Monday, April 9, 2007

ESPN's NASCAR Now: The "New" Worst Show In TV History

After several days of outstanding shows led by new host Ryan Burr, NASCAR Now rolled-out original host Eric Kuselias, and immediately things went astray. This was a Busch Series "stand-alone" weekend on ESPN. There was no NEXTEL Cup race to draw attention away from the Nashville event, or the network. ESPN had just paid millions of dollars to acquire the entire Busch Series in 2007. As the first NASCAR Now show of the week, it was finally time to feature the Busch Series on its exclusive TV partner, ESPN2. Then, the show began.

Let me say this clearly. NASCAR Now showed thirty-four seconds of Busch Series race highlights...period. Thirty-four seconds of race highlights. The word "stunned" does not do this incredible TV blunder justice.

The highlight package was a disgrace to the entire Busch Series and to ESPN's hard-working production team in the field. Kuselias told us that there was one accident, and then Carl Edwards passed Jason Leffler and won. Are you kidding me? There were tons of stories throughout the race. Many Busch Series regulars were able to come to the forefront due to the lack of Cup drivers in the field. What the heck is going on at NASCAR Now? This is ESPN's only full-season NASCAR series. Someone from the ESPN Programming Department needs to stop by NASCAR Now, and speak very clearly about this issue.

Kuselias then welcomed Shannon Spake, who did her normally solid job at Braun Racing with interviews, but even as team owner Todd Braun talked about his cars finishing third and fourth, NASCAR Now never showed that footage. Since they were not included in the thirty-four second highlight package earlier, its nice that Shannon and Todd described it...but no one saw it. When I worked at ESPN, a fundamental TV mistake like this would get you fired.

With Busch regulars like Shane Huffman, Stephen Leicht, and Bobby Hamilton Jr. finishing in the top ten, NASCAR Now had a great opportunity to interview any of them today. My pick would be Bobby Hamilton Jr. who was featured in the pre-race by ESPN about racing at Nashville without his father for the first time. This was just the type of performance that Hamilton needed to get back in the game, and this track holds special meaning for the whole family. Great story.

Kuselias then lead-in to the featured driver interview, and onto the screen came over-exposed NEXTEL Cup driver David Reutimann. In order to welcome the driver to the show, Kuselias actually asked him "how much trash-talking did you hear from the fans because you were driving a Toyota in a decidedly American sport?" Well, that sure makes a guest feel comfortable. Maybe Kuselias could have focused on the ESPN Busch Series, but good intentions just do not translate to this program. Kuselias cannot abandon his harsh sports-talk radio personality, and the interview went downhill from there. No smiles, no chatter, just confrontation and ignorance from the host. Another wasted interview by Eric Kuselias on NASCAR Now.

Marty Smith stopped by to talk about Toyota getting their intake manifold changed by NASCAR, and its effect at Nashville on the Busch Series event. Talk about a deer in the headlights. It was clear that Kuselias had no idea what Marty was talking about, and could not even make an informed comment about the situation. Give it to Marty, thankfully he is one calm and patient guy.

As if the Busch Series fans could be pushed no further, NASCAR Now slammed the final nail in the coffin when Kuselias introduced a video feature about, believe it or not, the Texas Motor Speedway. After showing thirty-four seconds of ESPN Busch Series highlights, NASCAR Now ran a feature on next weekend's race on Fox Sports that was two minutes and twenty-five seconds long. Thirty-four seconds of ESPN race highlights, and over two and a half minutes on a Cup race that is six days away...and on Fox. Amazing.

Boris Said and Tim Brewer stopped by via liveshot to speak about the great Busch Series race on ESPN two days ago. There was only one thing missing. Kuselias never asked them anything about it! Nothing. First he asked about NEXTEL Cup at Texas, then the COT, and finally...if the NASCAR wives will brawl during the Texas event? Let me say that again...will the NASCAR "women" fight during the race? How much lower can this program series sink in the minds of race fans nationwide?

Marty Smith then popped-up again and was finally asked about the Busch Series. He was asked one question, and got fifty seconds to answer it. Less than a minute...done.

Earlier, The Daly Planet wrote about one episode of NASCAR Now that featured a ten minute discussion on the relationship of the COT to the forward pass in football or the designated hitter in the MLB. It was unbelievable. Today, that has been topped. The Busch Series put on a great show in Nashville. Marty Reid stepped-in for Jerry Punch and did a super job. The racing from these drivers was fun and intense. ESPN put on a great production that included both qualifying and the race with top-of-the-line coverage.

NASCAR Now should have wrapped this entire show around the ESPN2 Nashville Busch Series weekend. There should have been an extensive highlight package, including post-race interviews from the top ten drivers, and color man Rusty Wallace. Reporter Marty Smith and analysts Tim Brewer and Boris Said should have spoken only about the Busch race. Memo to NASCAR Now...Boris drove in it!

NASCAR Now ignored the Busch Series in exactly the way that ESPN and NASCAR said they would work to change. It was treated as a support race, given brief highlights, and then dumped for a NEXTEL Cup race that is six days away. Over the past several months, The Daly Planet has seen both the highs and lows of this new ESPN2 series. Just as new co-host Ryan Burr's performance last week was clearly the high, this amateurish and embarrassing show on Monday was the low. What a shame for all the hard-working Busch Series regulars, what a shame for the fans, and mostly...what a shame for the ESPN television network.


Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you 100%. As soon as i saw Erik Kuselias hosting I turned to a different channel, I can't stand that guy. I've seen other episodes before with him, and your exactly right. HE KNOWS NOTHING ABOOUT THE SPORT. HE CAN NOT ESCAPE HIS RADIO PERSONA EITHER. Its amazing to me why this guy is even on tv. He is a disgrace to NASCAR fans around the world. ESPN, do everybody a favor and get Ryan Barr full-time.
No one likes Erik Kuselias hosting NASCAR NOW, all I hear is bad things about him. Please make NASCAR fans happy, this is the ONLY show us fans get to see daily on the sport.

Great article, and I look forward to be reading some more on NASCAR NOW.


Olde Typewriter said...

The Busch Series must gain some solid footing if it wants to survive, and you're right, Monday's NN was not a step in that direction.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy that there is a daily NASCAR television show...especially on ESPN, but this show has been a joke. The hosts that they have had have known nothing about NASCAR and the stories they do show are fluff. The analysis of Marty Smith and the panel discussion on the COT have been highlights, but many thigs on the show have fallen short. Thanks Daly for making me feel like I'm not the only person that feels this show is quite inadequate in terms of quality.

Anonymous said...

You are correct with your call on Kuselias. He is obnoxious and doesn't appear to have a firm grasp on the subject matter. Any way to look at it, he's better than that Banks. That appears to be ESPN's Affirmative Action program run wild.

Anonymous said...

I found another great column on the idiocy of this show about 2 months ago:

This show is an abomination.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree this show is a joke, but it seems that ESPN is going downhill in general. It would should be interestng what happens today, if Erik Kuselias is on I'll change the channel.

Anonymous said...

When I heard that ESPN2 was going to have a daily NASCAR show, I had visions of RPM Tonight. RPM.. what a fantastic show. And..........what ESPN is producing NOW, the polar opposite. RPM - never missed it. NASCAR NOW, wouldn't miss it if it were gone.

What a waste of 30 minutes. I'll continue to watch "The Weakest Link" at 6:30.

GinaV24 said...

The first few weeks Nascar Now was on, I checked in because I was really excited that NASCAR was back on ESPN. I was so disappointed in the show that I quit watching regularly. After reading your column where you said that Ryan Barr was doing a good job, I decided to watch again. Unfortunately, no Ryan, just that idiot Erik. So, I turned it off again and ESPN is going to have a heck of a job getting me to tune in again. Your articles are great -- this is a great sport with lots of things to watch and talk about, but they need someone who KNOWS what to talk about -- heck, bring on Allen Bestwick. He's great and the drivers AND fans love him.

Anonymous said...

ESPNs coverage overall is just horrible.Their play by play team are so bad. Hopefully they will get better with time.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I, like others, find 'Erik the Silliest' just a bit too tabloid for my taste. I would imagine that the viewers of this show are hardcore seasoned veteran fans, yet Erik asks questions and gives lame explanations as if we had just seen our first stock car. On Saturday's race broadcast, he explained what an 'impound race' meant TWICE. Note to ESPN... Get us a real car guy, not a tabloid sensationalist.
~Carlos the Jackman

Anonymous said...

Kuselias and Banks are a total disaster trying to do the NASCAR Now Show. Keselias looks and acts like a small time Detroit gangster and Bank looks and acts like another Mike Tyson. If ESPN wants to salvage this show they better make Ryan Burr a permenent fixture. Ryan was on the Sports Reporting Team at a local Toledo TV station a few years ago, and I thought he was very well versed in ALL sports. This guy can keep you interested in anything thae he does on sports. PLEASE...ESPN, get Ryan Burr back on NASCAR Now fulltime.

Anonymous said...

Agree Agree Agree!! You are absolutely correct, ESPN has messed this one up good. They have no idea what NASCAR fans are looking for. Curious to what their ratings are for this lame show ??

Sam said...

The show is not that bad. It is no worse than the NFL shows or the MLB shows on ESPN. Its a fairly new show, they are trying. Not everything can be Pardon the Interruption, and PTI isn't perfect either.
At least they are paying the sport some attention! As fans, we need to stop constantly ridiculing everything associated NASCAR. We are killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
I beg as NASCAR fans, we start looking for positive thing about our sport, and there are TONS of them. Drivers aren't complete jerks, there are no strikes, and only Waltrip's car has been accused of taking performance enhancing drugs.
Yes, ESPN is trying to make NASCAR mainstream...but guess what..ESPN is mainstream! If you want more in depth coverage of NASCAR, go to Jayskis, watch the Speed Prerace show. ESPN will figure it out,just give them time. Stop ridiculing everything every day!
I know this isn't the correct spot to talk about this, but I like the sport of NASCAR. Its not perfect, but nothing is. However, as fans, if we keep lambasting everything about it all time, the sponsors are going to see it and pull out, and then we will not even have NASCAR NOW to complain about.
Just give it a chance.
Mr. Daly, this will be the last article I read for a while about NASCAR NOW. I have read about a million of them from you. I wish there was something else you could talk about, such as positive things about NASCAR.
I will check back in a couple of months, if the show has made no progress,then I will understand.

Anonymous said...

Maybe ESPN is still pissed about growing the sport by itself and then getting the boot in 2000? Maybe their real plans are to drive as many fans away from NASCAR and to other sports(that they cover) as possible for 6 years? Because that can be the only reason for a show as bad as NASCAR Now(go away)!!! Bring in a real fan as host or drop the show!!!

Anonymous said...

I am to the point if I see the show will have Banks on it, I will go to another channel. What's the deal with the guy always squinting? I hope someone in their Marketing area is reading the commentary from your site. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your article I watched the Show for the first few weeks for Daytona and California and after I had heard the same things for three weeks I gave up watching and haven't watched it since. Kuselius is an embarassment to the growth of Nascar. It was making strides every week and since the start of Nascar Now it has taken twqo steps backward to anyone who has seen the show. Great article.