Sunday, March 25, 2012

NASCAR Wives: What Could Have Been

SPEED sent along a note last week saying that DeLana Harvick was going to be a guest on the Thursday edition of the Race Hub show. The note got me to thinking about what could have been.

It was January of 2009 when the TLC network announced it had reached an agreement for a new show that was going to be produced by the NASCAR Media Group (NMG). In a style called "docu-soap," four women deeply involved in NASCAR would be the subjects of a new series.

In addition to Harvick, the others in the show were to be Angie Skinner, Shana Mayfield and Kelley Earnhardt. Harvick was listed as one of the Executive Producers, meaning that she would actively participate in coordinating what type of content would be included. That is one of the TLC promotional pictures shown above.

Click here for a story from Sport Business Journal reporter Michael Smith. He details the controversial end of the NASCAR Wives project before an episode even aired and explains the reason behind the cancellation. Simply put, the network wanted to create fake conflict and storylines.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

"The network wanted situations created that were not true to how these women normally act," said NMG chief Jay Abraham. "They wanted conflict, and we just weren’t willing to go down that road.”

"We just had to go our separate ways,” Abraham said. “We were never able to agree on the creative approach for the project. We simply were not going to do anything to undermine the credibility and the relationships we have with our drivers. We were being asked to do things more in line with traditional reality programming and it wasn’t true to the nature and personality of our sport and the women involved."

Essentially, the TLC executives were not content to offer a realistic snapshot of the lives of these four very diverse women. Instead, the insane name calling and cat fighting that attracts viewers to the "Real Housewives Of Anywhere" franchise was requested.

This year, the NASCAR TV programming landscape is the bleakest it has been since 2007. There are no original programming series, no new "reality" shows of any kind and no behind-the-scenes shows that have won NMG award after award. In fact, the Executive Producer at NMG was fired last year and has not been replaced.

Last week, Showtime put the Inside NASCAR TV series on hiatus until September. ESPN's NASCAR Now is drowning in a 3PM weekday timeslot with no re-air. SPEED's Race Hub was pushed from 7 to 6PM and is no match for TV news programming on the East Coast.

Amid this environment, just imagine where the NASCAR Wives franchise could be right now if TLC had just taken the original idea presented by Abraham back in 2009 and run with it. The real lives of these four women have taken incredible turns without one moment of fake drama.

The sudden closing of Kevin Harvick Inc. was surprising, but perhaps less surprising then having Harvick subsequently announce DeLana's pregnancy during the pre-season NASCAR Media Tour. You want drama, the Harvick family can flat-out deliver it. Their world is about to change forever.

Skinner moved to a high-profile NASCAR radio job while her husband continues to slowly wind-down a long driving career. Partnered with Dave Moody and heard nationally five days a week, Angie's star is on the rise while Mike seeks to define his life after racing.

Earnhardt's partnership with Go Daddy and Danica Patrick breathed life into JR Motorsports even as Kelley's personal life continued to change with a new husband. A new husband who is also a racer. The Danica factor can never be discounted where TV is concerned, but the Kelly Earnhardt story is a good one.

Finally, the saga of the Mayfields could have led to a spin-off series that few would have believed. From a single failed drug test through direct confrontation with NASCAR and now to multiple arrests for possessing stolen property, this one has it all. At the center is Shana, now a Twitter star, standing behind her man and rallying her troops against what she perceives is a personal vendetta by NASCAR's own chairman.

Somewhere at TLC there has to be an executive kicking him or herself for letting this one slip away. As Abraham said, NASCAR Wives would not need fake drama or invented storylines to keep things interesting. As most NASCAR fans know, the ladies behind the drivers can do that quite well on their own.

"Still No Greenlights For NASCAR" was a TDP article from October of 2011 talking about the current NASCAR TV season and in what kind of shows networks chose to invest. Click on the title to read the article.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


The Loose Wheel said...

I am glad that the producers weren't willing to budge and fabricate "drama" for the sake of viewers. Too often that has been my gripe with "reality TV".

Shame the idea got squashed, but maybe someone else would pick it up. Maybe that network that airs that bogus knockoff of Top Gear...

Also, the piece on the Harvick's that was on RH...awesome. Really helped clarify why such a drastic move like closing KHI was made.

RPM said...

The problem with "reality" shows is exactly what you pointed out the participants didn't like. Scripted conflict.

It's a fictional soap opera with real people and a "DUM-DUM-DUM!!" soundtrack cleverly edited in.

If they did a real documentary sans fake drama, I would be interested in watching. All I can say is good riddance to another bad "realty" show.

DaveM4210 said...

NASCAR Wives would blow away some of the afternoon broadcast TV soaps, or could have become the leading non-scripted SoapNet show or the best ever non-scripted reality show for any network!

GinaV24 said...

I, too, am glad that the producers weren't willing to go down the road to provide fake conflict for drama. For that, I'll watch soap operas. As you say, the real lives of these women would have provided plenty of interest for NASCAR fans.

And the barren wasteland of NASCAR programming continues. Programs like "the day", beyond the wheel and NASCAR 360 provide insights and are interesting. I don't need fake drama, racing reality has plenty of it.

Stick with the Biff said...

I'm gonna play devil's advocate. Even though I was a fan of NBS 24/7 and NASCAR 360, while there are a few moments of actual excitement, there are a lot of hours of humdrum existance--the climax was usually whatever race was that week. Without the scripted drama (which I agree is wrong to do; I hate those shows) it might have been...well...kinda boring. Delana meeting with a parts supplier? Kelley setting up shoots for Dale to do with his sponsors? Those are maybe the kinds of things they actually did in their day to day roles that wouldn't have exactly set the room on fire. I just think it might have been hard to paint a real picture and still make it interesting. I remember 360 showing Jamie Mac signing rows of diecast cars, and Delana & Kevin heating up their dinners--just not sure how far you could go with that. At first it would be interesting, but I question the sustainability. It's kind of like cop shows--most actual detective work is pretty boring and many go through 30 years without drawing a gun, and crimes are solved over months, not days. Would be dull on TV.

OSBORNK said...

I think "What Could Have Been" shouldn't have been. Without unrealistic fabrication, people doing ordinary things is terribly boring. The wive's lives might have an interesting moment every several weeks. They could take a year's worth of activity and maybe make an interesting half hour show out of it. The majority of everyone's life is ordinary and boring to a casual observer.

AncientRacer said...

Bleakest" is a powerful word, JD. Accurate though.

3 tries. Know this, @BlogSpot AncientRacer is NOT a robot. Mad as March Hare perhaps but NOT robot

Anonymous said...

So glad they didn't go down that horrible route like Housewives from anywhere or any sport. I just don't understand rewarding intolerable behavior with money and fame. Seems to me it says alot about what's wrong with people today.

MYR 18 said...

JD: I really enjoyed NASCAR 360 on SPEED.

They were supposed to renew way back when, but I think there were some legal issues?

The Mad Man said...

I've met and talked with several drivers' wives at the track. Had they expanded the "talent pool" to more wives, you could've heard some real excitement and seen some drama without any fabrication. One wife, who's a real fireball and very opinionated, said a few things that make Danica's potty mouth seem tame in comparison, when her husband was wrecked by another driver. She was about ready to go down pit road and jerk the driver out of his vehicle during pitstops until her her hubby's team PR person stopped her. One of her "cleaner" comments was "I'm going to pull that *&^%#! out of there and jerk a knot through his ***hole". She was off the pitbox and two stalls down before she was stopped. No need to fabricate any drama there. It was all there for the taking.

Maybe they need to reconsider the show and bring it back with an expanded group. Not just wives of Cup drivers but also wives in the other series.

17972 B. C. said...

"What Could Have Been", might have held interest for a few weeks, but without conflict, it would die like the leaves in the Fall. Everyone is right, real life is quite boring most of the time. I've enjoyed MLB's The Pen the HBO 24/7 series. Hard Knocks,and what makes them work is they are short lived events, 4-6 weeks on average, and then they are gone.Which is good, because at the end, you want it to end.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think that this thread is sad. I have enough trouble listening to the Drivers BS, the Talking Heads in the booth and the Analysts in the Sport. I couldn't bear to listen to the wives. Does anyone really care what Delana thinks about anything? When the race comes on, I turn on my TV and get ready to hit hit the Mute button. Las Vegas is usually a long, drawn out parade with miles separating the cars. We have, however, had one or two exciting races there. Don't know how that happened, but it was a plesant surprise.

Anonymous said...

There's a reason coverage is bleak - spending 30 some-odd weeks on the road is a pain, at best!

Busch had a brief mini-series, and despite the money, the prestige, you could see the strain.

You live on the bleeding edge to make a living with racing. You do it out of a motorhome, if you have the cash.

I think the producers are idiots, and I also think they had some pressure from Nascar to glorify things....cuz at the end of the day, this is a rubber chicken circuit, you give up everything, and I expect for a lot of people - you wish you took your early winnings and just started a garage.

I wouldn't want to justify to a wife, lover, or mistress just the amount of time and effort you do on this blog, JD - especially wouldn't if I were "living the life" as it were.

Robert Powell said...

Fantastic article...I'm happy the wives decided against a scripted reality show. Those that are on the network now are the target of many late-night TV jokes and they continually lack credibility by dreaming up fake drama. Any new fans NASCAR would have received would be short lived when they realized there no slap fights between the wives during the races.

Vicky D said...

I enjoyed Nascar 360 it didn't make up stuff that I could tell but I've been known to be naive! I think Kelley & DeLana could have handled this one perfectly!

Anonymous said...

I salute NMG and Jay Abraham for having high standards and sticking to them. Most commercial organizations seem all too willing to sell out for money.

I don't blame TLC for trying. That kind of fake reality show is what they do. It's like blaming a dog for barking, shedding hair, and having fleas. That's what you deal with if you have a dog around.

My real beef is with ESPN and Fox. They don't think a NASCAR race is dramatic enough to hold the interest of fans, so they try to spice it up. Both try to substitute high technology gimmicks for on-track action. ESPN wants to impose some artificial story line on a race that hasn't happened. Fox thinks the broadcast team (DW) is more interesting than the race.

I never watch the fake reality shows of TLC. Fox and ESPN have converted me from a full time fan to a part time fan with their lousy broadcasts. Give me the reality of racing again, and I will be a full time fan once more.