Friday, July 4, 2008

Just How "Wrecked" Is NASCAR On SPEED?

SPEED is about to unveil yet another "lifestyle TV" series. Wrecked is the story of the O'Hare Towing and Recovery Company that operates in the Chicago, IL area. The series will document the company towing cars and trucks.

SPEED is a truly bi-polar TV network. Once NASCAR takes to the track, Formula-1 starts practice and the sports cars roll-off pit road the network is all about racing.

From MotoGP to the entire Craftsman Truck Series, SPEED on the weekends is a race fan's dream. Then, the reality of the week hits hard. It is "lifestyle programming" time again.

NASCAR fans cling to the one hour of This Week In NASCAR as their only regular weekday link to the sport. Originally, SPEED had developed a multi-hour block of NASCAR programming on Monday nights that fans loved.

This week, TWIN is surrounded by a re-run of PINKS, the drag-racing game show Pass Time and 101 Cars You Must Drive hosted by the winner of the Last Comic Standing, Alonzo Bodden.

It is quite possible that the O'Hare Towing bunch in Chicago are some of the nicest people on the planet. This ten episode series is the brainchild of SPEED VP Robert Ecker. Here is an excerpt from SPEED's description of the series:

"This is a world similar in many respects to that of a major urban firehouse," Ecker said. "Until the phone rings and that emergency call comes in, there's simply no way of knowing what any given day will bring and when it does come, lives can literally hang in the balance."

"Whether they are called upon to fix a flat tire, tow an illegally parked vehicle or clean up the remnants of a major wreck, the people who work in this inherently dangerous industry touch the lives of all of us in some way large or small, yet they remain otherwise virtually unnoticed."

This new TV series required a tremendous amount of production and editing. It involved significant financial investment and hundreds of man hours to create.

Meanwhile, SPEED viewers saw one episode of The Humpy Show. It featured Humpy Wheeler sitting down with a current NASCAR driver and a retired NASCAR legend. The show was fantastic. There has never been another episode on SPEED. There are none scheduled.

After winning a national Emmy award, SPEED cancelled Beyond The Wheel that was produced by the NASCAR Media Group. That TV series is now called Quest for the Cup and is produced by NMG for Voom TV where it won another Emmy.

Also cancelled in the NASCAR category were 7 Days, NBS 24/7 and Survival of the Fastest. Fans only need to look a bit farther back to remember NASCAR Nation which began life as Totally NASCAR.

SPEED has no weekly TV series in support of the Craftsman Truck Series. This is the only NASCAR racing series that SPEED shows exclusively. It is the only one they produce. Last Monday on TWIN, the Truck Series highlights were not even shown.

On Sunday nights, Dave Despain hosts a one hour edition of Wind Tunnel. Sometimes, the topic is NASCAR and Despain will take some calls from fans. However, SPEED has no TV series that interacts with NASCAR fans on a regular basis.

Sirius Satellite Radio has a 24 hour NASCAR Channel. The live shows include programs that look at the news, foster debate and give fans an opportunity to speak their mind in a public forum. Hosts range from David Poole to Dave Moody. Thursday, the guests ranged from Richard Childress to Martin Truex Jr. to TV reporter Shannon Spake.

Perhaps, Wrecked will be a big hit for SPEED. Here is what the network says about their new primetime line-up:

Wrecked joins new 2008 SPEED originals Livin' The Low Life with Vida Guerra, Super Cars Exposed, Drag Race High and the daily game show Pass Time, as SPEED continues its most ambitious prime time program development effort in network history.

Apparently, even one weekday NASCAR TV series is not in the cards. Literally, right up the street from SPEED sits the NASCAR Media Group with thousands of hours of NASCAR footage, their own production facilities and a shelf full of Emmy Awards.

Maybe, they need to buy a tow truck.

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LIVE NOW: In-Progress At Daytona - "NASCAR Countdown" and Nationwide Series Race on ESPN2

There is going to be a very interesting race tonight. Not only from a NASCAR perspective, but also from a TV perspective.

The Nationwide Series event from Daytona will be a full dress rehearsal for ESPN's Sprint Cup coverage that begins in just a couple of weeks.

Network executives will be watching the "A team" of Dr. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree call the action on this superspeedway. The chemistry between these three is going to be the key to ESPN handling the pressure of the Cup Series down-the-stretch.

Fans do not have to think very hard to recall the Brickyard disaster of 2007, as this column reflected. ESPN went on to have a rough Pocono race, and the troubles continued all the way to Homestead. What a NASCAR TV season to forget.

Now, Jarrett has breathed new life into the ESPN line-up in the booth and his magnetism has been contagious. Petree has been having his best season to date, and Jerry Punch is trying to regain his focus and stay energized for the entire telecasts.

The cast has also been set for the Cup Series on pit road. Mike Massaro is the veteran, although put in some difficult positions last season by the production staff. Dave Burns continues to fly under-the-radar and produce good information without the comedy routines that used to be his trademark.

Both of ESPN's female pit reporters have been put on the spot, and responded. Jamie Little is having her best season ever having lowered the volume and the intensity. She seems to be enjoying herself this year and it is coming across on-the-air to viewers. Shannon Spake is clearly the rookie and she continues to work hard to keep her focus and not be intimidated by her surroundings.

There is no doubt that the biggest smiles from the ESPN bunch are reserved for Allen Bestwick. Doubling as both the host of NASCAR Countdown and the one hour Monday edition of NASCAR Now, Bestwick has been a war horse for the network since February and shows no signs of stopping.

If there is anyone who is going to take the lead and guide the ESPN NASCAR team through the final seventeen weekends of the season, it is Bestwick. Televising both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series during this stretch is brutal and last season Jerry Punch showed the effects of handling the races, practice and qualifying with very little help from the infield.

This season, seated in the infield for ESPN will be one of the most respected NASCAR TV veterans in history. Earlier this season, viewers watched Bestwick and company fill hours of rain delay with no problem. Bestwick welcomed guests to his studio set, used the pit reporters for interviews and allowed the announce team in the booth to take a well deserved break. This is the winning combination for ESPN where NASCAR is concerned.

Friday night in Daytona, ESPN will expand the NASCAR Countdown show to one hour. Bestwick will be faced with the task of dealing with topics from Mark Martin at Hendrick to the shrinking fields for both the Cup and Nationwide Series. ESPNEWS has been running the exclusive interview with Mauricia Grant, so doubtless Bestwick will have to touch on the subject of Grant's lawsuit.

As you watch the telecast, keep an eye on Jarrett's emerging role as more than just an analyst. The ESPN production team has been allowing Jarrett a lot of freedom. He often asks questions of fellow analyst Andy Petree, he speaks directly with the pit reporters and is often called upon to help Jerry Punch when he gets tongue-tied at certain moments. Jarrett has the ability to do a lot on TV and that certainly opens-up some interesting possibilities.

ESPN may have solved their problems of 2007 with a couple of personnel changes and some flexibility in the production truck. This Daytona Nationwide race should be a good indication of what fans will be seeing from ESPN when they cross-over to the big time for the final seventeen weeks of the season.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Nationwide Series telecast on ESPN2. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks so much for taking the time to drop by The Daly Planet.

In-Progress At Daytona: Friday On SPEED

Here we go with the big Friday of NASCAR coverage on SPEED. This will lead-up to the Nationwide Series race on ESPN2 starting at 7PM Eastern Time with a one hour edition of NASCAR Countdown with Allen Bestwick.

Steve Byrnes will kick-off SPEED's coverage at Noon with a thirty minute edition of NASCAR Live. John Roberts and Bob Dillner will be reporting from the garage area with interviews.

The same crew will come back at 12:230PM to host Go or Go Home. This should be an interesting program with the car count situation and the weather issues the speedway has been experiencing.

After a long break, SPEED returns with Sprint Cup Series qualifying at 4PM. Steve Byrnes will head the crew in the announce booth with Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond alongside. Down on pit road and in the garage will be Lindsay Czarniak and Matt Yocum reporting.

The network finishes the NASCAR day with Trackside at 11PM. Byrnes, McReynolds, Hammond and Elliott Sadler are the regular panelists. The two featured guests are Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman. This show is scheduled at 11PM to air after the ESPN2 Nationwide Series race.

This post will serve to host your comments about SPEED's Friday TV from Daytona. To add your TV-related comments, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to drop by The Daly Planet.

In-Progress At Daytona: Nationwide Qualifying on ESPN2

ESPN steps back into the Nationwide Series with live coverage of qualifying at 1PM Eastern Time.

Dr. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree will host with Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Mike Massaro reporting from the pits.

By now, most fans know that ESPN has been the leader in dealing with the Mauricia Grant lawsuit. NASCAR Now, ESPNEWS and Outside the Lines have all played-back the Grant interview that shoots a racial and sexist bullet directly at the sanctioning body.

Behind the lawsuit drama is the real Nationwide Series. Stories abound in this series with a great mix of Cup drivers and Nationwide regulars ready to qualify for the Friday night race.

ESPN has been solid in the racing coverage, but struggled with the tough-to-televise qualifying. Commercials have to be inserted, but once qualifying begins NASCAR does not stop the action. The TV Producer has to decide if the network is going to tape all the runs and time-shift the coverage so all the cars are seen, or simply stay live and go to break while cars are qualifying.

This post will serve to host your comments about ESPN2's coverage of Nationwide Series qualifying. There will be a new post up tonight for comments about the race.

To add your opinion to The Daly Planet, simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for stopping by.