Friday, February 5, 2010
SPEED's "Trackside" Back For Better Or Worse
Some love it and some hate it. Those who love it enjoy the vibe from the live crowd, the enthusiasm of the panelists and the variety of guests. Those who hate it detest the noise from the crowd, the "over the top" announcers and the politically correct drivers.
Whatever the opinion, SPEED has returned Trackside for another full season of one-hour programs on Sprint Cup Series weekends. The first is Friday at 7PM ET. Steve Byrnes hosts the series with Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds as regular panelists. Darrell Waltrip sits in for the Fox Sports portion of the schedule and then gives way to Elliott Sadler for the rest of the season.
Trackside comes from the SPEED Stage and deals with a wide variety of outside elements. The show has originated in freezing cold weather and been done in the rain with the panelists holding umbrellas. Sometimes recorded and sometimes done live, this show normally follows a set format.
There are two NASCAR guests, most often associated with the Sprint Cup Series. It's hard for the show to get the Camping World Truck Series guys because of scheduling. While some Nationwide Series regulars appear, many of the Cup guys on the show also run in the Saturday series.
Each guest has an extended interview of several segments, normally about twenty minutes long. This follows the opening segment where the panelists talk about the NASCAR news and happenings from the weekend. This group is very comfortable with each other and it shows.
The struggles of Trackside have been with the audience, the size of the panel and the focus of the conversation. The crowd around the SPEED Stage on Friday nights can get a little loud. When they become empowered as a group, they often take the opportunity to chant driver names or sometimes more colorful sayings while the show is in progress.
What often seems to be an issue is that the crowd cannot hear the conversations of the panelists and guests. Fans constantly email as to why the panelists have their backs to the crowd. The logistics of the stage really mandate where the TV equipment has to be put. In this case, the panel sits in front of the crowd.
SPEED has used a swooping manually operated jib camera to shoot endless "bumper" shots of the fans over the years. Not once has this move been slowed down enough to allow TV viewers to read some of the homemade signs brought by the fans to the show.
Perhaps, in this year of change, SPEED might consider letting some of the signs from fans showing their hometowns or favorite drivers actually be put on the telecast so they can be made to feel a part of the show. Maybe finding who came the furthest to the race or who has the best homemade sign might even be a fun feature.
Once the second guest joins Trackside, there are a lot of voices on the stage. One host, three panelists and two guests. Six is a big number for a TV panel. Byrnes manages the program well, but often follow-up questions and lines of discussion have to end either for commercial break or to let another panelist ask a question.
In answer to this situation, Trackside has tried several different ways of allowing one panelist to focus on one guest. Who knows what this season will bring, but there often seems to be a lot of relevant content left on the table when guest interviews are over.
SPEED is on Twitter, but there have been no plans announced to allow fans to suggest questions or topics for the Trackside guests. We will update things if that changes. There is a lower level of interaction that is possible on a tape delayed program, but fans are clamoring for involvement and the TV networks have to respond.
Do you watch Trackside? What is your opinion on the topics discussed above? If you have suggestions for this series, please feel free to offer them. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.
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