Monday, March 2, 2009

Manske Moves To The Roundtable

After a disastrous 2007 season, the powers that be at ESPN tapped Allen Bestwick on the shoulder and gave him a challenge. His mission was to take the Monday hour-long version of the NASCAR Now program and make it a viable TV choice for NASCAR fans.

Bestwick responded in 2008 by hosting an incredible variety of personalities on the program and making "the roundtable" must-see viewing for hardcore fans. Drivers, reporters, TV analysts and even team owners appeared to talk about the racing from the previous weekend.

Just like Jay Leno, it was rare that Bestwick took a day off. Even on the off-weeks, Bestwick continued to fly to ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, CT and host the show. When he finally did take a week off in the middle of the season, it was Ryan Burr who stepped-in. Click here for the TDP column about that program.

This year, ESPN has given Bestwick a week off quite early in the season. Burr has moved away from NASCAR Now, so regular co-host Nicole Manske was given the opportunity to leave the teleprompter and jump into the deep end of the pool.

Manske has been working hard in the studio since joining ESPN. Her demeanor and ability to talk comfortably with a wide variety of racing types has served her well. Monday's one-hour test would feature Ray Evernham, Ricky Craven and Randy LaJoie.

Manske proved to be up to the task, although a little blunt in her questions to the panel. Bestwick's ability is to listen to what others have to say and only step-in to direct traffic. Often, he brought out in others what had not been seen before in a TV studio setting. The outstanding program with all three Wallace brothers comes to mind. This was Manske's challenge.

There was no Camping World Truck Series race to discuss, so Manske was limited to reviewing Las Vegas and previewing Atlanta. The program also had no guest interviews. Perhaps, mentioning that she was sitting-in for Bestwick at the top of the show might have been a good idea. Unfortunately, ESPN has a habit of forgetting just who drove the car that got everyone to the big dance.

Craven has come into his own as an outstanding analyst and the one person he complements quite well is Ray Evernham. This driver and crew chief/owner combination made the show click. Randy LaJoie was a bit out in left field, but his personality and irreverent humor is something seen on very few ESPN programs these days.

Manske quickly realized that her pointed questions that are great for one-on-one interviews were not going to work with this panel. To her credit, she switched gears and concentrated on directing traffic after the panel had an opportunity to talk.

The good conversation flowed between these four, but it certainly would have been nice to let the three panelists present a closing thought. Bestwick returns next week with Craven and Evernham. They will be joined by driver Mike Wallace.

Perhaps the funniest moment of the program was in the video opening. The NASCAR Now production team chose to show the Sports Book at a Vegas casino. Beneath the odds on the board for the various drivers to win the race were some other interesting bets that could be placed. So, the camera panned down.

The over/under on the total number of Digger appearances was 20. The odds were even on whether or not Jeff Hammond misspells the word "Fox" during the event. Finally, the over/under on how often Chris Myers makes fun of Dick Bergren was 5.

Somewhere in a dark editing bay in Bristol, CT someone was still giggling over getting away with that one. Nothing like a little spice early in the season.

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Thanks again and happy posting.


Lou said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lou said...

Going to try to put this in a good light. Have been a fan of Manske since she has come over to espn. I have enjoyed how easy she is to listen to on NN during the week. Good opportunity for her to stick another feather in her cap. Were there growing pains? Yes, but overall it was a good program. And if she hosts again it will be better. And I think the other members of the round table helped carry the program. Kind of a team effort to make for a good program.


TexasRaceLady said...

I, too, agree that it was an awkward start to the program. I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong, it was just off-key.

The second half was much better.

I think Ms. Manske will continue to improve.

Anonymous said...

I've listened to Manske since her awful "Speed Report" days. She's better but has never demonstrated to me that she knows anything about Nascar. Discussing Junior last night,she posed a question and referred to Junior as driving "the 48"??

Anonymous said...

The over/under on the total number of Digger appearances was 20. The odds were even on whether or not Jeff Hammond misspells the word "Fox" during the event. Finally, the over/under on how often Chris Myers makes fun of Dick Bergren was 5.

Somewhere in a dark editing bay in Bristol, CT someone was still giggling over getting away with that one. Nothing like a little spice early in the season.

Didn't they show that same thing during the Fox pre-race?

I couldn't help but miss AB and the flow of the show. Manske's demanding questions irked me at times, like asking Ray to name who was to be held responsible for the engine failures and Ray pointed out that you can't blame one single person. But she did fine for her first time out in this format and will hopefully improve if she shows up again.

Anonymous said...

Poor Ryan Burr used to get beaten down quite a bit and yet Nicole seems to get a pass on her performance. I think he would have been so much better.

Anonymous said...

I thought Mankse did fine. The problem, in my opinion, was Lajoie. He wasn't listening to the questions she was asking and gave too many one or two-word answers. Craven and Evernham often had to finish his comments for him.

Anonymous said...

How can I say this politely enough that you will not delete it?

How about this:


Anonymous said...

She's purely eye-candy IMO. She asked the same questions my wife (who hates racing) would ask.

Anonymous said...

Disappointing show again this week. Does Ricky and Randy watch the race on Sunday? If you truly want insight to what happens on Sunday..time is better spent on Speed TV. Never thought I would be so down on ESPN..and I personally like Craven and Lajoie..but this show is not going far without panel members that are either involved in the race or actually watch the race.

Anonymous said...

I wathc a lot of sport programs and among them round tables. I really don't rate them or think about whether they are good or not. I is not until you watch NN and Nicole that you realze that it does take some talent to lead such a group.

I love NN roundtable and was not pleased by Nicole's performance. I think what bothered me was she seemed a bit rude. I don't think any on the guys in the group seemed very comfortable. The whole thing was bit of a train wreck.

Sorry Nicloe.

Anonymous said...

I thought the show was good Nicole did a good job as a backup for allen.Nice job by the rest also.I also like watching Brad,Rusty and Allen on the countdown show those guys are great together.Keep it up.

Anonymous said...
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Newracefan said...

Nicole did a decent job, not perfect but not awful. I prefer AB but she'll do and I don't want to work AB too hard. I do think Ricky and Ray are a great combo and Randy always says something that makes you think and much to make you laugh.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the next time that AB needs a day off (does he work more than just Mondays?), Ray could sub for him.

He is very media savy, used to the camera (remember his show), and I thin would be an excellent sub for AB. I hope the suits at ESPN consider him.

Anonymous said...

Manske did great doing the roundtable edition twice last month. it would better if she guest hosts "ESPN First Take" while either Jay or Dana is off.