Monday, April 14, 2008
Schrader Anchors "Lights Out" Edition Of TWIN
SPEED finally had the opportunity to welcome Ken Schrader back to Monday night. Unfortunately, the program was so poorly lit that viewers could not help but be distracted by the terrible lighting.
Host Steve Byrnes had shadows all over him, Schrader was washed out and Michael Waltrip was totally in the dark. The lighting on this program should have been corrected prior to taping this show.
What Schrader found was a much more structured environment than the old Inside NEXEL Cup program. The panelists now respond to video features and often are allowed to talk in only short responses before the program moves on to a commercial break.
As usual, the program format of TWIN included providing an extensive preview of the upcoming Talladega race. Normally, the next race is only five or six days away, but this week the Sprint Cup Series is off. This means that TWIN provided a preview of a race some thirteen days away instead of talking about a race run two days prior.
Waltrip and Schrader tried to rekindle the banter that made them cult heroes on Monday nights. Schrader began by calling the new official shirts "PJ's" just like Waltrip did previously. He and Waltrip tried to slip-in some below-the-radar comments, but Byrnes was having none of it.
There were once again two conversations in-progress. Byrnes was working hard to move the show through all the production elements. This time, there was simply no room for the kind of off-the-cuff and extended hilarity of the past.
Everytime that Schrader turned around there was a video highlight, a graphic or a feature. There was no time for fun, because there were things to do. This is the new dynamic of TWIN.
Several times there began to be glimpses of the brilliance of the old days. Schrader and Waltrip talking about Phoenix and the COT, giving Mark Martin his due on fuel mileage and asking what happened to Dave Blaney's spotter were "moments" that veteran fans can point to as why this duo built a following.
Just as Waltrip, Greg Biffle and Chad Knaus have worked-out an on-air relationship with Byrnes, Monday night was Schrader's turn. His dry sense of humor was on display, but Byrnes once again had no time to follow-up because of the pace of the program format. In the new show, there is no segment labelled "goofing around."
The NASCAR Media Group that produces this show has consistently provided top-flight video, audio and edited features. The struggle for the new TWIN is to find the balance between highly glossy TV and the absolutely spontaneous fun of the past.
This contrast in styles is made all the more apparent by the NASCAR Now program produced by ESPN2. In that Monday one hour program, four men in sharp business suits sit and talk about racing with Allen Bestwick leading the discussion.
The irony that it was the hard work of Waltrip, Schrader and Bestwick that originally grew SPEED's Monday night franchise show is not lost on viewers. Bringing Schrader back was a good first step, but this show misses a third voice on the panel and someone like Chad Knaus would have been perfect on this Monday.
It was unfortunate that Waltrip was allowed to talk about NASCAR's current drug policy in a confusing manner. Waltrip was absolutely off-base in his facts and his emotional outburst did not serve any purpose. Give Byrnes credit for trying to at least point-out the contradictions in Waltrip's own words.
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