I'm Going To Say It: Not Every Racing Series Needs A TV Show

Illustration for article titled I'm Going To Say It: Not Every Racing Series Needs A TV Show
Photo: Brian Lawdermilk (Getty Images)

I love racing. I love racing content. I love racing books and movies and magazines and podcasts and YouTube videos and blogs and all that good stuff. But I’m going to just come out and say it: Not every racing series needs a TV show.

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I’ve revised this stance pretty quickly in the last few weeks, because I generally won’t turn down an opportunity to experience fast cars outside of a race weekend. But I just don’t think a scripted TV show is the way to go when there are literally 1,000 other venues to pursue.

This take started coalescing as I watched “The Crew,” a Kevin James NASCAR sitcom that is about as predictable as that description suggests. It wasn’t a particularly enjoyable viewing experience, and it left me hungry for something of substance. I know, I know—substance isn’t something you should expect from a sitcom, but I was still disappointed. There’s so much about racing that would make a fascinating series. You don’t really need a fictionalized take on it to get fans interested.

Then, IndyCar announced it was also interested in pursuing a scripted TV series, and I’ll be honest: I couldn’t think of anything I wanted less than that. And I’m one of the biggest IndyCar fans you’ll meet.

I’m probably shooting myself in the foot here considering I’ve written fictional racing stories about fictional race car drivers, but I just don’t want another fictionalized racing TV show.

A lot of this desire comes down to the desire to recreate the popularity of Formula One’s docuseries Drive to Survive. That show is great. Current F1 fans enjoy it, and it’s also served as a great gateway to the sport itself. But it has achieved that by crafting the entirety of a season into a few different storylines. It’s a companion to the on-track action that gives you a behind-the-scenes perspective about what drivers and team members are thinking. And that’s why it shines. That’s why people like it. That’s why it’s introduced plenty of new fans to F1.

A scripted TV show doesn’t hold that same magic. There’s not a one-to-one translation from screen to track. You don’t get to know the real-life driver personalities, which is often what inspires someone to want to branch out and learn more about the sport. Daniel Ricciardo may be a fun character in Drive to Survive, but people who want to see more of that charisma can find it by actually watching F1. In a fictionalized series, those characters exist solely within the confines of the show. A few Ryan Blaney cameos in The Crew didn’t really inspire anyone new to go watch a NASCAR race.

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Right now, I think there’s more value in documentary-style shows like Drive to Survive or inspired-by-real-life stories like Rush. So many stories in racing seem too wild to be true, and I think you’re more likely to attract a new fan to racing by giving them a real-life personality to latch onto. 

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

DISCUSSION

Pitchblende
Pitchblende

I think the problem with any scripted sports show is that in writing the drama it misses the entire reason people watch sports. There’s no point of cheering on your favourite team or competitor if you know they are going to win, even Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes get it wrong sometimes. There’s always going to be something that you just couldn’t write.