Monday, November 5, 2007
Three Drivers In Search Of A Host On SPEED
You can tell it is "that time of the year." Among the NASCAR guys, only a handful are not worn down, tired out, and ready for a vacation.
Certainly, among the tired masses are Michael Waltrip and Greg Biffle. Waltrip's year has been well-documented in the media, and Biffle has been burdened with hard luck on the track. This season for Kenny Schrader has been up-and-down between having a ride and losing one.
The one place these three meet is at the NASCAR Images studios on Monday afternoons. For better or worse, they recount their experiences while taping the one hour Inside NEXTEL Cup program that is shown on SPEED Monday nights.
This season, The Daly Planet has written several times about the struggles with this one program series, and the possible solutions that could help. Despite the suggestions, nothing has changed on this year's watered-down version of this ten year old show. It certainly has seen better days.
NASCAR drivers are an interesting group, in that they respond well to a certain type of TV host and do not respond well to others. Viewers can see how drivers easily relate to SPEED's John Roberts and struggle with ESPN's Erik Kuselias. As with anything that needs to be controlled, its usually the open and flexible style of cooperative host that gets the drivers to open-up and start having fun.
Dave Despain was placed into the host role of Inside NEXTEL Cup by a SPEED TV executive. Since that time, it has not gone well. Despain is a good broadcast professional, but he is a fish out of water on INC. On this particular Monday, this was made clear by the entire panel.
There was no energy, there was not focus, and there was no point to the show. Despain's inability to have fun, be pleasant and pump-up the "three amigos" was so bad that it actually became a running joke in the show itself. Despain interrupted, he re-directed, and he spoke over-top of the stars of the show time and time again.
One had the feeling that there were three NASCAR drivers on the set just waiting to be set free to have fun. Waltrip and Schrader once again took to talking whenever they wanted and Biffle had his eyes on them, and not the host, most of the show.
The drivers tried to have some fun with Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus in black cowboy hats pictured behind the set, but Despain just could not grasp the concept. His inability to let the boys "goof around" sunk this episode, and the boys let him know that it stunk. Waltrip was particularly up-front in his evaluation.
All alone on Monday nights, SPEED viewers might be seeing the last of INC in a couple of weeks. If this is so, one might hope that the network would put together a reel of highlights from the last decade of hosts, guests, and hi-jinks. If SPEED does not care about this rich programming history, they should remember that the fans certainly do.
Once again, there was no guest on the show. Dave read the highlights like an elementary school teacher. He was not interested, and it showed. Fans had seen the highlights before, and by the end of the show even Ken Schrader was embarrassed.
How can a decade old show produced by NASCAR's own in-house production group become such a complete mess? The bottom line is that either NASCAR Images, SPEED, or both simply do not care. What SPEED put on the air tonight and represented as a national television show about NASCAR was disgraceful.
Only two races until a champion is crowned in all three of NASCAR's national touring series, and the four regular panelists of this program decide to take a walk? This program should have sizzled with all the great content from the weekend at TMS.
Readers of The Daly Planet had hoped that we would see some new faces audition as host of this program by sitting-in for a show this season. It never happened. After a terrible start to the year, Michael Waltrip finally seemed to have gotten his act together. Biffle has come a long way and is much more comfortable speaking his mind this year. Schrader kept his chin-up, and his sense of humor.
All this show needed was a new bus driver. The host position is the easiest to change. Its even easier to change for one or two episodes. The result of the lack of action by SPEED and NASCAR Images was the disaster they actually chose to put on-the-air this Monday. After ten years of loyal viewing, this is one episode that I will work very hard to forget.
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