Gentlemen, start your engines: A pair of rival shows about 1960s auto racing are in the works, both with impressive producers behind the wheel. Tony and Ridley Scott (The Good Wife) are locked in a race against rival filmmakers Wolfgang Petersen (Air Force One) and Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) as they compete to capture the mid-20th century international auto racing circuit via two separate TV projects.
The Scotts are behind The Drivers, which centers on the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race of the 1950s and 1960s — a time when Enzo Ferrari's team dominated the sport. It's being developed by the production company FremantleMedia as an international series and doesn't yet have a home in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Petersen and Shelton are working on a 10-hour series for Starz that focuses on American racer Carroll Shelby, who took on Ferrari's team and even won Le Mans in 1959.
The same characters will likely populate both shows, which are based on two books: The Drivers will be adapted from Shelby: The Man, the Cars, the Legend, written by Wallace A. Wyss; the Petersen/Shelton series is a take on Tim Considine book Twice Around the Clock: The Yanks at Le Mans.
"It's an epic story of courage and ambition and a history of racing which has never been told on such a grand scale," Ridley Scott said of his drama project.
Last fall Shelton said he was "flabbergasted" that no film or TV series had ever been set in this arena; now there might be two.
The rival auto racing shows come amidst a sudden fascination in all things 1960s at the broadcast and cable networks. Inspired by the critical acclaim behind AMC's Mad Men, a slew of Kennedy-era series, dealing with everything from flight attendants (ABC's Pan Am) to Playboy bunnies (NBC's Playboy) are in the works for primetime.
Also, while two shows simultaneously set in the obscure world of 1960s auto racing seems unusual, TV has a habit of fielding similar projects at the same time. Showtime, for example, is about to launch The Borgias, starring Jeremy Irons as 15th century Pope Rodrigo Borgia; at the same time, Oz creator Tom Fontana is behind a rival take, Borgia, starring The Wire's John Doman as Rodrigo Borgia. And in 2005, HBO's Rome and ABC's Empire both took on the Roman Empire at the same time.
But like any good auto race, the winner in the showdown between the Scotts and Peterson could come down to which show makes it out of the starting gate first. And so far, both shows are still in the early tune-up stage.
— Michael Schneider