrive has four commentators whose main role consists of yelling. The commentating style is: seeing a car for the first time in your life. One of them is a former MMA fighter who I’m pretty sure knows nothing about cars but he is us, the audience, asking all the right questions. But that’s the utopia of Hyperdrive. All former MMA fighters who know nothing about cars are welcome. At one point the star of The Italian Job (remake) and Fast and the Furious 8, Charlize Theron, shows up to reveal she’s one of the show’s executive producers. She too is a car lover despite being a glamorous celebrity who is probably driven around a lot.
The point of Hyperdrive seems to be that we’re all secretly car lovers. It’s like at the end of Cool Runnings when the guys who were against a Jamaican bobsled team reveal they’re fans. The competition offers the right adrenaline hit for people who think Formula One racing is too boring because there’s not one shipping container left on the track for the cars to drive through.
For once, Netflix are innovating by using their ridiculous budget to make a show like Hyperdrive.
Hyperdrive lands on Netflix Australia on Wednesday, August 21.Image: Netflix