The Television Critics Association winter press tour is in full swing out in Los Angeles, CA. This year a NASCAR TV series is one of the new shows being presented as a high-profile entertainment property for 2009.
NASCAR Wives is a hybrid show that entertainment folks like to call a docusoap. That means that the people appearing in the program are real, but some of what viewers will see is staged for the cameras. The dreadful Real Housewives of Orange County is an example of this style of TV program.
This type of show was made famous by MTV series like The Real World and provides a unique but rather distorted look at a group of people who have something in common. Where the NASCAR Wives show is concerned, exactly what the actual participants have in common is not quite clear.
Needless to say, the reaction from some mainstream entertainment critics has not been very kind. Here is an excerpt from Jonathan Storm of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
TLC once stood for The Learning Channel. Now, it's just The Lousy Channel, as the network, desperate for viewers, has turned into a freak show.
President Eileen O'Neill cooed proudly about Jon and Kate Plus 8 (a family with twins and sextuplets); 17 Kids and Counting, in which Mom and Dad keep cranking out the kids (they're up to 18 now), and about dwarf-o-thon Little People, Big World.
Now the network proudly presents NASCAR Wives. "The drama on the track is nothing compared to the lives of these wives," O'Neill crowed, before she introduced three of the ladies.
One of them is Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s sister, Kelley, not his wife, but who's counting? "I've been a wife," she said, but now she's divorced, just like her daddy, who had three different wives.
TLC will probably get a show going on NASCAR divorcees any day now.
The gals spouted a lot of NASCAR propaganda while talking up the excitement of loving (and apparently getting sick of) guys who go round and round real fast.
"NASCAR has made significant strides in their safety initiatives," Kelley Earnhardt proclaimed, even if they did come a little too late for her dad, who was killed in a 2001 crash at Daytona.
"I know that my dad died a happy person because he was doing what he loved to do," she said. "So that makes me feel better."
Meanwhile, back in Mooresville, NC it has not gone without notice that camera crews are following around some local residents. Here is an update from Megan Pillow of Media General's News Service:
The Mooresville area and some of its race drivers’ wives will be featured later this month in a new cable TV series. The TLC channel will premiere a new reality series called “NASCAR Wives” on Jan. 24, following the Miss America Pageant, according to the Hollywood Reporter. A full season of the show is slated to appear sometime in the spring.
Area residents Lindy Hornaday, wife of race driver Ron Hornaday and owner of Mooresville’s Miss Estelle’s Place antique store; Kelley Earnhardt, sister of Dale Earnhardt Jr.; and Shana Mayfield, wife of Jeremy Mayfield, are all expected to appear.
Kim Saragoni, co-owner of Four Corners Framing and Gallery, said Thursday the TLC film crew was in town “with all of their booms and lights” for at least two days, following Hornaday as she volunteered to decorate Christmas trees in John Franklin Moore Memorial Garden and following Mayfield for a lunch at Soiree restaurant.
“They shadowed each of the wives for an entire day,“ said Saragoni.
The crew, said Saragoni, even stopped into Four Corners for some filming while they were in town.
Over at the popular Yahoo! Sports blog From The Marbles, Jay Busbee was already vowing to skip the first show and the entire series. His view is that this is the lowest form of TV and appeals to an entirely different kind of fan base:
Networks love this kind of “reality television” because costs are low compared with traditional series – and because viewers seem to have an insatiable appetite to watch other people engage in stunts along the lines of shopping, stammering, sighing and furiously abusing cell phones.
The NASCAR Media Group will be producing the series from the company's base in Charlotte, NC. NMG's chief Jay Abraham recently commented on the project:
"NASCAR is a family sport and a traveling road show, with a tight knit group of competitors barnstorming the U.S.," said Abraham. "Throughout a 10-month season, the drivers' wives are the glue holding together each racing family. They are strong and independent women with their own ambitions and goals who maintain their individual identities while supporting their highly visible husbands. NASCAR Wives provides an honest and emotional peek into their experience with our sport."
With all the different opinions on this type of "outside the box" NASCAR TV programming, it should be interesting to see if the general public, the hardcore racing fans and loyal TLC viewers will find this content interesting enough to make NASCAR Wives a hit.
What are your thoughts on this type of program and do you intend to watch the debut episode?
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