The Nitro Joint w / "Chicago Jon" Hoffman

A Few Suggestions for NHRA on TV

FOX’s Bad Day at the Office

The horror.... The HORROR....

- Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), APOCALYPSE NOW, 1979


When I sat down to watch the telecast of the Big Show race from New England, the LAST thing on my mind was writing a blistering review, but while having a telecon with the Burkster himself it became "Job One"! (I told him that my ladder-sheets ended up looking like a Bronx subway car, laden with graffiti.  Every time something stupid happened -- and it happened a LOT -- I had to scribble it down.) And so, let the beatings commence! (Because, as we all know, "the beatings will continue until morale improves.”)


Due to scheduling, I had to tape the race, which becomes vital to this exercise. During the first half of the event, the images made me think of the classicly bad HEART video, 'There’s the Girl', which was filmed on SILLY PUTTY. Well, partially anyway. Ann Wilson’s weight was becoming an issue at that point in the band’s career, so when they weren't hiding her behind equipment, they stretched the images vertically, to "make her look thinner".

The first half of the race all had this 'vertical-stretch' thing going on, I have no idea what incorrect switch one would have to flip to accomplish this, but I recreated funny car shots from both ends of the show, took pictures and measured the cars. Granted, not the exact same car (I'm on the clock here, OK?) but the difference was almost one half an inch in length on my TV screen. Stevie WONDER could see the difference!


During round one of Top Fuel, while discussing the race between Clay Millican and Antron Brown, we suddenly get tone & bars, then bolt into commercial. Gang, we're just getting warmed up. As courtesy to this review, I re-watched the whole cluster-schmucker, to absorb what I might have missed. Knowing that Tony P. would "be TONY", I reserved a corner of the page, marking it "Tony-isms", and started making scratch-marks every time he'd blow a phrase or whatever. By the forty-five minute mark, the tally was six. As Howard Cosell might've said, "IF this was a PRIZE-fight, it would have been STOPPED!"


There was a VERY close race between Mike Salinas and Brittany Force, and in real-time I thought the independent pulled it off. The clocks and the win light said otherwise, so I did the REAL intelligent thing, I went to a Facebook board with it. As intelligent as smearing peanut-butter on your JUNK and walking into a room full of hungry pit bulls, to say the least. Several people did indeed bring up cases of the car there first might not actually triping the light, due to a variety of scenarios, but that TV put up a freeze-frame of the cars perhaps fifteen feet from the stripe and was all, 'there's your proof' did NOT sell me very hard. They would get finish line shots correct all day, but in this case they did not. Johnny Cochran famously said, “If it does not fit, you must acquit”, and so Chicago Jon says, "If it stinks of Renuzit®, then please just don't USE IT!"


My favorite moment during the first round of Funny Car? Actually, a tie between the COMMERCIAL that Dodge has featuring Alice Cooper and what happened during the match between Matt Hagen and Terry Haddock, where the shot cut away pointlessly to a closeup of Erica Enders’ TUSHIE!


At this point, some of you are probably going, "Well, Mister EXPERT, what the hell do you know about television production anyway, hhhHHHMMM??" It so happens that I know one hell of a LOT, as I produced, directed, wrote, shot edited, and STARRED in my own cable-access TV show for FOURTEEN years. And I'll make this as simple as possible. You will, indeed, screw up a taping; that's normal. But to turn around and AIR said tape is just plain old stupid. Around the hour and three-quarter mark, the host would indeed apologize for the numerous "AV-Club #101" mistakes they made, but locking the barn door after the horses have escaped doesn't, in the words of Felix Unger, "feed the King’s cat!"


There would be more gaffes, like when Tanner Gray started losing a tire, but the director decided to cut away from that and show crewmen standing around the starting line, or after Ron Capps’ second round win, the cameraman went all 'Uncle Fred filming a birthday party', panning about chaotically (again, show isn't live yet, so this is what you EDIT OUT) or while they were interviewing (or trying, anyway) legendary Arnie Karp, they cut to a stock-shot of his car on display, but neglected to dump the audio from said shot, so the midway racket drowned him out. And can someone tell me what the deal is with that NHRA banner across the upper-left corner of the driver’s pictures is all about? The logo is everywhere, and mentioned "more than a lot", so it is just over-kill. Or road kill. Or BOTH!


In summation (apparently I am now 'Chicago Jonnie COCHRAN'), a recent piece in the Big Show’s bi-weekly publication dropped some numbers on television shows. They mentioned the classic Diamond P telecasts, but somewhat dismissively said, "Hey, they only gave you maybe 45 minutes of racing." Let’s put that into context, shall we?


Yes, the one-hour telecast had 45 minutes of racing. Under the Burkster’s instructions, I was tasked to grab a stopwatch and clock the "Toto we're not in Kansas Nationals", but when that rained out, I clocked the Atlanta race that aired in its place. Start to finish, because of the rain delay, the show ran two hours, twenty-three minutes. Of that, actual side-by-side racing boiled down to forty-four minutes, fifty-eight seconds, leaving one hour, thirty-nine minutes of 'fluff', which needed to be FOLDED. (Some of these puff-pieces were repeated outright. Again, tape, which you...EDIT)


I wish the TV crew better luck on their next race. It's hard to imagine things going any worse. As always, Chicago Jon sez...C-YAA!!  



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