The view from my couch

Broadcast Odds & Ends

These are just a few observations about some of the racing shows which have been on in the last couple of weeks. Included are the new show Inside NASCAR Busch Series, qualifying coverage and the Las Vegas Busch Race.

Inside NASCAR Busch Series

This new show made it's debut on the Speed Channel on February 17th, and seems to be an attempt to mirror the tremendous success of Inside Winston Cup (IWC). Like IWC, it is hosted by Allen Bestwick but features highlights and discussion of the weekly Busch and Truck Series races. Regular panel members are two-time BGN champion, Randy LaJoie, and Busch driver, Hank Parker, Jr. The third panel member rotates from week to week, with Scott Wimmer sitting in for the first show and Mike Wallace participating the second week. The first episode got off to a rocky start, with Bestwick and the panel members still getting comfortable with each other. The second show went a little more smoothly. Both LaJoie and Parker are articulate and give different perspectives on the sport. LaJoie tends to take over a bit, which may be mandatory since he is sitting in the seat normally occupied by Michael Waltrip on IWC. The upside is that LaJoie doesn't seem to be all about self-promotion as Waltrip has become of late, and provides some very good insight into racing. Parker seems up to the task of holding his own against LaJoie, while keeping a very upbeat attitude. You just can't help but like this smiling young man. Unfortunately, his attempts at jokes are still a bit stilted, but hopefully will become more natural in time. Wallace proved to be a much more outgoing and humorous guest than the somewhat quiet Wimmer, and could definitely hold his own again the rest of the panel. I think this show has great potential once the group feels more at ease in this type of setting and with each other. My only complaint is why on earth did the network choose an 11 p.m., Monday timeslot for the first airing of the show each week? Even I have had to record it so I can watch it at a more convenient time. Apparently, it is shown again on Wednesdays as a prelude to the rebroadcast of the Winston Cup race, so why not simply make that it's normal timeslot?

Qualifying Shows on Fox

First off, I've been negligent in stating that the new graphics Fox is using on their qualifying shows this year are a total joke! They have some sort of a scale running across the bottom of the screen to show where the car running stacks up against the pole sitter and others. Why did Fox feel they had to come up with their own graphic? What was wrong with the wonderful Pace Chase that NBC introduced last year? Even the Fox announcers seem embarrassed by this thing and keep searching for some cute name to call it, other than "the thing." To me, it looks like a cross between a bathroom scale and Ouija Board. Then we have another graphic cluttering the top of the screen, where the drivers numbers pop into a grid. This one looks like a cross between a bingo game and the Maryland Lottery Game, Keno. As I said, these graphics are really a joke and someone at Fox needs to realize how silly they appear to the viewers. As usual, Fox doesn't seem to realize when they simply have inserted too much stuff and things start taking on cartoon characteristics.

Next, I need to talk about the switching of qualifying shows all around the Fox "family" of networks. Talk about confusing! BGN quals might be on the Speed Channel, but then fans have to switch to Fox Sports Net for WC quals, or maybe FX. Yeah, Fox can claim that "fans will always know what channel racing is on," but that is really an empty claim. Trust me, I'm as on top of this stuff as anybody can be, and I'm confused half the time.

On this week's qualifying show from Las Vegas, there are just a few things I want to mention. Unfortunately, almost none of them are positive. Okay, yes, Fox did stay on the air to show us BGN and WC practice and WC qualifying, which was severely delayed because of rain. Unfortunately, the viewers actually saw very little practice in between a constant stream of commercials. This was just disgraceful! The one highlight of the whole night was when Jeanne Zelasko made a right on the money jab towards ole DW. All night long, Mike Joy kept mentioning a list in USA Today about the most difficult jobs in sports. We heard that driving a race car was number two on the list about 20 times during the night. At one point, Zelasko was standing by to give us a live interview with one of the drivers and DW was on a roll talking and just wouldn't stop. When they finally cut to Zelasko, she said "The toughest job in sports is waiting for DW to finish a sentence." This cracked me up and I salute Zelasko for having the nerve to go against one of the biggest egos in broadcasting. Of course, DW had to retort with some condescending remarks about her being "a good girl" and how "Hammond must have told her to say that." Obviously, he didn't appreciate Zelasko drawing attention to his tendency of being long-winded.

The last two things I want to mention about the show concern Mike Joy's comments about Mike Wallace being fined by NASCAR because Fox inadvertently picked up some comments he said during the Busch race on Monday. Joy started out really well, saying that Mike was not being interviewed and it was just an accident that a camera microphone picked up his comments. I thought this was good, that TV was admitting their culpability in the whole incident. But then Joy ruined things by saying something like "he was on NASCAR's playing field, so he had to watch what he says." I could not believe this comment. So does that mean any person in the garage is going to get fined for cursing anytime NASCAR or an errant microphone might hear them? Does this apply to the fans in the stands, with those strategically placed Fox microphones? Did Joy not see how absurd his statement sounds? Instead, he should have apologized for the network broadcasting the comments or for the fact they don't use a 6-second delay to preclude this kind of thing getting on the air. I noticed during the qualifying show that a Fox cameraman was lingering around a conversation between Jeff Gordon and Ken Schrader, where you could hear part of what they were saying. You'd think Fox would respect the drivers privacy a bit more, especially after what happened with Wallace. I kept thinking, heaven forbid, if one of them uttered a stray word. Would NASCAR fine them too? And lastly, I want to note how Mike Joy seemed to bemoan the fact that Fox was on the air so long on Friday covering practice and qualifying. Granted, it's the announcers right to feel this way, but do they have to constantly whine about their long hours to the viewing audience? Perhaps they need to get out of the booth and join the fans who sat at the track in the rain, though the delays, to get to see qualifying Friday night. I doubt you'd hear much whining from the fans and they were not in the confines of nice, warm broadcast booth.

Busch Race from Las Vegas

All I want to say about this broadcast is that the viewers accidentally got to see a little good racing among the commercialfest masquerading as a race broadcast. I lost count of how many time I saw that "hot wings" ad on Saturday. I might have complained about the number of commercials during the latter part of last season on NBC and TNT, but FX ranks right up there with them for over-commercialization. FX even went away from the race when there was a pass for the lead about to occur. Ah, but the entire race was brought to you by KFC, so that explains it all. I guess the viewers should be happy they saw a little racing amongst this KFC infomercial. I also was surprised that FX fell back on showing us a rebroadcast of the Daytona Busch race instead of the tape of WC Happy Hour which was scheduled to be shown at 6:30 p.m. For some reason, they wanted to string the viewers along until after the race concluded. I, for one, tuned out when they started replaying the old race and only came back when the Las Vegas race resumed. And when it concluded, I'd had enough of Fox and switched over to a movie channel instead of watching Happy Hour. The network executives seem to think that the viewers are mindless drones that will stick with whatever they show us in an attempt to win the ratings war in prime time. I may be a hardcore fan, but after five hours of Fox, I definitely needed something commercial-free.

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