What to Watch This Weekend: TV’s Juiciest, Glitziest Sports Show

What to Watch This Weekend: TV’s Juiciest, Glitziest Sports Show

Season 6 of “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” is now on Netflix, and in many ways it remains as fun and juicy as ever — full of petty immaturity, glamorous lifestyles and alluring European impishness. In the show’s hands, a race for 10th place as compelling and high-stakes as the one for first — partly because that’s how the sport can work but also because Max Verstappen, the driver who came in first in 19 of the 22 races, didn’t participate in the show this season.

The enormous success of “Drive to Survive” spawned, and continues to spawn, an entire league of imitators. “Tour de France: Unchained” and “Make or Break,” about surfing, come the closest to “Drive” in capturing athletic intensity, general charisma and dazzling locations. The raw brutality of cycling and the sanguine individuality of surfing are fascinating in their own rights, but the glitz factor, a pillar of “Drive,” is largely absent.

“Break Point,” about tennis, is plenty exciting but more diffuse; because it includes both male and female pros and because of the nature of tennis tournaments, its athletes are not all in competition with one another. “Full Swing,” about golf, is an unlovable spectacle of cowardice and greed. “Six Nations: Full Contact,” about rugby, has plenty of scrappy charm, moment to moment, but doesn’t gel overall. The drivers on “NASCAR: Full Speed” all blend together.

Series that follow a sport for a whole season are the clearest descendants of “Drive.” But other access shows like “Quarterback,” “Under Pressure: The U.S. Women’s World Cup Team,” “Angel City” and “Race: Bubba Wallace” are adjacent, too. All claim to offer an insider perspective but are too superficial and uncritical to have any real purchase — and they don’t compensate for that superficiality with sheer volume of story lines the way “Drive” does.

“Drive” will not reign forever, particularly because it continues to list toward reality show. And not a nutritious reality show; a Bravo one. A big episode this season centers on Lewis Hamilton re-signing a contract with Mercedes, and it plays out as a tale of commitment and integrity for all parties. He would never race for Ferrari, we’re told. But the first few seasons of “Drive” got me motor-pilled enough that now I follow the sport’s comings and goings, and I know that Hamilton has indeed signed with Ferrari for the 2025 season, much in the way “Vanderpump Rules” fans all knew the ins and outs of Scandoval eons before it made its way into the show.

“Drive” already has to contend with the fact that, like all sports shows, it is straightforwardly spoilable, so additional contrivances just add more drag. Luckily there’s still plenty of easy pleasure within the series, at least another few seasons of gas in its tank.

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