Saturday, July 12, 2008
TNT's Summer Visit Worked Out Well
Saturday night in Chicagoland, the TNT crew tried to ease their way out of the Sprint Cup door with a solid telecast.
While featuring such things as Larry McReynolds doing a less-than-memorable magic trick and someone in the announce booth loudly singing along with the Viagra commercial, the night was actually a solid success.
The trademark of this six race series continued to be the teamwork between Producer Barry Landis and Director Mike Wells. This TV package offered fans the opportunity to see multiple cars racing on a consistent basis. Tight shots of cars running single file were kept to an absolute minimum. It made all the difference.
TNT never catered to Junior. They never gushed over Kyle Busch. In-car cameras never dominated the coverage and gimmicks like Digger were simply gone. These telecasts were enthusiastic and energetic from beginning to end.
Credit goes to Bill Weber who seems to have found a new peace and made it through the entire six race package without displaying the anger that was his trademark in 2007. Perhaps, the emerging presence of Kyle Petty in the announce booth helped Weber to manage his frustration level.
Petty came into this package with a lot more TV experience under his belt than last season. Petty did the TNT races in 2007 and is a regular on the Tradin' Paint series on SPEED. His ability to keep things loose and even poke fun at himself has transformed this TV package from very tense to very comfortable.
Larry McReynolds, magic tricks aside, has been an integral part of this team. Perched in the infield and running up and down the ladder to the TNT stage, McReynolds is the mad scientist who is always cooking up a new formula. Weber and his booth-mates have been confident in calling on McReynolds at any time during a telecast for strategy and opinion. After a long season on Fox and a continuing busy schedule on SPEED, McReynolds seems to be the hardest working TV guy in NASCAR.
No one has been through more changes than Wally Dallenbach. After working with several different play-by-play partners and analysts, Dallenbach has been able to relax this season. He is not in competition with Petty for information and has let Petty take the lead on commentary. Dallenbach's lower-key approach and increased level of comfort worked well for TNT.
The on-track production has featured effective recaps of the race using the pit reporters to go through the field. That group has worked hard and done their best in this rather short TV package. Veterans like Matt Yocum, Ralph Shaheen and Marty Snider navigate easily through the tangled world of the NASCAR pits.
One standout has been Lindsay Czarniak. For a second-year reporter who does not work in NASCAR outside of this six race stretch, she has been able to contribute to both the TNT and SPEED telecasts in a very solid manner. Her ability to interact with the drivers is clear and their reaction to her easygoing manner and professional demeanor has been rather remarkable. It should be interesting to see where her TV career takes her in the future.
No discussion of TNT this season would be complete without a good word for RaceBuddy. Offered free to broadband computer users, this application is made available through the NASCAR.com website. It features four camera angles that can be viewed together or separately. Also available are two audio streams of either the "natural sound" of the race or team radio chatter. Finally, interactive text applications allow for such things as email to the announcers and a chat room.
RaceBuddy has been a smash hit. As an adjunct to viewing the race on TNT, it plays the role of the "wide open" coverage as fans turn directly to it when the commercials appear on TNT. It proves the point that going side-by-side with commercial breaks for all Sprint Cup races in 2009 is the way to go.
Fan feedback at The Daly Planet has been positive for the ability to make the video boxes into a larger single picture and also to zoom the video to a full-screen size. This has resulted in the viewer being empowered as a "mini-Director" choosing the video and audio mix they want to see and hear during the race. What a nice idea.
TNT Executive Producer Jeff Behnke deserves a good deal of the credit for organizing the diverse parts of this coverage. Innovations this season have included the TNT announcers appearing on the NASCAR.com broadband post-race show. Live RaceBuddy questions from viewers have been worked into the telecasts and made for some fun moments at Chicagoland.
Looking in the rearview mirror, the 2008 NASCAR on TNT experience has been quite different than the Fox presentation. While it took one race to get in the groove, the overall package was actually interesting and fun. If the goofy fake restart pylons are the only thing to complain about from a TV perspective, that is a pretty good statement about what TNT brought to the table for this season's summer experience.
What are your thoughts on the Chicagoland finale and the entire TNT six race TV package?
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to add your opinion.