Monday, February 11, 2008
Byrnes Brings Back The Fun On Mondays
Steve Byrnes has led the Trackside show on SPEED for several years. That program has evolved into a free-wheeling and raucous hour with lots of guests and lots of racing talk from the panel. Larry McReynolds, Jeff Hammond and Elliott Sadler can handle almost any topic even in front of a big and very live crowd.
Monday night, Byrnes made his debut on a new show under the best of circumstances. He was on the SPEED Stage with the same TV crew that handles the Trackside production. This time he was at the reigns of This Week In NASCAR, the program replacing the ten year old Inside NEXTEL Cup.
Michael Waltrip and Kenny Schrader have returned to this program, and on this first episode Toyota driver David Reutimann was the third member of the panel. Things worked well right off the bat, because Byrnes knew all the players on the stage and had been working with them for the past week.
SPEED decided to re-name, re-vamp and re-energize this program for the 2008 season. Byrnes replaced Dave Despain, and the entire format of the program was moved to reflect the new reality of NASCAR. The program will now address all three national touring series, and both review and preview the weekly racing.
The best thing about Byrnes is that he cannot be rattled. As the on-air dynamic plays-out between Waltrip and Byrnes, there will certainly be moments where the relationship will be tested. While Byrnes is a long-time professional TV personality, Waltrip has always been a moving target.
On this show, Waltrip was eased out of the Toyota cheerleader role and moved on to general racing issues by Byrnes. Schrader did his best to point out to Waltrip when he was walking on the other side of the street from the conversation at hand.
The best part of this show, and the dynamic that may really re-charge its energy is the potential success of the panelists in racing. Last year, it was sometimes just sad to see Waltrip and Schrader, knowing that they were not in the race and sometimes were not even at the track.
New program elements for this show included two features of past Daytona 500's, which worked well for the fans in reminding them of what was on tap for the weekend. The final feature was tough to watch, as both Schrader and Waltrip were parties invovled in the race that took the life of Dale Earnhardt Sr. Their reactions after the replay of the final lap showed the emotions from that day still lingered inside of them both.
Highlights of the Truck Series put everyone back in a good mood, and things began to take shape even as Byrnes tried his best to keep Reutimann in the conversation. Despite his best efforts, it was the Kenny and Mikey show when it came to commetary and opinion. This points out one interesting issue.
Once the show moves into the SPEED studios, Chad Knaus will be added to the panel. While Knaus is fine on his other SPEED show, it may be a very different matter when he is facing a trio like Byrnes, Waltrip and Schrader. That interaction should be fun to see next week.
This show faced the normal technical problems any outdoor program deals with, including the wind sounds and the variations in the audio levels. The entire panel deserves credit for dealing with the elements, including the blinding sunshine.
Memories of Dave Despain and the "controlled and scripted" approach of INC were swept aside in a smart move by SPEED. By changing the name and the format, but keeping the timeslot and key program elements, they made the best of a tough situation. The new show will serve the agenda of the network and the sport a lot better.
Viewers will get a much better sense of all the program features and the rest of the new wrinkles the network has in store for 2008 when the show moves into the studio after the Daytona 500. Even in the wind at Daytona without a points-paying race in the books, the changes to this program are already paying off.
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