Thursday, February 21, 2008

Was That "Larry The Cable Guy" On NASCAR Now?


That loud noise you may have heard shortly after 6PM Eastern Time on Thursday was hard to miss. It's a little bit loud when the earth stops turning for just a moment.

In the ESPN studios over the years viewers have seen everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Barry Melrose and his world famous mullet. Big names like Dick Vitale, Peter Gammons and Steve Young are no big deal to see walking the ESPN hallways.

Back in my day, LSU coach Dale Brown brought his basketball team to see the place after they played a NCAA tournament game. One of his players was a hilarious big guy named Shaquille. All of these names have one thing in common, they were in the building because of sports.

Thursday's NASCAR Now on ESPN was going to be different. Viewers knew that right away because there was someone other than Ryan Burr was in the Connecticut studio. For some reason that has yet to cross my mind, "Larry the cable guy" stopped by the program to promote his movie and talk a little NASCAR.

After a fun little on-camera tease, the planet Earth screeched to a halt as "Larry" leaned into the ESPN cameras and told the faithful to simply "Git-R-Done." This was a moment in NASCAR Now history that will certainly be remembered. Why? I am not so sure.

I imagined one group of people immediately calling everyone in the house to the TV because "Larry the cable guy" was on NASCAR Now. They probably got out the cell phone and called some friends to let them in on it.

A quite different group was sitting there with a dumbfounded look on their faces and repeating over-and-over again the same question. "Who the heck is that and where are his sleeves?"

All traces of good old Larry were quickly gone as Burr launched into a straight-laced and informative show. Lead Reporter Marty Smith was up first to update NASCAR news and lead into the story of young driver Brad Coleman.

Smith's lead-in really worked well for a liveshot with Coleman from the track with cars roaring by in the background. This young man is one of the best examples of what the NASCAR regional series can produce. Now racing in the Nationwide Series, Coleman is a well-spoken and intelligent driver with a good outlook on the sport and a bright future.

As I mentioned yesterday, one spot where NASCAR Now still comes up short is using the studio anchor to interview NASCAR guests. Why not allow someone in the sport fulltime like Marty Smith to handle the interview? Burr reads a good scripted question and is a solid show host, but putting the host in the analyst or "Insider" role is just tough.

Smith was available and could solve one very simple problem. Burr cannot follow-up on a guest's answer when there is a need to deviate from the script. Sometimes, it is very clear that a big follow-up question is just sitting there, and because Burr is still learning the sport it does not get asked. This is not a tough problem to solve.

DJ Copp has been fun since NASCAR Now brought him on the air last season. This pit crew member is simply an unassuming man who gets across a lot of quality information in plain and simple form. His update on the pit crews and the COT including the new NASCAR rules was right on target. What a good find for this show. It would be nice to see him create a feature for NASCAR Countdown relating to the Nationwide Series sometime.

Boris Said appeared again to update the new qualifying rule for the "Go or Go Homers" outside of the top 35. This was a timely reminder that this process is going to begin at California and was a smart move. Said is wonderful with his frank comments, and his talk about Toyota set a good tone. Burr is still learning, and his attempts to follow-up and "pin down" Said for his exact words did not work well.

Suddenly, "Larry" was back and his Viagra joke sent the show to commercial break on a very different note. Everyone knew one thing for sure, this next segment was going to be interesting.

Watching "Larry the cable guy" in the perfectly clean and high-tech HD studio of ESPN2 talking about the one and only Dick Trickle...great.

Watching Ryan Burr pretending he knew who Dick Trickle was....better.

Watching Burr squirm while "Larry" talked about everything from kissing Jenny McCarthy to digestive issues caused by sausage overload...priceless.

What Burr and Boris Said talked about in the final segment did not matter. It was a nice confirmation of NASCAR's "birthday" and success, but no one is going to remember. There was only one thing that viewers will be talking about.

I ended the show not quite so sure why "Larry" had stopped by, but it left a picture in my mind. Burr was on one side of the studio in his buttoned-up suit in "perfect" ESPN mode. His guest was on the other side in a baseball hat, a sleeveless University of Nebraska T-shirt and blue jeans.

Up to this point in the TV series, the most exciting wardrobe malfunction had been Brad Daugherty not bringing a suit to the big Monday "roundtable" show. Heaven help us, Brad is wearing khaki! Allen Bestwick made the most of it.

You have to give NASCAR Now credit, they are trying all kinds of things to re-define these mid-week shows. It certainly would be nice, however, if they could break the "dead serious" ESPN mode and have some fun.

Once Burr started interviewing "Larry" about NASCAR, it was clear that some well-timed follow-up questions could have resulted in some more interesting NASCAR answers. Ask him about the Daytona 500, ask him about Tony Stewart, ask him about Toyota. He seemed to be very well informed on the sport and it showed.

NASCAR fans did not care about Brad's wardrobe malfunction, and they do not care that "Larry" is wearing a baseball hat indoors. What they want is more information and content, and less talking heads from all over the nation.

Marty Smith, Boris Said and "Larry" together would have made for one of the all-time best segments in NASCAR Now history. Simply by letting Burr toss-out a topic and then stand back, it could have been hilarious.

Instead, suits and nervous laughter prevailed as the script ruled the show once again. I have the feeling that NASCAR Now is just about ready to break-out of its shell during the week, and continuing to try new things is the right call.

"Larry" might be a fun guest to follow-up with, as he seemed to be a longtime fan and certainly someone that many of us enjoy watching. This season, NASCAR Now is simply full of surprises. I'll be back on Friday.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. There is nothing to join, and we do not want your email address. We just want to know what you thought of the Thursday version of NASCAR Now on ESPN2.

34 comments:

Newracefan said...

All I can say is interesting show. Marty interviewing Larry might have taken this show to a whole different level (I can hear the Dick Trickle stories now) but..... Perhaps a little Nascar=Redneck sterotyping was taking place and the movie people thought a Nascar based show was a good place to promote Larry's movie. Although he can make me laugh at times it won't work here I'm more Bill Engvall than Larry the Cable Guy.

Matt said...

Anyone think NASCAR is "pushing" southern icons onto NASCAR TV to show that NASCAR cares about it's core fans? Thats the first thing I thought of.

SonicAD said...

You completely missed Boris Said dropping the b-word at the end of the show!

Daly Planet Editor said...

matt,

I thought about it too, but I still can't really figure it out. Maybe someone will stop by who really knows and let us in on it.

Sonicad,

Somethings are better left unsaid. At least he used it in the right context. Boris being Boris.

JD

Anonymous said...

My first thought about Larry was that ESPN is reverting to stereotypical NASCAR imagery.

My second thought is "so what"!

I like that NN has learned to have fun.

fbu1

Anonymous said...

I only watched bits and pieces, but I did catch the Boris B-word and cringed. Then with Larry, I was a little confused since he wasn't promoting a movie about Nascar - let alone about racing, but I finally made the connection because he was the voice in another movie with racing connections (Cars). But, I must say, I more than cringed at his sausage story and his Mark Martin reference. That schitck might work with a live audience that's paid to see Larry, but not on a national show presenting Nascar news.

I liked the Brad Coleman interview, he kind of reminded me of the Carl Edwards of a couple of years ago - "I can't believe I'm actually doing this!" and I thought he presented himself well. Since I don't know why he left JGR, or if I knew I've forgotten, it would have been nice for Nascar Now to remind me. Was it because Kyle Bush was moving over to JGR or other reasons? There are several new, young drivers out there that I don't know yet. Heck, I'm still having trouble with David Regan and Ragen Smith! These guys need more air time for me to get to know them and this seemed like an opportune day for NN to introduce me to the newer faces of Nascar.

I also liked the DJ Copp segment. He was well prepared and his segment was very professional and smooth.

What I would have liked to see coverage of the teams arriving at the track. I was curious to see who arrived prepared to race this weekend since I've seen several articles that some teams that went to Daytona simply cannot afford to go out west.

All in all, it was an OK show, not spectacular, and in my opinion, they missed a couple of interesting stories that could have been told and instead chose to promote a film that has nothing to do with Nascar.

Sandie said...

Larry's been everywhere this week and last!

@anon 11:09--yup Mater! Like tuh-mater without the "tuh"

Yes DJ is awesome! I really love him and the segments! I was so happy they brought him back!

I really like Brad! Nice young Texan :)

Anonymous said...

Matt said...
Anyone think NASCAR is "pushing" southern icons onto NASCAR TV to show that NASCAR cares about it's core fans? Thats the first thing I thought of.

February 21, 2008 9:57 PM

Yeah, they're making it pretty obvious with their new "Our NASCAR" (meaning the longtime fans) marketing theme, the new country-oriented TV themes and all that. I believe they've got country performers (Josh Gracin, Little Big Town, etc.) lined up as anthem singers for the next few Nationwide races, not sure about Cup races.

One of the speedway managers mentioned recently that he and NASCAR has been discussing the music to be played at the track. It was the Las Vegas track, so maybe they were getting too modern with the music and they want to pull it back now. So Larry the Cable Guy on NASCAR NOW probably fits in that overall "core fan appeal" campaign too.

To be fair, that's what fans said they wanted so that's what they're giving them. So maybe it'll work out for the best and be fun.

Last time NASCAR went to Fontana they had Mike Helton, Jeff Gordon, and Lesa France Kennedy at a party with Paris Hilton in Los Angeles. You notice you're not hearing a peep of "Hollywood" out of Fontana this week. Or Daytona last week. Arnold Schwarzenegger and all those folks were at the NBA All-Star Game last Sunday; the biggest "celebrity" at Daytona (other than the musicians involved in prerace) was Jimmie Johnson's friend Nick Lachey. So things have changed drastically since last season.

elena said...

I liked most of tonight’s show. The show starts off with a teaser that lets us know what the show will be about. It’s supposed to keep viewers from changing the channel. It is widely used throughout the industry. Of course it can work the other way too, the viewer might not like what’s in store and change the channel. As part of the teaser, they had Larry the Cable Guy announce the show. Twice.

Ryan sure manages the clock very well. All TV shows have to be divided into segments and commercials. He does a very good job of not having to rush through a segment in order to get the commercials in.

Marty Smith was good at answering all the questions. I’m glad that the state of the CA race market is good. Marty informed us that the ticket sales are up from last year and Pepsico has signed a multi-year contract to sponsor some races. I was also glad to hear Mr. Helton had urged Robby Gordon to appeal his penalties.

The Brad Coleman interview was good. Ryan asked questions that Brad could answer comfortably. He is a nice young man. ESPN interviewed him while in Daytona and he said he had left Gibbs because they only wanted him part time and he wanted to race full time. He still has good relations with them. The drivers are in CA and Marty was in still in Charlotte so he would not have been able to interview Brad.

I’m not sure about the comment about “watching” Ryan pretend to know who Dick Trickle is. The camera never shows Ryan during that entire segment of the conversation. I read the comment on this column before I saw NN so I was looking for that “look.” It was not there. I have to say that for all the comments about Ryan still learning, he is a professional. He is a college graduate; he has been the sports director at 2 different TV stations. Dick T is very well known even to those that don’t follow racing, so I cannot imagine Ryan never having heard of him. His career has been in sports.

Larry is a funny guy, and I know that ESPN is a cable channel, but the program comes at a time when kids are watching, so I don’t think his jokes were family-friendly. If ESPN gets enough complaints, Larry won’t be back.

The show continues to be good.

SophiaZ123 said...

I missed it..whatever did Boris say???????

Can you tell me what it rhymes with??

I thought Ryan handled Larry ok but PUHLEASE, on a family NASCAR show, i thought the coarse, crude humor about the bathroom humor and viagra in poor taste. but I don't like most of the modern dreck that passes for comedy in movies today so. I can laugh at a good dirty joke but there is such a thing as time and place and discernment...and tonight, well, it was none practiced.

Ryan Burr seems like a classy young man, I wonder how he REALLY felt about the humor but he was a better sport than I would have been.

I still can't believe I missed Boris saying a bad word? 6pm is a tough time to pay attention to a show being the dinner hour and I forgot to check for the repeat.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Elena,

With TV technology, Marty or any other reporter can be at any location and interview any guest on this show.

"Watching" Ryan Burr on the Dick Trickle issue is taking things a bit literally, don't you think?

I have been a Ryan supporter since day one, when others were not. He is going to learn this season, but that does not mean fans should not get the best from interviews on this show.

It should be interesting to see what the network chooses to do on Tues - Thurs with NASCAR Now.

JD

Karen said...

SophiaZ123 said...

I missed it..whatever did Boris say???????

Can you tell me what it rhymes with??


Rhymes with witch.

glenc1 said...

Who said? Boris Said. And what he said only made me wonder if you're supposed to say that on ESPN, but it didn't bother me, that's just Boris being himself, which is what they hired him to do. Totally agree on the awkwardness of Ryan pinning his words down, but that kind of on air relationship needs time.

I really enjoyed both the Brad Coleman and DJ Copp segments--in fact, I thought DJ had been kinda awkward in the past and he seemed quite comfortable here, and Brad is looking quite natural in front of the cameras as well.

And yesterday I asked for a follow-up on Robby--ask and ye shall receive, for there it was! Thanks to Marty for that, professional as always even with a last minute call.

As for Larry--not a big fan of the interview, but Ryan did his best to tie it into racing, and I don't have a problem with them giving it a shot. (Made me think, what's next, Jessica Simpson cause she was in the Dukes movie?) I get that he was pushing a new film, but it has nothing to do with racing.

elena said...

"Watching" Ryan Burr on the Dick Trickle issue is taking things a bit literally, don't you think?


Watching Ryan Burr pretending he knew who Dick Trickle was....better."


JD, This is what you wrote. What on earth did you mean? I think saying that Ryan pretending was a slight and that Ryan is uninformed and does not know something that is rather common knowledge to anyone who follows sports in general.

As far as getting Boris to give his prediction, it's very, very, common. I watch lots of sports, and the analysts are always asked for their predidctions, no matter if it's footbal, basketball, baseball,etc. It is done on HBO, ESPN, ABC, NBC, FOX, etc. It's done with the pros and with collegiate sports. The problem was with Boris who does not want to be wrong. I prefer Brad and others who don't stand on the fence and give their predidctions. If they have you on film making the worng prediction, so be it.

I happen to think Ryan is doing a good job. I think he did a great job in the Brad interview. My opinion is that that there was no need to have Marty do it. I think NN is doing well this year. I'm not sold on Nicole and glad she has not been used that much.

JHD said...

Considering the Viagra joke and the reference to bowel issues, who cares what Boris said? That's fairly tame in comparison.

The thing about the interviews - since we have all this technology, I guess I don't care as much who interviews whom, just as long as drivers, crew chiefs, etc. get interviewed in the first place.

elena said...

"Marty Smith, Boris Said and "Larry" together would have made for one of the all-time best segments in NASCAR Now history."

I just don't see Marty as having the timing of a comedian. I think it would be a little risky to let Larry go on and on. I'm not sure how many people want him back, much less think he would be the best ever.

Two nights ago Dario Franchitti was on the Craig Ferguson show. Now that was really hilarious. I'm sorry they did not put the tape on youtube, because most people would have enjoyed it. It was all clean too. Craig gave Dario a hard time for not being ashamed of coming in 33 in the 500. Also for working and living in the US (has lived in TN for 8 years) and not becoming a citizen. (Craig just became a citizen). The whole piece had Dario cracking up and just showed what a good sport he is. At the height of the jokes, Craig thanked Dario for coming by and they went to commercial. When the show returned, it was time for another guest. The Dario piece could have gone on and on, but the show is divided into segments and that is followed, no matter what.

Curtis Turner said...

I only wish AB could have been apart of it.... It was TV history in the making...What kind of history? I don't know but it will go down as... "Hey do you remebr the time..."
"Oh Lordy Luke they done gone a wrecked the General Lee"

Anonymous said...

I believe they've got country performers (Josh Gracin, Little Big Town, etc.) lined up as anthem singers for the next few Nationwide races, not sure about Cup races.

I know Cali has ZZ Top for its Sprint Cup pre-race show Sunday (and Little Big Town for the Nationwide anthem, as you said.)

The Cali Cup anthem is to be sung by a woman who won the Doritos Super Bowl contest and had a commercial of her singing in the Super Bowl.

The Cup anthem for LVMS is by someone who sings in a show in LV, Carol Linnea Johnson. Pretty anonymous anthem choices for two big races if you ask me, but I guess most people don't care about who is singing the anthem as long as it's good.

The prerace show at LVMS is Blue Man Group.

I think NASCAR is going "middle of the road" as much as Southern to try not to offend anybody. Probably a little of both.

Fine with me, as long the middle of the road/Southern people are not interviewed in the booth during actual racing or taking up time that could be devoted to NASCAR news on the other NASCAR shows.

Anonymous said...

ESPN has sunk to a new low by playing to the "only southern rednecks and country boys watch racing" stereotype.

How does Larry the Cable Guy have anything to do with NASCAR racing? So he's doing a non NASCAR themed movie, so WHAT?

The producers of NN need to go back and watch old rpm2night productions, they knew how to cover racing.

Anonymous said...

JD, Larry has been on tour and have seen him elsewhere on this tour. It was nice to hear and see a lighter side.

Lou
Kingston, NY

glenc1 said...

just generally on the 'predictions' issue on telecasts like this--even Raceday, which makes a big point of it--any predictions at this stage of the season are more like absurd speculation...perhaps it's just me, but I have no real interest in hearing them from anyone and find it rather ridiculous that it's even asked, much less 'pressed', common as it may be (as silly as the 'points as of now' part of race coverage, one of my pet peeves.) They ask because some sports director expects them to, but I find it as pointless as fantasy teams--and if all you get is bragging rights later, I still don't care who said it and/or why, although I suppose some find it appealing to rack up the scores later. If it's September, or even July, then the prediction become more based on reality. The beauty of sports is its unpredictability. No one expected Appalachain State to beat Michigan, and no one predicted in August that the Giants would win the Superbowl. Watching it unfold is like seeing a new landscape when you go around a curve--I'd rather just watch it than have someone tell me what they think it's going to look like in 500 miles.

FastChaz said...

Great review of the NASCAR Now show from yesterday. You guys do a good job keeping us on top of the NASCAR media.

Agree with the posting comments. Larry was a super addition to the show. A breath of fresh air...if you will.

Two additional observations:

1. Boris Said has lost all credibility, not only as a stock car driver, but as a broadcaster. First, the "B" word on an early evening racing show in front of my two young sons was not appreciated. Seondly, he made a number of errant comments but "There are crew members who were just sweeping floors making more money than corporate America CEO's" was probably not appreciated by NASCAR, nor is it even close to true. Comments like that from non-performing guys who make more money than the average hard working American upset people like myself who have to pay an arm and a leg for tickets. I am sure he is a nice guy but I think he has been inhaling too much exhaust from the rear of the field.

2. Kudos to the Brad Coleman Kid. I have seen him on TV a number of times and he is really amazing both in a race car and in front of the camera...and at just 19 years old! This is the kind of segment I want to see more of on NASCAR Now and other shows because Coleman is the kind of role model I want my sons to aspire to be like. NASCAR should package him up and sell him so more kids can get interested in the sport.

Keep up the great work.

FastChaz

Anonymous said...

Larry was also on the Colin Cowherd show (I believe it was that show)on ESPN radio yesterday afternoon. Apparently he was making the rounds of the ESPN studios all day.

Anonymous said...

"As I mentioned yesterday, one spot where NASCAR Now still comes up short is using the studio anchor to interview NASCAR guests. Why not allow someone in the sport fulltime like Marty Smith to handle the interview? Burr reads a good scripted question and is a solid show host, but putting the host in the analyst or "Insider" role is just tough. "
--------------
But the studio host, especially someone new like Ryan, is placed in a tough position. How can learn the sport and how to banter back and forth if he doesn't do it on a regular basis? I'm sure a lot of other NASCAR folks who we think are great now initially struggled at first if they came from a news or stick and ball background. They didn't do it with us critiquing every move they made each night, so mistakes weren't magnified.

And if you have Marty Smith handling the news, weekend reports from the track AND studio-type satellite interviews, you might as well have him host the show. I know some people would say that's fine with them. But if I were a studio host I would insist on doing what a studio host does, otherwise there's no point in having them there; they're not just there to direct traffic, they want some input too.

(I for one am not in favor of Marty as host; his accent and some of his colloquial slang is fine in small doses but he'd have to get rid of it completely for me to accept him as an ESPN or SPEED host.)

Brrrn Rubber said...

Kudos to the Brad Coleman Kid. I have seen him on TV a number of times and he is really amazing both in a race car and in front of the camera...and at just 19 years old!
February 22, 2008 11:42 AM

I agree that Brad Coleman is amazing in front of the camera and a pretty good driver. But I just want to point out to all the people noting how well-spoken and what a nice young man he is: on the other side of that, people in general (and probably many of the same people praising nice young men)complain that JGordon/Johnson are too vanilla and NASCAR needs to get away from that.

Guess what? If you listen to the interviews of Coleman, Landon Cassill, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, Colin Braun - all the 19-22 years old who will be on your TV screens this year and next - they sound just like Gordon and Johnson. Because that's how they got sponsors; that's how they were trained for the past few years to get noticed.

So later this year I really don't want to hear about boring drivers getting featured and boring vanilla driver interviews when everyone is praising them for being so well spoken. There are a number of drivers who aren't so well spoken and are languishing because of it.

Best example, in Roush's televised Gong show a couple years back, the current Roush drivers and race personnel thought the best pick for talent was Danny O'Quinn followed by Erik Darnell. The Roush marketing people thought David Ragan was the best for their purposes, followed by Erik Darnell (who they thought was not as good on TV as Ragan); they thought O'Quinn was too overweight and too thick of a Southern accent to get sponsors.

Darnell won the Gong show. But two+ years later, Ragan (who immediately got all the best Roush rides over Darnell) is in Cup, Darnell is still in trucks, and O'Quinn is nowhere. There's a lesson in there...TV is all that matters these days!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Larry is COOL!!!

Anonymous said...

Larry was on FIRST TAKE this morning, with the same clothes on? WOW!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...
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elena said...

brrn rubber, you have a very good point about these new drivers being trained. Kasey K was interviewed during Speed week and stated that he is more comfortable being interviewed now because they have trainers come in and train them to speak to the media. He said they have helped him over the seasons to get better.

Just because you are trained, that should not take your personality away. Ned Jarrett talked about being trained so he could improve and be part of the media.

Some just have vanilla personalities. As a matter of fact, JJ in Ben Maller's column, states that he has hired a PR org to help him bring out his personality. He was not trained to be the way he is, that's just him. The original article is in the San Diego Union.

Anonymous said...

Nice writeup, JD. I have to admit I still don't watch NN after being so disgusted with the show last year. Based on your article I'm sorry I missed it.

If I had known Larry the Cable Guy was going to be on, I probably would have tuned in just to see the interaction with the host.

However, I do have mixed feelings about a nascar "news" show doing cross promotions with guest interviews. Doing this during Monday Night Football and race broadcasts is bad enough; now Espn is starting to do the same in their news shows?

Please tell me it ain't so. Between meaningless pick segments and mindless speculation about "this vs that" the hard news is almost nonexistent.

Kristin said...

I thought Larry was hilarious as usual, and it kinda broke up the show a little bit. This is exactly the kind of comedian that NASCAR needs for the awards banquet!

darbar said...

I recently read an article talking about the Hollywoodization of Nascar, and of sports in general. Personally, I don't understand it. Just because some Hollywood type likes Nascar, doesn't make it racing news. If you follow that logic, then why not interview the lawmmower salesman at Home Depot and get his feelings on racing? How about the Nascar-loving waitress at Stuckey's? Their opinions on Nascar have just as relevance as Larry the Cable Guy. ESPN, and Nascar for that matter, seems to have developed a loving relationship with Hollywood as evidenced by the revolving door of actors who grace the stage of First Take and who get creditials for the inner sanctum of the Nascar pits. We all know that they're there to shill for their latest project, but ESPN legitimizes this by asking the actor about their favorite sport, as if they're some sort of expert. Sorry Nascar, but seeing B list Hollywood-ites does not lend any credibility to your sport. And putting on some redneck comedian isn't going to bring back the core fans you've already lost. The only way to do that is to get racing back to what it was before Brian France ruined a lot of what was great about Nascar. But that discussion is for another time.