Binge This Show: Blood DriveBinge This Show: Blood Drive
KSiteTV's Shilo Adams argues why you should binge Syfy grindhouse drama Blood Drive, which was cancelled in September 2017. Binge This Show: Blood Drive

With Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Last Man StandingThe Expanse, and Lucifer all getting rescued from cancellation in the last month or so, now is as good a time to be a cancelled show as there’s ever been. Of course, the reason that cancelled shows being rescued by another network is so rare to begin with comes back to how difficult it is to make the finances work, but with vertical integration on the rise and platforms looking for content with engaged audiences, the leg work is being done.

One such show looking to join the fray is erstwhile Syfy grindhouse drama Blood Drive, which was cancelled after one low-rated season this past September. While the show wasn’t able to do enough damage in the Nielsens to get itself a second season, it inspired a small but loyal online fan base and came in at an economical price point in an era of bloated TV budgets, so it was an out-of-the-box possibility for a resurrection on another platform. The show is currently in a state of limbo, as producers are attempting to buy its rights back from Universal Cable so they can shop the show elsewhere, so in an attempt to give an unjustly overlooked gem attention that its own network never did, KSiteTV is featuring it in our Binge This Show feature.

As you all know, there’s a lot of content out there and not all of it is able to flourish, so KSiteTV  

      

Blood Drive (Syfy)

Cast: Christina Ochoa (Valor); Alan Ritchson (Blue Mountain State); Thomas Dominique (Black Mirror); Marama Corlett (Sinbad); Andrew Hall (Coronation Street); Darren Kent (Mirrors); Sean Cameron Michael (Black Sails); Carel Nel (The Salvation); Aidan Whytock (24 Hours to Live); Brandon Auret (Elysium); Craig Jackson (District 9); Jenny Stead (Ice); Alex McGregor (Of Kings and Prophets); and Colin Cunningham (Falling Skies)

Creator: James Roland (Weeds)

Number of Episodes: 13

Similar Shows: The closest current analog to Blood Drive is AMC’s Preacher, as the two share a similarly gonzo approach to storytelling and bold visual palette. Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle is another show with speculative fiction elements, while Starz’s dearly departed Ash vs Evil Dead is a televisual blood bath in the same vein as Blood Drive.

Why You Should Binge: Playing like Wacky Races on a shit-ton of mushrooms, Blood Drive immediately stood out when it premiered in summer 2017 for not only being the first (and only) grindhouse drama on television, but for its outlandish premise centered around a cross-country race using cars that run on human blood. However, once you get past the delightful confusion that comes from realizing a show with that premise was actually greenlit, it quickly became apparent that Blood Drive was a show that had more going on aside from its central conceit. 

The series is helped structurally by having the race as a template to work from, as it never gets the chance to languish in its own eccentricity while having constant forward plot momentum allows it to experiment elsewhere. Nowhere is that better seen that its propensity to genre hop; throughout the course of its 13 episodes, the first season of Blood Drive bounces from spaghetti western to kung fu epic to David Cronenberg-inspired mindfuck to Mad Max-ish final battle, all the while weaving in grindhouse tropes and social commentary that’s smarter and more prescient than it had to be. It’s a consistently surprising, gloriously ambitious season that showcases a series not content to rest on its laurels and so bursting with ideas that it simply can’t wait to show you what’s next. 

Also helping to ground a series that could’ve easily spiraled into muddled nothingness is its cast, with Colin Cunningham’s Master of Ceremonies Julian Slink leading the way in terms of performance. A demented mixture of Willy Wonka, Rocky Horror Picture Show‘s Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and Joel Grey’s character in Cabaret, Slink is a serpentine showman from way back, hell-bent on using his status as race emcee to finally earn the respect and adoration he’s long been denied. With top hat in tow, Cunningham disappears into the role and masterfully turns Slink from preening, insecure villain into misunderstood artist under the thumb of dastardly network executives. The immediate rock star flair, with fascinatingly idiosyncratic flourishes, gives way to a giddy ghoulishness that helps Slink become more of a comic relief figure later in the season, which makes the last stretch of his arc unexpectedly poignant but impressively powerful.

With a twisted sense of humor and a propensity for piling on the gore, Blood Drive isn’t exactly taking itself too seriously, but what really sealed the strength of season one was a finale whose third quarter pivoted from a lean and mean Towering Inferno-esque caper to something more emotional and humane. It packs 12 episodes of investing in its characters and laying its stakes bare into a solid 15-20 minutes that reveals the show’s hidden depths and emphasizes its themes of survival and redemption; in a way, it’s akin to the series finale of The Comeback, which also had a late finale perspective/tone change that elevated and illuminated everything that came before it. For as much fun as Blood Drive was for its first season, and as interesting a wrinkle its approach to dystopian fiction was, it’s moments like this final stretch of the finale that point toward a show that cares more about its character than it initially seems and has many more places it can go, if only it were given the chance.

How You Can Binge: A region-free Blu-ray set was recently released by Australian company ViaVision. While the series is not currently available on a streaming service, it’s available through Syfy’s website, On Demand, iTunes, Google Play, Youtube, Vudu, and Amazon.

Shilo Adams

Shilo Adams is a contributor to KSiteTV who has written for the likes of TVOvermind, ScreenFad, and TVHackr. You can e-mail him at sda2107@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @sda0918.

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