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.