From heated arguments at home to thunderous runs down the quarter-mile stretch, Driving Force is an entertaining, warts-and-all portrait of the first family of drag racing. As a 30-year veteran with 14 National Hot Rod Association Funny Car championships to his credit (as of late 2006), John Force is a drag-racing legend, widely regarded as the NHRA's most colorful personality since the two Dons (Prudhomme and Garlits). But as Force confesses in this A&E reality series (which premiered July 17, 2006), nothing could have prepared him for the challenge of raising three girls while juggling his thriving career and the corporate empire he runs out of the wealthy Orange County suburb of Yorba Linda, California. For better or worse, Force is a bossy, selfish, belligerent, foul-mouthed S.O.B. who hollers like the rest of the world was stone deaf, and as these 14 fast-paced episodes unfold, there are many occasions when you just want to throttle the guy and put him out of his (and our) misery. But just as often, you see how Force truly loves his family, which consists of 55-year-old wife Laurie (still married to Force but living separately with their daughters); 23-year-old Ashley, the most focused and promising heiress to Force's drag-racing legacy; rebellious 19-year-old Brittany, a competitive but not-always-devoted racer of Super-Comp dragsters; and 17-year-old Courtney, a former cheerleader struggling (like Brittany) to balance school with her new and still-uncertain racing career.
Like their devoted mother (who understandably grew apart from John while supporting his career), the Force girls are gorgeous, headstrong, and more than a little spoiled, but they form an irresistible team even when they act like trendy "O.C." girls of limited intelligence (as when debating the definition of "original"). With father John as (pardon the pun) a Force to be reckoned with, these young, attractive women hold their own with solid family values, emerging as a close-knit clan more than ready to tackle the everyday challenges of a very demanding sport. From meetings with corporate sponsors to finding time for boyfriends (a topic which gives poor Dad no end of worry), this all-American family enjoys the luxurious perks of success (including three plush homes, limousines, and a very affluent lifestyle), but they're also managing more high-pressure responsibilities than many adults. As siblings, they ultimately prove to be admirably savvy young women who've clearly benefited from the sensible and grounded upbringing that Laurie gave them (indeed, Mrs. Force is the quiet presence that keeps Driving Force from careening out of control), especially since John Force readily admits that "this dad thing doesn't come natural." And while Driving Force serves as an excellent introduction to the dynamic sport of drag racing, it primarily functions as a funny, serious, occasionally toucing and never-boring portrait of a splintered yet close-knit family that anyone can relate to--fast, occasionally furious, anything but perfect, and full of genuine love. --Jeff Shannon