Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Earlier this season, Michael Waltrip departed the Tradin' Paint show on SPEED and was replaced by Kyle Petty. Since that time, the show has begun to build a solid fanbase by continually offering interesting conversation and strong opinion. The only problem is, it needs a bigger stage.
Over the last several years, SPEED has tried many types of programs that contained opinion, with the most high profile being Wind Tunnel. Veteran fans may remember when Dave Despain was brought-in as the "Larry King" of SPEED and given a one hour show basically seven days a week.
The theory was that Dave's broad racing knowledge could serve to welcome Jeff Gordon one day, Marco Andretti the next, and then Cruz Pedregon. Unfortunately, SPEED was in the middle of a difficult transition, and the new management chose to move the network into "lifestyle" programs and away from the hardcore "real" racing.
It sometimes seems ironic that the actual NHRA guests like John Force and Whit Bazemore were basically "replaced" by drag racing created by entertainment producers and staged for the cameras.
The "PINKS" crew has actually made drivers re-race because the first time was "not exciting enough." Makes you wonder if they have ever seen an NHRA Nitro Funny Car at speed. "Not exciting enough" is a phrase that has never been used.
Many SPEED fans remember "Pit Bull." That show threw together several journalists and discussed NASCAR-related topics during the 2004 season. SPEED tried to give the media itself a forum to express issues about the current events in NASCAR, but things did not work out.
In "TV land," we joke around that some people have a "face for radio." Essentially, this means that TV brings with it some criteria that is not necessarily fair to all, and makes certain people more "TV friendly." Needless to say, most of the NASCAR traveling print and radio media does not "do" national TV on a regular basis. Its just not "their job."
Pit Bull quickly became a personality driven show, with the same writers harping on the same issues and sometimes competing to see who could be the most outspoken. Since they were not writing, they were not editing, and this show certainly appeared to need a lot of editing. Unfortunately, it was done live.
After Pit Bull was cancelled, Tradin' Paint became the focus of the fans attention for in-person access to members of the NASCAR media. Since SPEED has its own stable of "TV guys," the media is relegated to their columns and news stories. This show gives one media member at a time a national TV forum to express their opinion.
The versatile John Roberts is the perfect host for the thirty minutes of Tradin' Paint. Each week, Roberts and Kyle Petty bring another guest on the show and talk about NASCAR issues. This season SPEED has used Jenna Fryer from the AP, the veteran Randy Pemberton who is doing the Hot Pass package, and this week the guest is Bob Pockrass from NASCAR Scene. Those are to name just a few.
If is fun to put a face with a byline, and also fun to hear how these writers and general media people do without a laptop or a script. Sometimes, accidents happen. Poor Ray Dunlap did his best Don Imus imitation in trying to honestly describe the lack of minorities at the track by saying the only ones he sees are working there.
That got Ray to give a public apology, a suspension from the network, and a week off from work. Good thought, bad execution. As Imus knows, everything on TV has a risk involved.
Now, SPEED has sorted Tradin' Paint out at the track, and fans enjoy a feisty and honest discussion with a rotating guest each week. Kyle Petty has proven to be much more than many people, including myself, had given him credit for in his TV presence. This "formula" is working for the network, but there is a problem.
To see Tradin' Paint, you have to stick it on your DVR or try to catch its weekly air schedule, which changes by time zone and race details. Taped on site, the show is a "tape delay" that normally appears on both Saturday and Sunday, but at widely varied times. This show needs a re-air later in the week in primetime.
SPEED has been dealing with this issue for a while, but this show is no longer the "throw-a-way" show of the weekend. Fans understand that Trackside and RaceDay cannot re-air during the week, because the information they discuss is now "dated." The race is over, and it would make no sense to re-air what is basically preview programs.
Tradin' Paint, however, is different. The topics talked about on this show have "legs." Maybe only for a few days, but the "legs" on this show would allow it to be re-aired after Inside NEXTEL Cup on Monday nights. This would give fans an opportunity to be exposed to both the show itself, and the type of on-site programming that SPEED originates at the NEXTEL Cup venues.
Creating a show like Tradin' Paint took guts, and SPEED should get full credit for that. This series is gaining rapidly in stature among both fans and the media. The key improvement that SPEED could make to commit to this concept fully is giving the show a regular "home" on the schedule.
A little later this season, The Daly Planet fully intends to lobby for this program to be one hour in length for the finale at Homestead. It would be a good test to see if the entire series can move to a one hour format in 2008. The way things are progressing this season, the potential certainly exists.
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