Friday, June 1, 2007

Bestwick's One Show Changed "NASCAR Now" Forever


The hallways of ESPN are still ringing with the single appearance Wednesday of veteran NASCAR broadcaster Allen Bestwick on NASCAR Now. Perhaps, to Bestwick, it was nothing more than a short little thirty minute studio TV show with a couple of guests and some pre-produced features.

But, to the NASCAR Now staff, it was the first glimpse of what a "host" should, and could, be for this series. Bestwick made what has been so painful to watch this season nothing less than...enjoyable. And he did it politely, encouragingly, and effortlessly.

Unfortunately, this put the primary NASCAR Now host Erik Kuselias in a no-win situation. Wasn't it George Burns who said "never follow children or animals?" For Kuselias, following Alan Bestwick on Thursday and Friday proved to be a nightmare. Once again, it was back to scripted teleprompter reading that put Kuselias and ESPN2 in a very bad light for only one reason. Now, everyone knew how good it could be.

Friday started out with Shannon Spake updating things from Dover, the site of this weekend's race. Her report was concise as usual. Unfortunately, ESPN then tried to pretend Erik Kuselias was speaking with Spake "live" at the track, when in fact it was a video sent in advance. Spake was seen on split-screen "pretending to listen" with her head bobbing like she was at a nodding festival, then she "suddenly" started speaking. Please, give the viewers more credit than that.

When the show is slowed down by a line-by-line script, it takes on the feel of a play, where one actor delivers a line, and then another actor delivers theirs. Poor reporter Angelique Chengelis was the victim today, as she just "happened" to know the perfect answers to the "perfect" questions that Kuselias read to her line-by-line. There is just no way to "fake it" when everything is prepared in advance.

Better off just to let Chengelis do the entire news segment by herself than continue with the embarrassing "fake questions" from the host. Kuselias never reacted to any of her answers, as usual. Unlike the people reading this column, Kuselias does not know what Chengelis is talking about. He's got no "NASCAR game."

Dr. Jerry Punch returned in the next segment with Andy Petree alongside from Dover. It was strange that Kuselias did not introduce, or interact with either of them. As you may remember, Kuselias was the on-site host of NASCAR Countdown earlier in the season from the tracks. Punch and Petree previewed the Busch race, and then returned to Kuselias without as much as a nod. They never even mentioned him or NASCAR Now.

Remember, this is the same sport, on the same network, and this is the daily show about that sport. How does it happen that the on-site producer and the NASCAR Now producer cannot coordinate their efforts? If this piece was done "clean" so it could be posted online, then have them do another one for NASCAR Now. Punch and Petree do not get paid by the word. Its time to start doing things right.

In this program on Friday ESPN promoted "their" Dover Busch race, "their" NHRA event, "their" weekend IndyCar race, and "their" first NEXTEL Cup race later this season.

What they did not promote was "NASCAR's" Craftsman Truck Series race at Dover, "NASCAR's" Sunday NEXTEL Cup race at Dover, "NASCAR's" two Grand National races this weekend, or "NASCAR's" Modified race at Thompson Speedway.

ESPN again decided that the agenda of this program is to promote ESPN at the detriment of NASCAR. Then they wonder why we question the credibility and production decisions of this network where NASCAR is concerned. How can you ask us to believe what you are saying when you do not fundamentally respect this sport?

In the same way that College Gameday lost its credibility when they stopped discussing non-ESPN or ABC games, NASCAR Now is on the verge of following down the same path. Its not about the network, its about the sport.

After a one day high, the grim reality of NASCAR Now set-in once again. Even if ESPN decides to change course and try to restore their credibility, its going to be the production staff that decides if this series really focuses on NASCAR, or continues to be nothing more than "fluff" for the casual fan. This is a critical week for ESPN, and I certainly hope the NASCAR executives are paying attention. Eight years is a long time.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email editor@thedalyplanet.tv if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.

19 comments:

Sal said...

I thought all the reporters had come down with some sort of twitching disease...thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one who noticed the strange tics. Having Allen host the show has certainly highlighted the shortcomings of the show. And to think this was the network that originally set the standard for race coverage. Hard to believe.

Bill said...

You are so right....Allen was a breath of fresh life to a show that is a dud.It is painfully sad when a host of a show doesn't have a clue to the sport.The icing on the cake was the last comment Eric said before the end of the show"Jeff Burton winner of the spring race at Dover...ESPN please get rid of this fool

The Prodigal Student said...

I agree with Sal, who beat me to the punch.....how could the network that did such a good job in the 90s turn into such a piece of junk? It's almost as if they are determined to present the sportscaster as celebrity model ahead of sportscaster as expert. Sad, Sad, Sad. Having just found your blog, we love your perspective.

Anonymous said...

Seeing Bestwick on camera had to make this the best show of the season. This is the first time that there was a convinsing broadcast professional speaking about a sport that he loves with knowledge and passion. ESPN2 needs to make a change and offer Bestwick a full time posistion as the host of NASCAR Now.

-Joe

Anonymous said...

Was it just me... or did Erik seem a little reserved on Friday's show? Less sing-song vocal inflection... less "attack" in his questions... and less of a forced smile on his face? Could it be that he's feeling the pressure? Or am I just looking for signs of change?

Anonymous said...

What I despise about the show is how the "blow up" any story no matter how small it is. "Breaking News", Robert Yates racing has resigned with FORD. While that is news, it isn't the kind of news you prempt a show for or anything like that.

The show is sad, its unbearable and I rarely watch it and when I do, I remember why I stopped.

Anonymous said...

Well, do y'all think it will get any better when we have Football Suzy running the show? LOL

Anonymous said...

I was hoping Allen was taking over the hosting, without him or with the current hosts, it just too painful to watch.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry that I missed A.B.'s show, as I do enjoy his commentary, but I will not watch NASCAR NOW as long as they have fools as MC's

Phil

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that Allen is being recognized for the great person/announcer he is. He needs to be put on ESPN2. I could not believe what I saw on Busch qualifying today. Had it not been for DJ we would have really been in trouble. Susie and Brad need to go. Come on ESPN!! Obviously you definitely will not be as good now as you were in the 90's. Thank goodness also for Dr. Jerry Punch. Glad to see him back. He and Allen would be so great together as announcers.

CJ said...

Allen was terrific. As someone who's worked in local TV for many years, I can easily imagine that the whole production crew was thrilled to work with an actual network quality "pro" rather than those other wannabees. Why in the world hasn't ESPN booked him as full time host by now?

Billy Delyon said...

After wednesday's great show with AB as host, to see Eric back thursday, well, needless to say, what a buzzkill, I turned it off as soon as I saw his smug mug. Friday there's really no reason to watch cause Speed has such great coverage, that being said, I still will go over to ESPN on commercials, but again, as soon as I saw it was Eric, I never went back.

As has been mentioned above, how can the network that was a huge part in NASCAR’s rise in the 90's, with the likes of John Kernan, and Bob Jenkins both of which had a world of knowledge of all the NASCAR divisions. Both those guys just made me just smile show after show after show. It’s sad the only guy to make it back was Dr. Jerry (thank goodness for him being in the booth!)

Eric needs to go. that’s that. I won't be watching any more NASCAR Now with that stooge at the helm.

Thanks for keeping them honest JD!

The Corian Man said...

I missed the show,but happy to see someone took notice of Allen. Full of knowlege, great speaker.He lost his job on Speed Channel, because of Mikey's rude and dumb interuptions.Allen wasn't the problem--it was Mikey, some better grab Allen quick,before everyone wakes up, he will deliver someone a winning show. Thanks, Larry

Anonymous said...

I was going thru the TV channels the other night and had to backtrack when I saw Allen on the show.I was quite surprised by this. I read your articles most days and nothing had been said about Nascar Now finally getting Allen,a real host. I looked foward to the next show only to find Eric, that poor excuse for an office boy back as host! I quickly changed the channel. What a great show they had back in the 90's and now its not worth watching-

pedj said...

Hope all of you are e-mailing ESPN with your thoughts about Allen and Suzy. Use the Contact Us link at the bottom of the espn.com page. John's comments are great, but there is power in numbers.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I am not the only one who thinks Eric Kuselias is the wrong person for a NASCAR job. I never liked his show and wondered why ESPN would not get a true gear head to do the coverage. I caught Eric filling in on Mike & Mike and he was just as bad there. Someone at ESPN really goofed with this guy. I'm laughing now because I just read he was a big time lawyer before his broadcasting career. Come on ESPN we deserve better.

Eric said...

What ever happened to the old ESPN that had the funny commercials with nascar stars? Does anybody remember the Mark Martin and Keyshawn Johnson commercial with keyshawn trying to catch a pass in the back of Mark's car? "AWW Keyshawn" Bring back that production team of old, and watch the magic return.

Anonymous said...

Susie baby knows less about NASCAR than she does about football,She will be fun to watch in a train wreck sort of way.

Karin said...

Allen Bestwick has always been my favorite announcer, simply for his sincerity. He loves racing, he knows it inside out & backwards, he handles it the way I would want to handle it if I was in his shoes doing his job. He makes me feel like I've got an "inside guy" at the track. :) I am disappointed I missed Allen's show on Wednesday. After dragging myself through a couple of NASCAR Now's early on, I had long since written off the show. I had no idea that Allen was scheduled, or I would have tuned in just to see him. Allen is a DIAMOND in the NASCAR scene... *any* network would be foolish to not have him on board. Side note... I wonder what it would have been like to have Allen and Dale Jarrett announcing together... now THAT would have been killer. :) :) :)