Net Picks Up Drag-Racing Series

Sep 19, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Continuing its stream of docudrama reality shows, A&E has ordered 10 episodes of “Driving Force,” a series following champion dragster John Force and his three drag-racing daughters.

Mr. Force is an outspoken and dominant figure in drag racing, with 118 career victories, and holds the world record for consecutive Funny Car championships. But the focus of “Driving Force” is Mr. Force’s three daughters: Ashley, 22, Brittany, 19, and Courtney, 17, who represent the popularity of female drivers in racing sports. Together, the Force dynasty has dominated the sport in recent years.

“It’s about these three girls in the incredibly intense and high-testosterone world of drag racing,” said Nancy Dubuc, senior VP of nonfiction and alternative programming for A&E.

The show is executive produced by Stephen Hopkins (HBO’s “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” the USA miniseries version of “Traffic”), who is represented by the William Morris Agency. The series will be Mr. Hopkins’ second reality series, following ABC Family’s “Las Vegas Garden of Love.”

“Driving Force” is one of several racing projects that have been making laps among cable networks, with other series, on subjects such as NASCAR racing, close to the finish line, sources said. But Ms. Dubuc said racing will take a backseat role in “Driving Force” to the personal dynamics of the Force family.

“The popularity of racing is not new. We’ve all seen and tracked the ratings of NASCAR and HRA; they perform impressively in the demos we’re looking at,” she said. “But here racing is simply the backdrop for a family comedy. We are pretty optimistic that this is a home run.”

“Driving Force” is now shooting, with a premiere set for next year.

With docu-soaps like “Airline,” “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and “Growing Up Gotti,” A&E, which is co-owned by Hearst, ABC and NBC, has enjoyed a ratings climb in recent quarters. Among 18- to 49-year-olds, the channel was up 15 percent in the most recent quarter, adding to its 34 percent boost in 2004 over 2003, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“We’ve tapped into a genre with these real-life series that have captured viewers. … We don’t rely on contrived premises or contests,” Ms. Dubuc said.