It started a week ago with back-to-back episodes on Sunday night before they showed another episode in it's regular timeslot the next night right before 24. Tonight will be the fourth episode, but you can catch up on the show's MySpace page. (Apparently. I can't access MySpace from work, so I'm taking their word for it.)
Anyway, I haven't been this into a new show since Lost debuted. The Coolest Man in the Universe Nathan Fillion was the initial attraction, but there's a lot more to love about the show than just him. As far as actors go, there's also Charles Martin Smith (who played Oscar the accountant in The Untouchables), Dylan Baker (Dr. Conners in the Spider-Man movies), Richard Brooks (Jubal Early from Firefly), and Mircea Monroe (whom I've never seen before, but Holy Moley).
Spoilers from here down
The plot is sort of like Cannonball Run and The Amazing Race, but with way more thrills and suspense. Most of the story centers around Fillion's character, a Nebraska landscaper named Alex Tully whose wife is kidnapped. He gets a phone call telling him to be in Key West by a certain time if he wants to see his wife again. When he shows up, he finds out that he's been entered into a secret, illegal, cross-country race and the only hope he has of finding his wife is to win it.
At first I thought that all the racers must have been similarly coerced into racing, but it turns out that most of them are playing for a $32 million prize. For some reason, the race's organizers specifically wanted Tully in the event. And by the third episode the plot thickens when we learn that he's not just an innocent landscaper.
Although the plot focuses a lot on Tully and his partner in the race (a woman whose parents were killed in a similar race 27 years ago), it's really an ensemble show with lots of people racing for different reasons. There's a dying man who's hoping to really live for the first time; a soldier who -- thanks to his dishonest wife -- doesn't realize that he's been recalled to duty and is now AWOL; a rich kid and the ex-con half-brother he never knew he had, who are both driving to tick off their politician father; and there's the mom who's trying to escape her abusive husband and whose baby may or may not have been kidnapped a la Tully's wife.
Like any reality show, the contestants don't know all the rules of the race. They've all got cell phones provided by the race's organizers through which they receive clues and instructions. So, we're trying to learn the race at the same time we're trying to learn the characters and their secrets. There's a lot to pay attention to and it makes for an exciting show.
Of course, it's on FOX, so if it doesn't become a smash hit by the tenth episode it'll be cancelled, but I can't help getting hooked on it. I'm hoping it becomes the next House or 24 rather than the next Justice or Firefly.