Friday, June 15, 2007
SPEED's "Survival Of The Fastest" Looks Familiar
One of the biggest viewer complaints this season has been the lack of "reality based" NASCAR program series. Several of the favorites, like NBS 24/7 and Beyond The Wheel have gone to greener pastures. This year, old favorite Inside NEXTEL Cup Racing sits all alone on Monday nights. The program used to be the anchor of a "can't miss" Monday night line-up on SPEED. Now, lots of SPEED viewers "still miss" what they used to have.
Stepping back into the reality world is the newest offering from SPEED. Survival of the Fastest is produced by the official TV arm of the sport, a company called NASCAR Images in Charlotte. This thirty minute show is one part documentary, and one part reality series. The result is a powerful mix of everyday life and the challenging demands of the NASCAR racing world.
The Wood Brothers team featuring Bill Elliott driving at Pocono was featured in the series this week. Clearly, this struggling team is a great example of fighting an uphill battle against the "cash rich" superteams in the sport.
While the central reality "theme" of this episode was the prep, practice, and racing at Pocono, it was the documentary parts that proved fascinating. While hard to follow at first, it was eventually easy to get used to the program "cutting away" from the Pocono activities and showing "sidebars" of the cast.
Bill Elliott and his family at their home in Colorado were simply riding four-wheelers around the rural area. But, in today's NASCAR TV environment, fans never get to see the "other side" of their drivers. Elliott is as laid-back at home as he is at the track, and watching him ride a dirt bike across the scenic landscape with his son really gave fans a quick peek at "who" he is, as opposed to "what car" he drives.
Behind the scenes glimpses continued with a historic look at the Wood Brothers, a look at their current shops, and a conversation with team members. Michael "Fatback" Mcswain continues to be a character in NASCAR, and his "hot rod" hobby was an interesting look into his desire to "fix things" and make them right.
As usual, things at the track did not go according to plan. Between bad shocks, rain, and that doggone Jeff Gordon, the Wood Brothers did not finish in the top thirty. Finally, fans get to see the reality of racing, and the on-going struggles that have eluded the documentation of the NASCAR TV partners who air the races live. As The Daly Planet has been saying for five months, this sport is absolutely not about the winner, but the other forty-two teams that came up short.
The "hand-held camera style" approach to this series meets with the same success of "ER" when viewers felt they were fully a part of the action. With the only voice-over announcing being added to transition between reality segments, this program avoids the pitfalls of too much post-production, and shows the experience of the NASCAR Images team in the editing suite.
This series is a strong new addition to the SPEED family, and will hopefully lay the groundwork for additional series of this nature to document the Busch and Truck teams. The human interest stories in NASCAR are limitless. There are so many fascinating people, so many interesting lifestyles, and so many amazing hobbies and interests that the potential exists for SPEED to lock-in another franchise. With the changes coming to the sport next season, the 2007 roll-out of this program might set-up incredible opportunities to document NASCAR like never before in 2008. The NASCAR fans can hardly wait.
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