Sunday, April 1, 2007

RaceDay on SPEED: Men In Black...And Wigs

It took America a while to get it, but we did. The "SPEED-a-palooza" that is RaceDay has become a franchise for the SPEED Channel. At first Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace had a little trouble fitting in with the TV pros like John Roberts and Wendy Venturini. Then, things came together and both Spencer and Wallace found their roles. Now, the drivers watch it, the fans watch it, and there is no doubt that NASCAR loves it.

This season, as this two hour live show continues to build, SPEED faces the challenges that every successful TV series must deal with sooner or later. RaceDay now finds itself burdened with extreme advertising sponsorship, and many sponsored segments that pop-up awkwardly in the flow of the show itself. In addition, the network has recognized that RaceDay is a huge opportunity for promotion of the SPEED Channel, and the result is obvious. Lots and lots of on-air promotion for both the good and not-so-good programming on SPEED.

While these two elements have taken a little bit of fun away from the show, host John Roberts has used his smooth and casual style to bring out Spencer and Wallace as never before. In their "SPEED Court" segment, the threesome dress-up in black judicial robes and white wigs to "hold court," and then "pass judgement" on issues of the day. The outfits hide the fact that RaceDay is trying to address the type of pressing and sometimes controversial issues that resulted in the demise of "Pit Bulls," and the sanitizing of "Trading Paint." These two SPEED shows tried to step outside the tightly controlled NASCAR box and address controversial issues, only to be flattened like a blade of grass by a Lawn Boy. RaceDay deserves some credit for hanging in there, even if Jimmy Spencer in a wig leaves a big opening for creative humor.

Finally, we once again address the talented Wendy Venturini, who many times has been suggested as a person who could step into the struggling Inside NEXTEL Cup Racing series for Dave Despain. Wendy has used her RaceDay role to cement herself as the top NASCAR NEXTEL Cup reporter. Give John Roberts and the crew credit, they give Wendy free reign in terms of her interviews, her opinions, and her fearless ability to chase a story. There are bigger things in store for this young lady, and it will be interesting to see what she is offered in the future.

RaceDay is working hard to strike a balance between the irreverent and the corporate. As the season hits its stride, we all will witness the success or failure of this challenge as NASCAR heads for the bigger tracks, with more on the line.