Friday, February 15, 2008
"Shifting Gears" Thrills Earnhardt Junior Fans
The emergence of Dale Earnhardt Junior as a man who has decided to control his own destiny continued Friday night with the second episode of Shifting Gears.
Created by Hammerhead Entertainment, Earnhardt's own television and media production company, this unique series is re-defining the entire NASCAR TV industry.
Rarely has there been such an entertaining and informative program centered around one driver. Rather than fawn over some tightly-created media marketing campaign, Junior made sure that this program opened his life up and turned it over-and-over again in the most raw fashion ever seen by his fans. It was sometimes startling.
Building on the first episode, Junior's slow and painful departure from DEI and his decision to move to Hendrick was explained in much more personal and emotional terms than NASCAR fans are normally exposed to on TV.
The NASCAR Media Group, the TV production company owned by NASCAR, has specialized in highly-produced and totally scripted "NFL Films" style programs. Highly popular shows like NBS 24/7, NASCAR Beyond The Wheel and 7 Days are all off-the-air. In terms of high-end post-produced national TV programming, they are now barely visible.
Junior payed tribute to MTV and their style of production as the network was on-hand to create another episode of "Cribs" at Junior's place. The Hammerhead producers paid tribute to the network by editing this show in a manner that would have made MTV executives proud.
The TV production techniques were varied in both the audio and video components. Going from color pictures to black-and-white, formal to informal settings, jump-cutting to still photos from video and carefully adding never before seen pictures and family memorabilia set a cutting edge and continually interesting pace. The audio mix was simply outstanding.
Kudos to the editing and writing staff on this project. They have perhaps lit a fire under other media entities to get busy and create their own NASCAR-themed program series. Not all NASCAR programming needs to be intimidated by the high price for racing footage charged by the NASCAR Media Group.
In the same way that MTV moved-on from music videos, Hammerhead worked hard in these first two shows to "extend the brand" of Junior and JR Motorsports. Along the way, they have managed to present the National Guard in a new light, explain the choice of Amp Energy Drink as a sponsor and detail the fascinating history of the new paint scheme on the 88.
Simply said, the content of this program was amazing for both Junior fans and fans of NASCAR as a sport. Here was the son of an icon, opening a painful and formerly private time in his life for all to see. It was a rare and interesting glimpse that will continue with one more show before Sunday's Daytona 500.
That third episode of Shifting Gears airs Saturday, February 16th from 4:30 to 6PM Eastern Time on ESPN2. This episode ends the pre-season coverage, as the TV crew then follows Junior through the first part of the year and returns with two final episodes in the week prior to the Brickyard 400 in July.
If these first two shows are any indication, we may be seeing a lot more media projects from Hammerhead Entertainment in the future. ESPN would be well-served to invite this group to use ESPN2 whenever they please to bring quality NASCAR programming to the fans. Even fans of other drivers must have a new found respect for Junior after his willingness to make this portion of his life an open book.
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