Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Madhouse" Ends With Fans Divided

The original reality series Madhouse on the History Channel has finished season one. Whether or not there is a season two depends on who you ask.

The 2009 summer racing series for the NASCAR Modifieds at Bowman Gray stadium in Winston Salem, NC was the subject of this TV project. What emerged from hundreds of hours of footage divided the fans and sparked a lot of conversation.

The TV formula was pretty simple. First, pick some drivers to profile. Then, mix staged reality footage recorded away from the track with the actual racing footage from the summer. The series also had a narrator to tie it all together in the form of a local radio DJ who read a script created by the producers.

After starting the season airing at 10PM on Sunday nights, the series was moved to 11PM where it remained to the end. It was a tip-off that things were perhaps not going so well in Madhouse land. The reason was pretty simple, the show was the exact same thing every week.

Click here for the official History Channel website about the series. Junior Miller, pictured above, hated everyone and was the villain. The Myers brothers were the good guys and the other drivers simply made up the supporting cast. Wives, diners, dogs and even rental trailers provided staged situations to create content. TV guys call that "scripted reality."

Click here to visit the Facebook fan site for Madhouse. There are a lot of fans of the show who enjoyed what they felt was a realistic portrayal of short track racing in the south.

Reviewing the Facebook comments over the past couple of months has revealed an interesting mix. Some fans follow the series like a story, watching the characters and the relationships between them on and off the track. Other viewers relate to it as a sports event, with the off-track content serving to build the on-track drama.

One running theme during the series was violence after the races. From the first episode to the last, the potential for a fight in the pits was always an important element. Here is a preview of the final episode from the History Channel Facebook moderator:

Starting to get geeked up for this weeks episode. The pot finally boils over! The Showstopper has taken all he can take and its time to open up a can of whoop ass! Who do you think Chris Fleming is going to put that hay-maker on? Think it lands? Who would you like to see that hammer dropped on?

Needless to say, the episode ended with a good pit brawl as previewed. The lingering issue is whether or not it happened because the TV cameras were there. There was a lot of jawing and nervously glancing at the camera crew right before the festivities. In fact, it was clever video editing that allowed Mr. Fleming to appear to suddenly charge his rival like an angry water buffalo.

The result was the stereotypical redneck fight with lots of wrestling and torn t-shirts. The brawl even featured a miscellaneous female who appeared from nowhere to get a swift kick in to the ribs into one of the participants.

It certainly was curious that the big fight featured two of the lesser TV characters. This left the door open for continuing tension between the Myers and Junior Miller for 2010. All of that brings us to the big question.

There has been official silence from The History Channel on a season two. On the network's own website chat, fans have offered that driver Burt Myers has said the series is not returning. Other postings included reports of Bowman Gray PR staff saying no TV this summer and the original TV production company saying they will not be back for year two. At this point, things do not look promising.

Madhouse was an interesting TV project that featured real racing. The production company and the network chose to create a reality formula that echoed lots of the other series now on the revamped History Channel. Ax Men, Pawn Stars and American Pickers continue to feature people who have unique interests, just like the drivers on Madhouse.

In real life, the racing begins again on April 24 at the stadium. Regardless of the TV issue, fans will pack Bowman Gray once again for some weekend fun at the races.

As we close out this topic, perhaps you could share with us your feelings about how you feel the sport and the personalities involved were portrayed in Madhouse. Make sure to tell us how you watched the series, if you stayed up to see it or recorded it to meet your own viewing schedule. If there are other elements you felt strongly about, feel free to raise those issues.

To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


infield420 said...

I liked the show even though like you said it was pretty repetitive. What I didn't like was the fake dj part,could have left that out. I work on Sunday nights (thanks directv) so I dvr all of the shows,but normally only ff the commercials,but would like to see season 2.

Thanks for listening J.D.

Anonymous said...

Madhouse was a GREAT show and not only did I DVR it, but yes stayed up till 11:00 to watch it. I thought it was not only entertaining but kept me on the edge of my seat. Anyone that knows racing knows that Bowman Gray Stadium is deep with history! Heck Richard Petty won 200 total Nascar races, but few know his 100th was at Bowman Gray! Such a mistake to not have 2nd season of Madhouse. I will def miss it!
Johnny (jtmoney1967)

51 yr. fan said...

I only saw 4 or 5 of the shows and
thought they would have been a lot
better without all the melodrama.
The in-shop scenes with the support
people and the families added much
to the program. The other race
progams should take a lesson and
get some behind the scenes stories
in lieu of all the sponsor rah-rahs
they are saturating us with now. A
better time slot and some replays
may have helped also

Islander said...

watched it when convenient with DVR. enjoyed the show, not sure that a second season would be as interesting. from what I've seen of local tracks, it will just be more of the same show.

jamie in nc said...

i enjoyed the show. i noticed quickly that the editing seemed to generate stories more than the actions themselves. most notably was the episode featuring 'the hot blond' chasity. i feel the scenes where chasity is featured were not filmed in the order the were shown. the comments made by chasity didnt support the timeline given.

the final brawl scene seemed out of place also. tim brown cannot be two places at once. while he was celebrating a championship in the infield, suddenly he is breaking up a fight in the pits.

i was a dvr watcher, and big brother is watching, so my view counted. i also used the on-demand feature of my directv to help a friend catch up on old episodes.

i enjoyed the character development inspite of the editing. perhaps the most interesting and funniest character was eric stigall. as i make my way to bowman gray next week, i will definitely be stopping by clarks barbecue for a rubber band sandwich.

i followed all the drivers on facebook. it seemed a marketing agent had access to each drivers account because driver seemed to magically post on facebook within 5 minutes of each other.

overall i give it an A. but if the producers do not find other stories at the track, following these same drivers for a second season will definitely lose my interest.

Anonymous said...

I watched Madhouse on occasion, not a die-hard viewer. I thought a lot of the show was too contrived (the already mentioned DJ pieces were just silly), and was turned off by the repetitive story line. I can't say I would miss it if it didn't return. I'm also still trying to figure out how this landed on the History Channel!

Anonymous said...

My wife and I watched it by dvr - too late viewing for this old guy. I wouldn't change a thing. Yeah, it was repetitive in places where they could have showed more footage, but over all I think it was well done and better progamming than NASCAR has done in recent years. The charactors were developed well. Equal time was given to both the good guys and the bad guys. It made me want to go see a race up there while I won't go to another race at Daytona and I only live about an hour from there.

Richard in N.C. said...

When he is asked about no longer racing at N. Wilkesboro and Rockingham, Richard Petty almost always says that there are a lot of places NASCAR's top series no longer races - and Bowman Gray is one of them. I believe The King won the last Grand National (now Cup) race held at B. Gray.

Anonymous said...

I expect that when I watch the HISTORY channel that I will be watching history not racing. This show although not bad had no place on the history channel. Why didn't SPEED pick it up and then it would make sense. I expect my TV to show what the channel says it is not some idiots idea will get viewers.

Darcie said...

Like all reality shows, it did seem over-edited to show more melodrama. But it wasn't all that bad. Did portray these drivers as the redneck boobs that Nascar wants to stay away from, but I think it's probably a pretty good look at reality.

BTW, watch Nascar Now to hear the story of Mark Martin retiring and Kasey Kahne signing on with Hendrick to take over the 5 starting in 2011. Marty Smith just broke the story.

Chris from NY said...

History Channel, Speed Channel, ABC Family, Disney Channel

What do these four have in common? Leadership by claybrains? Possibly, but I was thinking this: These are four channels, among many other, that have recently deviated from names and traditions to cater to "18-34" aka the "lowest common denominator".

If only I had WorldDirect from DirecTV, so I could witness how much better or worse TV is overseas. I'm putting my money on better.

Chris from NY said...

JD, if you notice most of the comments, very few of them, especially some of the ones commending the show, appear to be from regulars like me.

But I have never seen the show and never plan to. My father once dragged me into watching "Fast Track to Fame", and guess what? My judgement from online articles and previews was right! It did fail! I'm going on that gut feeling once again, and this time, I'm glad I'm staying off.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it is a good show. But does that mean I will watch it? If it's an obvious ratings skewer like David Hill's circus, than the answer is definitely a very smart, very necessary NO.

Jason K said...

Thought it was pretty good. Taped it and watched on Tuesdays evenings when nothing else was on. Hope to see a second season.

KoHoSo said...

As I recall promising in my comment when we were first asked to discuss Madhouse, I watched only the first episode in its entirety. I was already not a fan of "reality" programming and the content of this show did nothing to change my mind. I caught additional glimpses of it here and there while channel surfing and continued to be appalled at this format of television that isn't based in reality at all (minus the overall backdrop). I will not miss it if it does not return but feel bad for my fellow Planeteers that did like it as it seems as if, even as we all get more and more channels, there is less and less programming that people really like to watch.

However, I do thank Madhouse for being my yearly reminder to write a letter to A&E (the parent of History Channel) and ask them to either show some actual, honest to goodness history programming or to please re-brand the channel as "The H" and stop pretending to be something that they no longer are.

51 yr. fan said...

I beg to differ with Chris from NY.
I recognize most of the identifiable contributors as regular Paneteers. I think watching the show validates my

Anonymous said...

I watched all shows live. I enjoyed the behind the scenes story at the race shops, but I'm disappointed to see Southern Redneck racing sterotypes being shown every week.
If Bowman Gray racing is really this loose and continues to allow rednecks causing intentional wrecks every week, then they really don't need to be on TV.
No 2nd season needed of this BS...

JohnP said...

I liked TWIN and a lot of people wanted it taken off the air. I have missed it ever since. As have others.

I watched one episode of Madhouse and did not like it at all. That's not racing. It's way to melodramic for me. Got enought going on real reality to watch a "reality" show based in acting "a part".

But, for the folks that like it I hope it airs for another season. I will just choose not to watch it.

Dannyboy said...

Some might know me as a long time TWIN/IWCR viewer-fan. I mostly don't like reality tv but watched most of American Chopper (til they jumped the shark last yr.) bc I've built bikes & cars. I watch Pawn Stars bc they're funny and you actually get a lot of history info with some of the items pawned.

I would tune out when the Teutuls fought, same with American Hot Rod when Boyd or somebody would start bitchin'& moanin'. Build a car, dammit!

I tried MADHHOUSE once or twice but couldn't stand more than a few minutes. We had a similar situation here in SD until 2004: Cajon Speedway where I've seen Schrader, Spencer, KWallace and Blaney race; I knew some of the racers and yes, pit fights were an occasional reality. But the real behind the scens with track champions and others was a LOT more interesting and usually funny and entertaining. I was there.

Would love to watch a race, or even a tape of a race @ Bowman Gray. MADHOUSE should die the death it deserves.

old97fan said...

I liked some of the program, lose the idiot radio announcer. Was a bit mistified by the behavior of most of the "christians" although it really mirrored what I have seen in the midwest. The thing that struck me was that there were no real heroes. Jr. might have been the bad guy, but the Myers boys were a bunch of self-serving, whining, candy***es, who would have gotten their butts pounded around here.

Ultimate irony was how stereotypical the track manager and the Nascar officials were, with very poor judgement, inexplicable favoritism. The track manager sounded exactly like the ones around here, same voice, same inflections, same twisted logic.

Anonymous said...

I did not watch any episodes of Madhouse. I read JD's first post on the series, and I read the reader's comments that followed. I always find the various views expressed by TDP readers interesting and informative.

It struck me how sharply divided the comments were. It reminded me of people's opinions on the old Bristol track versus the new configuration. If you loved the wrecks and fights, you loved the old Bristol. If you liked side by side racing, you preferred the new Bristol. Madhouse sounded like a celebration of the old Bristol style. I prefer the new Bristol and felt Madhouse had little to interest me. I also dislike "reality" programs, and that was another strike against it for me.

I frequently use TDP columns and comments the way I use movie reviews. I try to get a good sampling of opinion to decide whether something is worth my time. I decided Madhouse was not something that qualified, and the present column and comments confirm it. No movie or TV program is for everyone, and to each his own. To the fans of Madhouse, I'm sorry you may be losing a program you liked.

Anonymous said...

I DVRed and watched all the episodes. Overall I liked it cause I kept coming back week after week. Too much manufactured melodrama with the DJ and the feuds were repetitive. High point for me was seeing Jason Myers win a race. Gotta love an underdog.

chad cordless said...

It could have been better, sure. "Bad Brad" was phony, and some drama was built up. However this is a show about short track racing. Lose this and how many others are out there, and on a mainstream cable channel? None.

I will take a show on short track racing with it warts and all, lightyears before I will take what's offered on our "racing" channel. Fast Track To Fame? Are you serious?

Unknown said...

My gf and I are big race fans and we awaited the first episode of Madhouse with great anticipation. After watching the first episode we were hooked and watched every episode of the series. We always DVR'd it, but watched many episodes when they were broadcast. Sure, it perpetuated southern redneck racing and old south sterotypes, but that's waht made B-G famous. It's the oldest NASCAR sanctioned track for a reason and that's because it offers great entertainment for only 10 bucks. We just had to see it live and went to the delayed opening night on May 1st and it was probaly one of the best racing events I've ever attended. Even the 4-cyl stadim stocks put on a fantastic, action-packed show and there was even a fight between two frivers who wrecked in the infieldf... with punches throuwn, cops and handcuffs. Nothing staged there, just goos old honest stock car racing emotion at the local level. While definitely not mainstream TV fare, Madhouse is 1,000 times better than 90% of the crap on the multitude of cable channels and surely would get better ratings than the majority of these shows. Cable is for niche TV and Madhouse needs to be picked up by Speed or Versus. How Speed let this show idea get away is what's most confounding considering the history of Bowman Gray, SPEED's NASCAR connection and the fact it's only 1 hour from Speed HQ. But even if I can't see it on TV, I will attend at least half the races in person. If you like racing drama with all the fixins, there isn't anything better than a dose of Madhouse IMHO.
Jim B, Charlotte

Anonymous said...

Thought it was great. I grew up around southern short tracks and have seen almost all of that stuff come true. I watched every episode and in fact have a July trip planned to BGS. Hoping for a season 2!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved the show, but I guess I'm a bit biased because I live in the area and have been attending the races for quite a few years. The show definitely created a lot of hype for our little short track, as the first couple races of this season were slam packed. But regardless of whether or not there's a season two, I'll still be heading out next year to watch the action in person.

Anonymous said...

i have to say some of this review is a bit off as i live 20 mins from the track, attend regularly and have a good friend that races in the lower division. first the dj may have read from a script for the show but really is a dj for the local station wsjs am. second they may have edited the fights to look better but they were not staged. i admit the series drew more people to the race but the the drivers and teams feelings towards one another are very real and a fight is expected any night someone gets wrecked and if your a fan who leaves by way of the pit area after the race when teams are packing up your constantly looking to see where one might start.

Anonymous said...

Note to the comment that Brad was a dj at WSJS. No he was not. The main talk studio, called the "Blue Room" was used as a set and Brad read from a script. His character was used to pull it all together.