Saturday, October 17, 2009

Documentary TV Series Right Thing For Johnson?

Here is the official story from Jenna Fryer of the AP that got the email and Tweets flowing:

CONCORD, N.C. — There's two sides to Jimmie Johnson, the three-time defending champion often perceived to be a stiff, corporate spokesman who has sucked the drama out of NASCAR.

But he plays hard away from the track, where those who know him well insist he's a laid-back California guy who loves a good party.

The public will get to judge for themselves next year when Johnson, who is trying for a NASCAR record fourth consecutive title this season, opens his life for HBO Sports' award-winning "24/7" program. The four-episode series will air beginning in January and focus on Johnson's preparation for the 2010 season-opening Daytona 500.

"I'm confident that my personality will come out, and for those who may think I'm boring, they'll see a different side of me," Johnson said Thursday from his office at Hendrick Motorsports.

The show will mark HBO's first in-depth venture into NASCAR, and it will be the first time its "24/7" franchise will stray from boxing.

The project was brought to HBO by Creative Artists Agency on behalf of Johnson, who signed on with its sports division in 2008 for a marketing, licensing and endorsement deal. CAA asked Johnson for a list of projects he'd like to do and "24/7" was at the top.

He and his wife, Chandra, had become hooked on the series during the Ricky Hatton and Floyd Mayweather edition, and Johnson wanted a chance to do a similar project.

"I think it would be awesome to show what goes on in my life, the team, NASCAR, and truthfully to hit new fans," Johnson said.

First up will be at least 1,000 hours of filming to create the four 30-minute episodes. Cameras have already filmed a bit with Johnson and his wife, and the project will pick up steam as they head into the offseason and then to Daytona next year.

Although Johnson said his wife isn't comfortable around cameras, he's confident they'll adapt. And he's trusting the experience will be much different from what good friend Nick Lachey experienced doing "Newlyweds" for MTV with his now-ex, Jessica Simpson.

"I feel that this is much different than a reality show," he said. "It's certainly our real life but it's more of a documentary than a reality show. That's a big difference. And Nick would kill me, too."

The show will have total access to Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports, and the No. 48 race team in its preparation for NASCAR's biggest race of the year. Greenburg expects an adventure or two with the notoriously intense crew chief Chad Knaus, who has little time for media when the pressure is on. Knaus can also be super secretive when it comes to strategies and planning, and the exposure could potentially unnerve him.

"We laugh about it, but it's going to be interesting," Greenburg said. "If Chad has trouble with it, that will be part of the story, too: Chad can't handle this.

"He may bite Jimmie's head off at times, and tell Jimmie to get these cameras out of here. Hopefully, we're rolling when that happens."

But Greenburg is most excited to expose NASCAR to a new audience.

"There's so much to this sport that people don't see," he said. "That happened in boxing (with "24/7") and that happened in pro football (with "Hard Knocks"), and we want to just bring it all out in NASCAR. We are going to show a different side of Jimmie Johnson to America and I think that people will maybe change their tune."

So, what do you think? Is this a star reacting to a call from the fans to prove he is interesting? Perhaps, Johnson truly believes this behind the scenes show will open parts of his life to the public that have been hidden. Either way, it will certainly expose NASCAR to a new group of television viewers.

We are looking for comments relating to the TV series, not Johnson's racing exploits or personality. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.


Bill Jordan said...

I wish they would have went with another driver.... it would be far more interesting and do more for NASCAR with a more colorful character.

Unknown said...

4 30 minute episodes wont be near enough to convince people he isnt "boring".

KoHoSo said...

On the positive side, HBO is a great venue for this. Their productions are almost always top-notch and this could introduce a lot of people to the world of NASCAR that have ignored it in the past. This is obviously not a scientific statement, but I do know many people that will watch something on HBO outside of their normal interests just because it is on HBO and has a high likelihood of being entertaining and/or informative

On the negative side, no television program, no matter how well done, is going to change the fact that Jimmie Johnson is boring in the worst of all possible departments -- his driving. With extremely rare exceptions, he doesn't make spectacular moves that make the highlight reels or keep fans talking about them for days much less years. He is fabulous at taking care of his car and giving excellent feedback to Chad Knaus who is arguably one of the greatest crew chiefs in the sport's history (and, in my view, probably will be more deserving of Hall of Fame recognition in the future than his driver). However, when it comes to taking the interest generated by what is ultimately just another "reality" television show (even if a well done one on HBO) and applying that to getting new people to sit through four hours or so of what is currently some of the worst sports productions ever seen outside of a local small-town cable company's public access channel, I don't think this will do much to help.

My opinion is not meant to be an insult toward Jimmie or his fans even though what I said about him is negative. While I am not a fan I am also not a total JJ hater. He is who he is and he's obviously great at doing what is needed under the current rules and scoring system. However, Jimmie is the San Antonio Spurs of NASCAR -- he could be promoted and glitzed up 'til the cows come home and win the next 22 championships. That will not change the fact that many of us find his way of playing the game to be very boring.

NorCalFan said...

If JJ really wants to reach a new fan base, I don't think a premium cable network is going to be much of a success--especially for reaching younger people (under 18 and the 18-34 year olds). I know I'm not going dole out another $12.99/mo. to add HBO to my viewing package--and wouldn't even if he was the most exciting and interesting driver in NASCAR (NOT!).

Hope the camera crew is in good physical shape for filming at the tracks. Following JJ going from Point A to Point B around the garage requires footspeed no slower than a jog (so he doesn't have to stop for fan autographs). I've been there and witnessed him in action many, many, times at quite a few tracks and it doesn't endear him to current Nascar fans.

I agree with The J.

And I find it hard to understand how Chandra is not comfortable around cameras? She was a model in NYC.

Karen said...

NorCalFan said ...

"And I find it hard to understand how Chandra is not comfortable around cameras? She was a model in NYC."

But models don't talk. She was a runway model. I'm not sure I've even ever heard her speak. She looks very bashful, but that just may be her "come hither" look.

As for JJ himself, I'll be excited to see the finished HBO product. Maybe it will endear him to the fans who think he's too vanilla, me included.

Anonymous said...

Aside from NASCAR, I am a huge boxing fan. HBO has built a very strong reputation and brand name for their 24/7 show, which usually profiles boxers preparing for a big fight.

I disagree with anyone who says a) this isn't enough time to show another side of Jimmie Johnson and b) he is too boring for 24/7.

HBO has profiled some pretty boring boxers, a few of whom didn't even speak English, so the whole show was subtitled. Believe me, they made it very interesting. I think more of you should see some of the great 24/7 series shows of the past before you jump to a conclusion about how this one will be. Believe me, this is not going to look like a NASCAR Media Group project. HBO does their own thing, and their sports documentaries are usually nothing short of excellent. I am sure they are smart enough to realize what is online if they take the 24/7 brand into another sport and come out with a dud.

I am really, really looking forward to this 24/7. I think most of the shows that attempt to show you "day in the life" or "week in the life" of a NASCAR driver will pale compared to what HBO will be able to put together. If they can make heavyweight contender Chris Arreola interesting, Jimme Johnson should be easy.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Jimmie is looking for new fans or just sees this as a great opportunity, but his comments about 24/7 being more like a documentary than a reality TV show prove he is familiar with what HBO does with that show. What athlete wouldn't want to be profiled on 24/7? Yeah, you gotta put up with cameras around you all the time for months -- There are only 168 hours in a week and we are, what, 13-14 weeks away from Daytona -- so starting any day now they will literally be taping him around the clock for months.... but HBO is going to make him look great. They always do in their shows. They don't make commercials, they make gripping TV over there. But the sacrafice of privacy with be worth it to the 48.

If this was some sort of Bravo TV show, where they are doing one of those phony reality shows to show what home life is like but it all feels stagey, I would roll my eyes and say Jimmie Johnson has made a huge mistake. But HBO's 24/7 is an incredible venue for any athlete. Anyone who disagrees hasn't seen the show. It will be powerful.

Ken said...

I don't think a typical NA$CAR fan will believe the show will be anything other than propaganda. I think it will look like and be an infomercial for NA$CAR. The shows will be scripted and be far from normal life. Nobody can be normal when there are cameras everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Boring? Drives to win... Has manners... Is well spoken... and generous with his time. I think this ould be a great opportunity to shown those who are not regular NASCAR followers that there is a lot more to NASCAR than rednecks, double-wides and big haired women; which is what may think NASCAR people are all about.

Mike said...

Smart move on JJ's part. He's starting to get that corporate drone image problem and showing folks the human side of his life may help change that.

Mike said...

Smart move on JJ's part. He's starting to get that corporate drone image problem and showing folks the human side of his life may help change that.

Vicky D said...

We don't have HBO so won't be watching but I guess it will be ok. I liked the old Nascar 360 several years ago so this one might go over well with everyone.

Newracefan said...

I think this an excellent idea. I am a JJ fan and have read/watched anything I could find. I've seen a little of the "Jackass from El Cajon" at times. The guy who keeps a beard just to aggravate his crew chief and tries to surf a golf cart after a few beers. Hopefully this show will let others see what I think is there. It also doesn't surprise me that it's being done during the off season and Daytona, my guess what ever will be fimed during the end of this season will be limited like his golf outing etc, not so much during the races unless he locks up the chamionship early whch I don't see happening. JJ and Chad become so focused during the chase it wouldn't be fun TV unless of course JJ is using it a distraction to keep his mind off the racing during the week. I for one can't wait.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what people want exactly from an athlete. someone who gets arrested for domestic abuse or for running a dogfighting ring? someone who constantly whines and criticizes the 'powers that be' just because they like to go against the grain? someone who carries a gun with them to a club and shoots themselves in the leg?

It's quite amusing that someone who goes about their job with so much professionalism to win three times in a row gets beaten up because they aren't exciting enough for the simplest of "fans".

Sorry, Johnson was born and raised in a trailer park in El Cajon, CA (which if you've even driven through you would just be surprised more than anything) and does everything right as far as I'm concerned as an athlete.

But I guess since he isn't flashy enough to get arrested or act like a fool some people consider him boring.

What a sad state of affairs. Do what you want JJ. The HBO documentary will show who you are period, and if people don't like it, maybe it says more about them than you...

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:10AM,

Exactly what "people" are you talking about?


red said...

not a gigantic jj fan (sorry, nrf -- and he isn't as tall as i thought in person, ya know?!?!) but i have a ton of respect for what he's accomplished as a racer and i'd look forward to this IF it weren't on hbo (which i don't have on my comcast package.)

i have no doubt that jj isn't as vanilla as folks seem to believe: his golf cart surfing proved that to me. (well, that plus cutting his hand open w/a box knife as he tried to cut thru a firesuit but maybe that speaks to a different aspect of who he is!) not sure why some seem to have tagged him with that label but i get a sense it's probably not accurate once he's out of the car.

i agree he's VERY methodical in how he approaches his job, that he gives knaus amazing feedback BUT i've also heard some of his radio chatter and he is not always the happiest camper in the pack and is very . . . colorful in expressing that.

i believe that one of the best ways to get folks hooked on our sport is to open up the prsonalities behind it, part the magic curtains and let folks see who these men and women really are. fans were created by nascar 360 and nbs 24/7 as well as thru "alternative media sources" for nascar like GQ, FHM, Playboy and Rolling Stone.

i'm all for whatever gives a different perspective on the athletes in our sport and helps folks get to "know" them better, including HBO and twitter!

Anonymous said...

I don't think a typical NA$CAR fan will believe the show will be anything other than propaganda. I think it will look like and be an infomercial for NA$CAR. The shows will be scripted and be far from normal life.

Have you even seen an episode of 24/7 before or are you just letting your hatred of the 48 get ahead of you? You comment shows your lack of knowledge with the 24/7 show or format. I think if more NASCAR fans were actually familiar with this show, they would be excited. I'm not even a 48 fan and I'm excited - that shows always delivers.

The Loose Wheel said...

I actually believe Jimmie IS a pretty interesting guy. This is the same guy who in his first season of Nationwide took a huge wreck at the Glen and made it a highlight clip with his victory stance on the roof of the car. This is the guy who after his first championship broke his wrist surfing ontop of a golf cart.

Listening to Tony Stewart's old SIRIUS show, you got a glimpse of Jimmie off the track and away from the cameras and this is a guy that can downright have a twisted sense of humor and is a pretty laid back "chill" guy.

This should be an interesting series, I'll most certainly be curious.

It won't win everyone over but I expect it will win a few.

Anonymous said...

JJ has already hired a PR firm to whip up some fans, and it didn't work. Now a documentary! Won't be watching, and hate to disappoint you JJ, but this won't work either.

Illpolo said...

Trying to figure out what makes a NASCAR driver more exciting. Stewart...why, because he used to revolt against everything he could? Who else? Kyle Busch? He is trying to be an actor only he isnt good at it. Edwards? Same story over and over; shirtless riding a bike in Missouri. Hamlin; even the Kesolowski's rattle his cage.

Sory. Johnson goes out and wins because he and his team are smart. Sorry that's not in the game plan.

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a new post up documenting the TV schedule changes on SPEED due to F-1 quals running long.

Anonymous said...

I will be watching. I can't wait. I think this show will provide me with three things I would really really like to see:

1) Intense look at the schedule a NASCAR driver must keep, from commercials, to appearances, to sponsor obligations, etc. I am fascinated these guys can perform with all the time committments they have and I would really like to see any good documentary that shows what this is like at the top level.

2) A close-up look at how a man with tens of millions of dollars of disposable income lives. I want to see his house, his expensive toys, what he chooses to do with his time. I think 24/7 will show this.

3) The real work that goes into getting ready for the Daytona 500. I've seen this on other shows, but the 24/7 format is very intense. I know a TON about boxing, but I still learned a lot when I watched the 24/7 showing Oscar DelaHoya's preparation for a fight. He's the same kind of media-friendly glamour bou as JJ and they made it really interesting. I can't wait to see what they show us.

Why anyone would knock a show that hasn't even been filmed, or announce in public that they will refuse to watch any show with JJ in it ahead of time is, to me, the epitome of closed-mindedness. Maybe the show will be lousy and I'll be wrong, but at least I'm going to watch it and decide for myself... not decide it's garbage before it's even made.