Saturday, February 16, 2008
"Shifting Gears" Continues To Upstage The NASCAR TV Partners
There are going to be some interesting meetings over the next several weeks at the network headquarters of the NASCAR TV partners. There is one reason why. His name is Dale Earnhardt Jr.
In ground-breaking style, Junior's Hammerhead Entertainment production company has pushed the envelope of what should be expected from NASCAR TV programs to a new height. The first three episodes of Shifting Gears have been nothing short of spectacular.
Originally thought to be catering to Junior Nation, nothing could have been further from the truth. This dynamic combination of a reality show and a scripted documentary has hit a nerve with the broad base of NASCAR fans. At times, these three episodes have made the racing world seem insignificant. Real life always trumps racing.
This show is about someone who is lost wanting desperately to be found. It is about a young man finally stepping-out from the shadow of his late father and growing up. It is about seeking acceptance from people you do not know, but who know you.
This third episode combined the recent events at Daytona with pre-produced segments to address both topical and timeless issues in the same program. Whether winning the Bud Shootout or continuing to address the legacy of his father, Junior seems to be determined to live life on his own terms at last.
Skeptics tend to fall away when the personal struggles of this young man are detailed. Many of us did not experience the pain of a parent's divorce. Many of us did not get sent to military school. Many of us have not yet had to deal with the death of a father. None of us have the pressure of being Dale Earnhardt Senior's son.
With award-winning editing and sound, the program has the feel of a high-end glossy entertainment show. Once viewers get comfortable with the multiple locations and the key personalities in the programs, it takes on the feel of an exciting documentary.
The reason is simple. He may fail. That is the harsh reality that stares this man in the face each and every day. He may fail. If that happened, the same NASCAR media now catering to his every wish would be the first to attack. The media frenzy that happened when Junior announced he was leaving DEI would pale in comparison.
This program series will continue to film Junior as he goes through the next four months. Then, a new series of two more shows will be produced to air during the week prior to the Brickyard 400. This unorthodox approach to both TV and scheduling is typical of JR Motorsports media wing. This show was independently produced, and has no ESPN identification of any kind.
As Junior mentioned in his Saturday post-race interview, the only downside of this entire series is watching the same commercials featuring him over-and-over again. "Even I get tired of watching myself. But, that is what you have to do to get a show on ESPN," said Junior. Truer words may have never been spoken.
This series has shaken-up the NASCAR TV companies and networks who should be putting out this type of programming, but are not. Junior remarked on Saturday that he hoped more stories would be told about the personalities in the sport. That message was just as clear as Brian France asking for new and original NASCAR programming to be created by "his" TV partners.
In a season of NASCAR transition from "racertainment" to "letting men be men" it should be interesting to see what other NASCAR series of this type can make it to network TV without having the Earnhardt name as the Executive Producer. Right now, the picking is mighty slim.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. Thanks again for stopping by.