Monday, October 13, 2008
TWIN Responds To The Fans Once Again
It certainly must be interesting to be the Producer of This Week In NASCAR on SPEED. This Monday night show gets a lot of scrutiny for many reasons. In one form or another, it has been on SPEED for over a decade with Michael Waltrip as the last remaining original member of the "expert panel."
This Monday, Waltrip was joined by Greg Biffle and host Steve Byrnes to walk viewers through an hour of reviewing and previewing the NASCAR races. When this TV series began back in February, SPEED had the brilliant idea of putting the preview of the next race first and holding the highlights and discussion of the Sunday race until the second half of each show.
Needless to say, this did not fly with the fans for a lot of reasons. Spending thirty minutes talking about a race that was five days away was tough to take. By the time the "expert panel" came around to the weekend race, the wind was out of the sails on this program.
SPEED finally relented and moved the Sprint Cup race review to the top of the show. The results were immediate. The hot topics were being discussed right away. The dynamic between the panelists improved and this lively conversation seemed to lead perfectly into a preview of the next race. Problem solved.
After the name change from Inside NEXTEL Cup to This Week In NASCAR, the program also included highlights of the support races from the weekend. Nationwide and Truck Series highlights gave these two series a well-deserved moment in the sun.
By the time The Chase officially started, TWIN was going at full-speed and the shows were well received. Then, something interesting happened. Suddenly, SPEED decided that the very same viewers who had watched this series all season long needed to be introduced to the drivers in The Chase.
So, TWIN changed the program format again. After a brief discussion with the two panelists and before any highlights, Byrnes introduced a two-segment-long edited feature on one of The Chase drivers. The result was that both the Nationwide and Truck Series highlights were booted-off the program permanently because the show was now out of time.
Was TWIN chasing the elusive casual fan who did not know who Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle or Tony Stewart was? Were they trying to show-off the production skills of The NASCAR Media Group who gets to follow the drivers around for the weekend? The bottom line question is, who made that decision?
Since the beginning of this new issue, TDP readers have been expressing how much they are confused by this magazine-style feature. This week TWIN responded by changing the program format yet again. This time, the Sprint Cup review and highlights came first and the big Chase feature came second.
Brynes led a focused Biffle and a laid-back Waltrip through the Charlotte highlights and both drivers made good points during this segment. Biffle was especially effective as he saw some incidents for the first time on video and reflected on what he saw first-hand during the race.
For the first time in a long time, Biffle sounded like a driver seeking a championship. TWIN has experienced panelists who won races, but having the Sprint Cup champ on the show would be a huge bonus.
It was unfortunate that the big Chase profile featured the same NASCAR personality who was on the E:60 program on ESPN earlier this year. This time, no Chaser was front-and-center despite the feature being called a Chase profile.
Humpy Wheeler was interesting as always and there is no doubt that he must have his own weekly program in 2009. That NASCAR resource is going to waste without a platform to communicate with the fans and whatever TV network steps-up and makes Wheeler a deal is going to get a goldmine.
This week's fan email questions were outstanding, but the year is 2008 and TWIN needs to get videos from the fans and let them ask their own questions. If TWIN can post bonus segments on NASCAR.com after every show, they certainly can change the decade-old mailbag over to an Internet video format. That would also allow those questions and answers to live-on as a reference on the NASCAR.com website.
The Nationwide Series put on a good show at Charlotte and next week the Craftsman Trucks will race at Martinsville. It is a shame that neither event was reviewed or previewed even briefly on this program. It takes away from the purpose of this TV series as a whole.
TWIN is coming down the home-stretch of the first season and has proven to be a winning franchise for SPEED once again. Perhaps, the production staff will find a way to strike a compromise between these big Chase features and some Nationwide and Truck Series highlights.
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