Wednesday, April 18, 2007

ESPN's "NASCAR Now:" Wednesday Left-Overs

Early on in its life, the classic ESPN show RPM2Nite began to designate days of the week for features within the program. Perhaps, the most popular of these was "Open Wheel Wednesday." The show established a rhythm that viewers could come to count on, and relayed information that viewers learned to trust. ESPN2's NASCAR Now is struggling with its Wednesday identity.

Doug Banks hosting the show means thirty minutes of tightly scripted teleprompter reading, but Doug seems to be a nice guy and looks great on TV. Unfortunately, NASCAR Now decided that bringing on Brad Daugherty for a general discussion of general points generally about NASCAR with lots of general opinions would be great. Especially, if Daugherty can give NASCAR Now over five minutes of their twenty-two minute show time. Watching Brad and Doug talk NASCAR on national television continues to be a strange experience. Why this led the show, and did not fall in the final segment, can only be explained one way. And I am not going there.

Reporter Marty Smith then came on with what should have been the lead story in the show, the ties between the NASCAR family and the Virginia Tech shootings. Marty should have led the show with his heart-felt and personal report, and then brought in the NASCAR crew member who is a Va. Tech graduate for a phone interview. There is no possible way that five or six minutes of Brad Daugherty's general rambling should have been placed ahead of this issue.

Smith and reporter Terry Blount returned, and answered scripted questions from Banks, which is always the most frustrating part of the show. Banks is unable to follow-up on any point, or even let the two reporters speak to each other because of his poor level of NASCAR understanding. When these two guys are talking, Banks has that deer-in-the-headlights look. Imagine, something in the show not on a teleprompter. Something that the host has to actually "know."

This show re-hashed some old topics from earlier in the week, used driver interviews and video features from earlier in the week, and generally was a throw-a-way for the ESPN2 boys. Imagine Brad Daugherty pretending that Banks was actually asking him questions for the first time in the ridiculous feature "fact or fiction." Toward the end of the feature, Daugherty was so flustered he forgot to pick 'em. He just talked and talked and talked.

My column of April 16th spoke about the culture clash between the "real" NASCAR guys like Marty Smith and Terry Blount, and the "fake" NASCAR guys like Doug Banks and Brad Daugherty. Sooner or later, ESPN will have to step-up and make some drastic changes in this program to attract viewers, and gain credibility. Right now, the "fake" NASCAR guys are still on NASCAR Now everytime you turn-a-round.