Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Totally NASCAR" Is Totally Confusing

Last we saw former ESPN and CBS reporter Jill Arrington, pictured above, she had left the sports TV business and settled down. She married a Hollywood movie agent, started a family and was happily living in Beverly Hills, CA.

Last we saw Totally NASCAR the show had fallen into disarray and been cancelled. After a run of four years, beginning in 2001, SPEED ended the show with the promise of something better. Veteran fans may remember the fiasco that followed. NASCAR Nation anyone?

Arrington first came to our attention as a sideline reporter for the Arena Football League on the revamped TNN. She moved onto the national scene and worked high profile assignments for CBS, FOX and even The Tennis Channel.

Meanwhile, Arrington also did sexy photoshoots and wound-up on FHM and Maxim's Top 100 Sexiest Women lists. She was Playboy's Sexiest SportsCaster back in 2001. All of this did not sit well with former USA Today TV writer Rudy Martzke. Click here to read his observations on Arrington.

That same year, a young man named Steve Byrnes took the helm of Totally NASCAR. In 2002, he was joined by a fresh face named Krista Voda. The weekday show aired first on FoxSportsNet and then reaired the same day on SPEED. It was a nice one-two punch for the sport.

Tiffany Arrington was a tough kid. The daughter of former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Rick Arrington, she headed for the University of Miami and majored in journalism. Along the way she played for the tennis team, was elected Orange Bowl princess and stayed active in an on-campus sorority.

It seems ironic that it was a FOX producer who told Arrington that Tiffany was not a name that was going to work in television sports. At that moment, Jill was born. It was a different FOX executive who recently decided that it was time for Arrington to get back on the air. The name of her new show would be a blast from the past. That's right, it was Totally NASCAR.

Over the last two months, FoxSportsNet has quietly added a new version of Totally NASCAR to the line-up. The program is currently distributed to over 80 million households. Compare that to the 17 million Showtime households that currently get the Inside NASCAR series. Arrington is once again being seen coast to coast.

This time, she is not prowling the sidelines for interviews. Instead, Arrington stands in a studio and reads a teleprompter. Inserted right behind her head this week was a huge Subway Fresh 600 race logo. To her left was an "old school" video box with moving animation elements. That wasn't the best part.

This on-air look was ultimately tied together with a superimposed background image of a wall of tan and orange bricks from the top of the screen to the bottom. It looked like Arrington could have been standing in the halftime line for the ladies room at the Rose Bowl.

This new weekly version of Totally NASCAR is filled with repurposed footage from SPEED. Arrington actually introduces chunks of programming taken straight from that network. SPEED logos were still in the corner of the screen when Totally NASCAR re-aired Greg Biffle's recent interview from Race Hub. It made absolutely no sense to see it again.

Mike Joy, Darrel Waltrip and Larry McReynolds provided a PIR preview piece for the show that was recorded in the FOX booth at Martinsville. Randy Pemberton was the brightspot of this week's program, speaking directly with Arrington from the Race Hub set at SPEED about NASCAR topics.

FSN Arizona reporter Jody Jackson was at the track and spoke with PIR president Bryan Sperber on the show. Jackson pushed the integrated agendas of FOX and PIR. That included the SPEED Cantina at the track and assuring fans that despite earlier start times, there would still be racing under the lights on FOX.

Arrington is not a NASCAR fan and it shows. Despite the amateur look of the show, the overall purpose seems to be simply to promote the FOX races and SPEED programs over the FSN regional networks.

I am told that Totally NASCAR is produced in Los Angeles. Why? FOX recently spent a pretty penny to build the SPEED HD Studios in Charlotte, NC. Ironically, not only is most of the repurposed content from SPEED, but most of it was produced at the new studios.

Bringing Totally NASCAR back to Charlotte would make a lot of sense. SPEED could extend its network brand across the FOX regional sports networks using someone directly associated with the sport. Arrington loses a lot in translation, despite her professionalism.

Right now, SPEED is rich in terms of on-air talent. Personalities like Byrnes, Voda and John Roberts all got their start when Totally NASCAR gave them a chance. It might be nice to let another hardworking TV personality and production team step-in and get this series back on the right track.

Have you seen Totally NASCAR this season? What do you think of the host and the format? Share your opinion with us by clicking on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.