Monday, June 15, 2009
Manske Struggles With The "NASCAR Now" Roundtable
Everyone deserves a vacation and that is just what ESPN's Allen Bestwick got this week. Instead of hosting the Monday version of NASCAR Now on ESPN2, he was home in Rhode Island spending some time with the family.
In his place, the network chose Nicole Manske. This was not her first time hosting the big one-hour Monday show, but it might be her last for a while. Manske came over from SPEED and has proven herself in several TV settings.
Alone in the studio on a weekday, Manske has a strong ability to keep things focused and ask the tough questions of her guests via satellite or phone. On the Sunday morning hour-long preview show, Manske works with a single guest in the studio. They use reporters in the field and edited features to set-up that day's Sprint Cup Series race. Manske with Ricky Craven on Sundays is fun to watch.
Unfortunately, something happens when she is put in the situation of dealing with three panelists live in the studio. Her ability to rely on teleprompters and a controlled environment is gone. While she has the TV skills to succeed, she does not yet have the NASCAR background to make conversation or ask the important follow-up question.
A positive note was the program allowing Craven, Boris Said and Mike Wallace to all ask questions of liveshot guest Alan Gustafson. Moving Manske aside and letting the panel talk with the winning crew chief resulted in some good questions and a great interview.
All of the production pieces are in place for this TV series. Outstanding highlights, good soundbites from all the top drivers and a solid Monday interview with a weekend newsmaker. The only thing remaining is for someone to drive the bus.
"In terms of saving fuel, who was the most impressive driver yesterday?" asked Manske of her expert panel. The looks on their faces told the tale. Ricky Craven could not hide his grin as he spread his hands as if to say are you kidding me?
"Well, the most impressive was Mark Martin, right?" said Craven. Proving that he is one of the top TV pros he quickly changed the subject. Wallace gave Martin a quick compliment and Said admitted that he just hates all fuel mileage races.
Manske has come a long way this season and continues to be a solid field reporter and weekday studio host. Unfortunately, this one-hour show calls for someone with more actual NASCAR history and experience. It seems that she is almost there and gaining on it, but on this Monday it was still a struggle.
Finally, on-air decisions in a studio setting come down to the Producer and the Coordinating Producer. During this program, two video clips were shown of accidents.
The first involved NASCAR veteran Johnny Benson, who escaped serious injury while racing his Supermodified car at a regional track. Although there was a brief fire, it was known in advance that Benson was going to recover and his condition was updated. The same could not be said for the second clip.
In the final segment of the show, the video of the accident that claimed the life of driver Carlos Pardo in NASCAR's Mexican Series was shown right out of commercial. There was no warning, no disclaimer and the footage was graphic.
NASCAR Now then actually replayed his death in slow motion from a second angle. Pardo was clearly seen inside his car that was essentially impaled on the end of a Jersey barrier. The video then continued to show rescue workers extracting his body from the car while covered with a blue tarp.
How and why this was included in a classy show that has made a name for itself by presenting the best NASCAR news and information is unclear. TDP has been begging for years to have this program include regional series highlights and information. The door has always been firmly shut. But now, because of sensational video and a fatality the door was opened for all the wrong reasons.
TV networks have a policy in place where the video footage of violent death is concerned. Nothing could have been more graphic than seeing Pardo dead in his car after this horrible accident. Let's hope that NASCAR Now does not have to face this issue again in the future, but somewhere inside ESPN this issue has to be addressed. That was tasteless and embarrassing for NASCAR Now, the ESPN2 Network and ESPN Inc.
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