Monday, March 2, 2009
The Odd Couple Back On TV
There is just something about the Monday night show on SPEED that keeps viewers coming back. For more than a decade, the network has been presenting an irreverent hour of NASCAR conversation and highlights under several different titles.
In 2009, the only remaining element from the original Speedvision program is the now-bearded Michael Waltrip. On this Monday, Waltrip was in rare form. It may well be because he was being reunited with his alter ego, the buttoned-up and analytical Chad Knaus.
Show host Steve Byrnes had travel troubles returning from Las Vegas and received a good-natured ribbing from his substitute, SPEED veteran Ralph Sheheen. It was great that the network had a strong personality like Sheheen who could fill-in with little notice. The program did not miss a beat where the host role was concerned.
Knaus had missed the first several shows and it took him a good while to remember just how his relationship with Waltrip played-out on the air. Basically, if Knaus does not stand up for himself he may never be heard in the entire hour.
Waltrip reminded Knaus of that fact by interrupting his first comment with a ridiculous tangent punctuated by an unfocused finish. It was vintage Waltrip and he continued to roam free for most of the program.
SPEED pounded the music and natural sound under the highlights to the point where the talent could not be heard. Sheheen, Waltrip and Knaus were continually drowned out by the poor audio mix. SPEED continues to struggle with the new HD studios.
Halfway into the show, it was apparent that the audio problems were going to affect a large part of this hour. Luckily, Sheheen often led follow-up conversations that took place after the horrible "library music" had ended. On both SD and HD televisions, the Sprint Cup Series highlights of this race were ruined.
Luckily, the audio mix allowed the highlights of the Nationwide Series race to be heard by viewers. Waltrip and Knaus were both quick to point out the amazing happenings in this memorable race. Often, it appears that Knaus is amused by the antics of some of the Nationwide drivers on the track.
Sheheen made this show a pleasure to watch. His calm demeanor worked well with the amped-up Waltrip and the continually head-shaking Knaus. Sheheen worked viewers though all of the good features that this program offers on a regular basis. The outstanding editing of the NASCAR Media Group is always fun to watch.
Knaus was allowed to make several good points in the Atlanta preview, reminding viewers of why he is the top crew chief in the sport. Waltrip finally stepped aside and let the knowledge of Knaus take center stage. It was nice to have a crew chief and driver combination back on the show. Just like in the TV network announce booth for the races, this line-up works well.
As the program closed with viewer email, it was clear that Knaus had recaptured the dynamic and colorful relationship he has with Waltrip on this show. Simply by letting "Mikey be Mikey," Knaus can navigate right around his cohort and make all the points that he feels contribute to the program.
It has been well over a decade since the lanky and off-the-wall Waltrip brother first made a splash on a small cable TV network broadcasing to almost no one. Now, as a Sprint Cup team owner and well-known television personality, he sits in the new High Definition studios of a Fox-owned major cable TV network.
Like I said, there is just something about Monday nights on SPEED.
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Thanks again and happy posting.