Monday, May 7, 2007

Kuselias And Cowlishaw Team-Up: NASCAR Loses

The one hour edition of NASCAR Now tipped-off Monday with an ominous warning of things to come. The camera revealed only Erik Kuselias and Tim Cowlishaw on the ESPN set. There was no Stacy Compton, no Boris Said, no Tim Brewer...there were no experts. The only thing clearly on the set was very little "real" NASCAR knowledge.

Kuselias and Cowlishaw did their best Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis act while Kuselias read his way through the NEXTEL Cup highlights from Richmond. Kuselias would pause to allow Cowlishaw to throw in wise-acre remarks and snide comments. These guys were in their glory. It was just like doing baseball, football, or basketball highlights. Only, "Dean and Jerry" actually know something about those sports.

Believe it or not, Cowlishaw actually provided the race analysis after the highlights. He then offered his "expert" commentary. The Dallas Morning News sports "columnist" offered the race analysis on ESPN's NASCAR Now. With all the staff available to this network, they decided to have the opinion-based Around The Horn panelist provide this information. This is a new low for this show. What hurts the most is that this is the official "weekend review" show, and is the only one hour version of this program on weekdays.

While Boris Said was brought in via liveshot for a brief comment, he was not allowed to talk about anything unless it was asked by Kuselias. Said was quickly gone, and the show returned to its new obsession, Kyle Busch. After some ridiculous comments, they moved on to Jeff Gordon, and actually said he "failed to win his third straight race." Kuselias talked about Hendrick and the car of tomorrow, but without referencing the other Cup races. His information might be factually correct, but his perspective is completely wrong. That, my friends, is the problem with this show.

Reporter Mike Massaro came along and straightened the studio panel out. He spoke about the Research & Development crew at Hendrick. This led to a nice feature about the overall integration of the COT into the Hendrick company. It also put into perspective what the "other" teams chasing Hendrick are thinking about, and their chances. Finally, Massaro gave a nice little overview of the short track tensions that surfaced after Richmond. Darlington should be lots of fun.

NASCAR Now likes to judge. People must "choose" on this show, and the most ridiculous feature is "fact or fiction." Rather than let two panelists talk about a topic, there must be a choice made of "true or false." This is an extension of the Around The Horn format, and it does not work in this program. While Boris Said relayed some great information and opinion, Cowlishaw continues to be Bob and Tom's favorite character, "Mr. Obvious." Talk about a no-win situation.

The Daly Planet has liked DJ Copp, a pit crew member from Dale Junior's team, since he first appeared on NASCAR Now. Much like Stacy Compton, Copp speaks patiently and in clear terms about racing issues and the scene on pit road. He has been a nice addition to this program. Unfortunately, having DJ questioned by Erik Kuselias requires total scripting of the questions in advance, and no follow-up. DJ speaks in terms that Kuselias does not understand. Even as DJ spoke about a problem on a pit stop that he caused, Kuselias was unable to converse with him, and had to immediately read the next question. ESPN might say Kuselias knows NASCAR, but his performance certainly says differently.

Ryan Burr offered a great feature on Darlington, but it seemed to be out-of-place on a show supposedly focused on the previous racing weekend. Its only Monday, why are we talking about the following weekend already? Boris Said and Cowlishaw offered opinions on Darlington, but there is all week to raise this topic. One had the feeling that things were about to get ugly on this show, and they did.

ESPN had an all-star team working hard to present The Busch Series race under the lights at Richmond on Friday Night. Allen Bestwick hosted his first pre-race show. Dale Jarrett was back with Marty Reid and Andy Petree. The race was great, with Clint Bowyer coming through in the end to beat big names like Kenseth, Harvick, Burton, and Biffle. Certainly, this one hour weekend review show would feature a full report with on-camera "wrap-ups" from the announce team, and interviews with the winner and the top five finishers. With the Truck Series off, there was even more time for the Busch guys. Well, this is NASCAR Now, so you should know what we got...absolutely nothing.

One has the impression that NASCAR Now and The Busch Series TV production team at ESPN just don't like each other. How else to explain the total lack of Busch highlights in a one hour NASCAR show in primetime on a Monday night? Why spend four minutes previewing a race at Darlington that is six days away rather than showing Busch Series highlights from Friday night? The entire thrust of ESPN2 being awarded the Busch Series TV rights was for ESPN to get in and build this series. It is now May, and they have done nothing. What a shame for NASCAR, what a shame for the hard-working ESPN Remote Production crews, and what an embarrassing shame for this disjointed and struggling program. With these type of production decisions being made, can big changes at NASCAR Now be far behind?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My favorite highlight of the night was when, while discussing Darlington, Tim Cowlishaw said that you can "win from any starting spot" right after a segment when Marty Smith said that qualifying will be more important than it's ever been at Darlington because of how hard it is to pass in the COT. Apparently, Tim just isnt watching or paying attention to anything else on this show. Either that, or he doesnt know as much about NASCAR as ESPN wants us to think.