author: Jacob Blazewicz
Need for Speed Underground Could Have Been Serialized
Need for Speed Underground could have gotten its own TV show. A former producer of the project talks about the details.
- American producer Craig Lieberman has revealed that two decades ago there were plans for a TV show licensed on the Need for Speed franchise with a budget of $6.5 million;
- The show was to focus on rival car clubs in numerous challenges, one of which would be set in NFS: Underground;
- These plans were eventually abandoned due to too much competition on the market;
- Lieberman also mentions why Universal Pictures was reluctant to invest in games based on Fast & Furious.
The popularity of video games means that practically since the beginning of the industry there have been ideas for screen adaptations of one or another popular brand known to gamers. Only that it usually results in a show as "successful" as Aaron Paul's 2014 Need for Speed, "praised" for its pointless story and complete lack of realism in action scenes. Interestingly, this wasn't the first project that could have carries NFS beyond PCs and consoles. Craig Lieberman (whose portfolio includes Fast & Furious) revealed that back in 2002, there were plans for a TV series based on the license of Need for Speed.
A mention of the project, which never saw the light of day, appeared in a recent video posted by Lieberman on YouTube. The footage mentions plans for a car show, of which there were many around the turn of the century. The concept for the show changed a few times, until one time a producer pitched his idea to Electronic Arts.
It wasn't his first meeting with the big publisher. Lieberman was a consultant hired by EA during the development of Need for Speed: Underground, and at the company's request he built an actual model of a Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 for the game's cover. During this collaboration, the two producers pitched the idea of a car show to Electronic Arts' management, which apparently appealed to them.
The show would have been titled simply Need for Speed to tie in with the debut of Underground and, leaving out the details, would essentially follow a pattern typical of this type of show. Viewers would follow the rivalry of a group of car clubs tasked with customizing a given vehicle. Judging would include appearance, performance (including time per lap on track), fastest installation of turbo and nitro systems, sound design, drag race score, etc.
In addition the series would have one major twist. At the end of the series the teams would be led into a warehouse containing the aforementioned GT-R R34's and told to select one member of the team. His task would be to get the best lap time in the race. However, just before they got into the car, the "curtain would fall" and the competitors would find out that yes, they will be racing - but in Need for Speed: Underground.
Despite appearances, this was not just a cheap marketing ploy - or at least not "cheap". The show's budget was estimated at $6.5 million , and we're talking about a dollar from almost 20 years ago, when the American currency was worth almost half as much as it is now (via Statista). According to Lieberman, this would have been one of the most expensive such initiatives of the time.
Despite this, the project was eventually abandoned for a very simple reason. There was simply too much competition in the market in 2002 - even MTV was struggling to keep its TV shows alive. On top of that, there were concerns that there wasn't enough "content" to build a series around. Years later, car shows began appearing en masse on YouTube, which instantly conquered the Internet, and this most likely killed off any possible resurrection of Lieberman's idea.
Speaking of competitors burying projects, Lieberman also revealed that Universal Pictures has long been reluctant to make games based on the license of Fast & Furious. In fact, a big-budget adaptation of the brand was considered from the outset. However, it was ultimately decided that there was no point in spending "tens of millions of dollars" on a project that would have to compete with giants created by industry veterans such as Gran Turismo, Need for Speed Forza, or even... Grand Theft Auto ("technically," in Lieberman's words). Instead, Universal preferred to cash in on the license by allowing developers to include fan-favorite cars from Fast & Furious in their games.