- A “family friendly” and commercial-free online channel, Yippee, is now streaming 10 episodes of a car show by and for school-age kids, Backseat Drivers.
- The three 10-something actors aren’t just back-seat drivers, though; wearing helmets and accompanied by a stunt driver, they actually get to drive.
- Cars on the show include a Tesla Model X, a Fiat 500, an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, and a Porsche Cayenne, among others.
Backseat Drivers is a new car show, aimed at school-age kids, on the family-friendly streaming channel Yippee. The show follows the adventures of three telegenic young hosts, Jack (Zachlewis Maravilla), Remy (Ariana Raetz), and Cam (Sean Ohanesian)—whose combined age is just over 30—as they caress, perform challenges with, and generally kvell over a host of cool and unique vehicles. Rounding out the cast is an actress playing Remy’s Alfa GTV6–wrenching “mom” (Suzanna Akins) and professional hotfoot stunt driver Sarah (Sarah Fairfield). To answer your first question, yes, the kids actually get behind the wheel.
Yippee is a paid, commercial-free streaming channel that costs $7.99 per month, but there’s a free seven-day trial available.
“I wanted to create situations where we could have the kids driving as much as possible,” says series co-creator John Chuldenko. In this season, Remy challenges a self-parking Tesla Model X to a parallel-park-off in a Fiat 500, Cam slaloms a golf cart through a course made of shopping carts, and all of the kids get to use the simulators at the LA auto show.
To keep the kids safe during all of this, the show implemented a broad set of standard practices. “We wanted to make sure we were modeling things in a really safe way, so that we’re not setting this unreal set of expectations for viewers [of] some alternate reality where kids can just drive,” says co-creator and Yippee director of programming Adam Mellema. To this end, the kids are always wearing helmets. They’re always with the stunt driver. And Mom has always been asked for and granted her permission for them to drive. It’s all about “helping our viewers to live their best lives, and make good choices,” as Mellema put it.
If this season’s 10 10-minute episodes are any indication, these “best lives” are pretty good. They involve delivering pizzas in an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, eating sushi in an Acura RDX and bratwurst in a Porsche Cayenne, delivering a letter in a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. Then there was creating a “car turducken” with a Peel Trident microcar, a Ford F-150, and a flatbed, and hosting a drag race between a school bus and a minivan.
Like just about everything with cars, and kids, some of these experiences did not go exactly according to the creators’ plans. The Model X failed many times to park itself. The raw salmon and cooked sausages ended up mushed under the seats of their respective dine-in vehicles, the one place that the art directors had failed to coat in protective plastic wrap. The F-150 was a short-bed model, so the Peel didn’t fit unless the tailgate was down. Remy got queasy after filming two food-based episodes in a row on the track. And the team discovered that warm mozzarella and Alfa Alcantara make a rather disgusting form of Velcro.
The show has an infectious energy, in part because of the passion the young hosts share around cars and car cultures. Capturing this enthusiasm was an intentional and essential component of the show, which was created in part as a means to keep school-age children connected to their love of vehicles.
“I was one of those kids who kind of got left behind in the space that happens in a kid’s life at age six or seven, where they’ve grown out of their Tonka trucks and Matchbox cars, and then there kind of isn’t anything next,” says Mellema. “I left my car interest behind then. So, this was, for me, a bit of a rebirth. As John and I were talking, I was, like, Oooh, could we put a bounce house in a minivan? Or what would happen if we put a Tesla down a water slide? We just started having these wild, wide-eyed, giddy ideas. And it was thrilling to be able to think like eight year-old boys all over again.”