The “Street Outlaws” Phenomenon
IT’S 9:00 on Monday night. Do you know where your family is? Probably watching “Street Outlaws” on the Discovery Channel.
Sometimes disdained by members of the drag racing elite, “Street Outlaws” is gold for Discovery Channel’s reality cable/satellite network. During its primetime slot, it regularly tops the charts of cable TV rating’s key 18-49 demographic. In early 2017, it helped drive Discovery to become the number one non-sports cable network for men.
Since its first on-air broadcast in June 2013, “Street Outlaws” has drawn attention, some of it not always friendly. A few said that “Street Outlaws” was awful even by Discovery standards (remember, this is the same network that airs “Naked & Afraid” and “Eaten Alive!”). Others were quick to point out that despite the disclaimer at the beginning of every show, “Street Outlaws” directly promotes dangerous and illegal activity.
Just weeks after the show’s first airing, a local Oklahoma City TV station reported that area police were looking into the 405’s activities. Sounding somewhat disappointed, the news telecast went on to report that some of “Street Outlaws’” races were outside of OKC police jurisdiction. They also went on to report that some of these races weren’t, in fact, illegal at all because permits had been obtained from surrounding towns or the events had been held at a closed airport.
NHRA also got into the act by threatening to revoke indefinitely the competition licenses of some of the show’s stars.
The truth of the matter is that because of previous programming such as “PINKS” and “Pass Time,” drag racing has worked its way into homes that weren’t really familiar with it before, which might explain why small-tire and no-prep drag racing and their ilk have been thriving lately.
With drama, conflict and comedy written into every episode, it’s not necessarily a hardcore show about drag racing, but the competition and the egos are real. Recent developments have seen offshoots such as “Street Outlaws: New Orleans” as well as filming done at legal venues such as Bristol, Memphis and Bowling Green. Doing so no doubts helps the crew deflect criticism since taking street cars to tracks for amateur track days is a concept we can all get behind.
Each new show only lasts 41 minutes, but their effect on racing and the industry itself will be felt for a long time.