Monday, June 2, 2008
SPEED executives answered criticisms from The Daly Planet in no uncertain terms. This Monday, it only took three minutes until the Pocono preview started on This Week In NASCAR. Apparently, the current program format is here to stay.
Host Steve Byrnes and panelists Michael Waltrip and Chad Knaus tried their best to sell the excitement of Pocono, but veteran fans knew the truth. Even after a test, the potential for a single file COT parade existed once again.
The good part was that Waltrip and Knaus are now working very well together. They have sorted-out what topics each should address and are working to speak from their strengths on the show. Waltrip does not feel threatened by Knaus, and this duo should be able to continue to allow their working TV relationship to grow.
With most of the first thirty minutes of the program dedicated to Pocono, the momentum of the show is tough to keep very high. Even with good preview information, it was Dover and not Pocono that was on the minds of the fans who tuned-in to this TV program.
The Dover review gave Knaus a good opportunity to speak directly to the issue of the big wreck in the race. His point about limited sight lines and the speed of the laps made a lot more sense than explanations offered during the live telecast. Knaus added the item about Dale Earnhardt Junior getting his car's splitter stuck under the wall in the accident.
The show was now in full swing with Dover on the menu and all three men contributed to the fast-paced conversation. This is the fun part of the show that fans really like. Why it does not lead this program is anyone's guess.
The complete difference between Waltrip and Knaus makes their conversations interesting. The analytical Knaus is often put off his game by Waltrip's comments, but sometimes Knaus teaches Waltrip a thing or two about the very cars he drives.
Since the team radios have been used extensively on TV, it has become obvious that a lot of the things said during the race are said for one purpose. That purpose is to make it to shows like TWIN. The original TWIN feature showcasing the radios was fine, but now it often seems to be nothing short of campy. What a shame that PR and sponsors have now crept even into the team radio chatter.
It was never really mentioned why a feature appeared with old footage of Tony Stewart in his rookie season. Sometimes, things toward the end of this program just "show-up." There was no connection to Dover, Pocono or any other topic in the show. Rather than talk about issues in the NASCAR news, TWIN viewers saw old footage that made no sense at all. If Stewart was there because of his upcoming Eldora race, it was only mentioned in closing quickly by Waltrip.
With the personalities on this TV series starting to gel, it is time for SPEED to turn The NASCAR Media Group loose to open the format and encourage more of the give-and-take between Waltrip and Knaus. The potential for fun is there, but is it currently buried under pre-produced features and sponsored elements.
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There was a triple-header of racing behind them, a controversial race at Pocono ahead of them, and Mike Massaro and Brad Daugherty seated on the NASCAR Now studio set ready to chat. Johnny Benson and Allen Bestwick were about to have a blast.
Bestwick jumped right in and set his normally fast-paced tone in reviewing the Dover Sprint Cup highlights. Soundbites from Kyle Busch were effective and started the discussion about the race as a whole.
Bestwick and company do something very effectively, and that is include the viewer as the fourth panelist. The NASCAR Now Director uses a wideshot constantly to reinforce the fact that this is a group discussion. Bestwick himself directly addresses the camera when he is asking questions or making a point.
The panelists are not afraid to talk directly to each other, or aim a comment straight into the camera and to the viewers. Even some of the jokes are made to the camera in the funny moments. This really does give the viewer a feeling of being part of the show.
The review of the big crash at Dover contained a nice selection of soundbites from the drivers involved. Their frustration was clear, and echoed by the panelists. Benson was firm in his view that some of the late arriving cars to the accident could have done a much better job of getting stopped.
Bestwick was very blunt in his assessment that the Dover race after the wreck was pretty boring. He tried not to blame the COT, since it had been used at Dover last season. Massaro tried to suggest that the race should be shortened to change the strategy and the resulting boredom of the current format. That is the type of topic that should be explored, rather than mentioned before commercial breaks.
Steve Addington was the first guest on the show, and talked about leading the Kyle Busch car to victory. Addington is very calm, and it is clear that he is key to the present success of the team. This time, only Bestwick got to ask the questions as the show continues to switch back and forth in format. Even if the interview was taped in advance of the full show, including other panelists would give this segment a different look.
A review of the Dover Nationwide Series race included the Joey Logano story and a good soundbite with winner Denny Hamlin. The panel was impressed with Hamlin and Massaro made the point that once a driver gets in a groove at Dover, it is tough to get around him. Benson was supportive in his comments about Logano, and used his veteran status to preach patience.
Nicole Manske lent her voice to a feature on Kyle Busch that tried to reset for the viewers who this young man really is and where he came from to get to this level. It was well done, but took up a good chunk of time on this program intended to be dedicated to discussion among the panel.
Finishing off the theme, Bestwick welcomed JD Gibbs and handled a wide-ranging interview alone. Once again, the panelists were not allowed to ask questions. The conversation with Gibbs was fine, and included several topics not related to Kyle Busch.
Craftsman Truck Series highlights and notes finished off the show that once again covered the content viewers wanted to see. With two guests and one big feature there was less time for discussion. Hopefully, the production staff will review this issue and make the final tweaks to the show before the heart of the season.
Monday now has a very familiar feel for NASCAR fans, and the flow of this program continues to be smooth and professional on-the-air. ESPN has to be happy as the network begins to gear-up for Sprint Cup Series telecasts in another month.
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