Sunday, July 31, 2011
TV Police: Sprint Cup Series From Indy On ESPN
Jake and the Fatman had a nice five year run on CBS starting in 1987. After seeing William Conrad guest star on Matlock, the producers of Jake cast him as the lead. The fatman never traveled without his pet bulldog, Max.
The show started in Los Angeles but moved to Hawaii when Magnum PI stopped production. It moved back in the final season. Fatman McCabe was a former cop turned prosecutor who did not take any crap. He was a seasoned veteran who had some tough luck in life but had persevered. He's perfect for the investigation of ESPN's Brickyard coverage.
This week, ESPN turned the page and made a ton of changes to its NASCAR coverage. Foremost was putting TV veteran Allen Bestwick in the lead announcer position.
Bestwick had Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside in the broadcast booth. Nicole Briscoe hosted from the infield with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Tim Brewer was in the Tech Garage.
ESPN offered several slickly produced features in the pre-race show. Briscoe noted that Wallace was affected by one of them and was actually brought to tears. The program focused a lot on the history of the speedway and not really on this race as the continuation of a season that started in February.
Bestwick made big changes right away. He is a radio veteran and his strong point is continually passing along information to keep the viewers at home up to date. Recaps are done regardless of what is showing up on the screen for video.
Hope Solo was a visitor to the infield studio after her pace car duties. She was not a person who has done a lot of TV and her appearance during green flag racing was awkward. She tried to steer the conversation toward soccer and it didn't make a lot of sense.
Ned Jarrett stopped by the broadcast booth mid-race. David Ragan was driving a Jarrett tribute car in the race. Jarrett was on his game and actually stopped his own interview when a car made an unscheduled pit stop. Nice to see some of ESPN's NASCAR roots being celebrated on the air.
ESPN knew this race was going to be a series of long runs with passing happening on pit road and restarts. This year, Bestwick moved right past that and focused on calling the race and letting the reality of the event come through without a network agenda.
A new graphics package and some new looks in the coverage were nice touches. A four video box split on caution flag pitstops was nice. The "Bat-cam" on pit road did not play into the coverage, but was nice when used on green flag stops and some restarts.
ESPN dropped the lower third score ticker called "The bottom line" for this race but the network says it will return for the NFL season. Not having another ticker on the screen during a live event where a scoring ticker runs almost all the time was nice.
ESPN made nice pictures, but the difference was that these pictures were big. ESPN stayed wide and helped fans with larger perspective shots that showed big groups of cars in the shot. Combined with Bestwick's ability to pass along information, it made a huge difference.
Commercial breaks under green are tough, especially on a big track like Indy. The commercials were just a bit tougher to take since ESPN decided not to use the RaceBuddy application from Turner Sports to offer even a basic online alternative. It should be noted that ESPN will used side-by-side commercial formats for the final half of each of the ten Chase races.
As everyone knew, the race consisted of passing on pit road and restarts. Incidents just came from pushing and shoving for position. The race came down to fuel mileage as it often does in the Indy 500. NASCAR's fuel wars are a big story.
This was a nice change for ESPN with professional coverage of a NASCAR race with just one glitch. ESPN showed only the winner cross the finish line. No other car was shown. Big mistake for fans of the other drivers still racing as Mendard finished.
This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN production of the Sprint Cup Series race from Indy. To add your TV race wrap-up, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.