“The first event I ever announced was a women’s gymnastics meet at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln,” said Rick Allen, lead announcer for NASCAR on NBC. “The guy who was supposed to do it didn’t show up. And I just happened to be hanging around, so I did it.”
As the then-reigning back-to-back Big Eight (now Big 12) Conference decathlon champion for the Cornhuskers, as Allen was in 1991 and 1992, why wouldn’t you be hanging around the women’s gymnastics team? If charisma was a sport, he’d still be leading the league.
Allen’s affable, smooth, confident tone on the air transitions just as easily outside of the booth to the confines of the NBC Sports tent where we talked about his job as the voice of NBC Sports’ rejuvenated NASCAR franchise.
“Nothing about this position is easy, but I am privileged and very excited to be here.”
Allen got his start announcing races at Eagle Raceway in Eagle, Nebraska after getting a degree in speech communications.
He joined Fox Sports in 2003 and served as play-by-play man for Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity races until last year. Former NASCAR driver Jeff Burton and former crew chief Steve Letarte join Allen in the booth.
“At any one time, I have five people in my headset, whether it’s my producer, our spotter, our stats guys… all providing me with information to make the broadcast as engaging and understandable as possible for the fans watching it. And that is on top of the conversations I’m having in the booth, with Jeff and Steve.”
Allen isn’t just a mouthpiece who acts like he knows what he’s talking about; the authenticity of his interest and enjoyment of NASCAR is palpable as he speaks. He’s the voice of the franchise and is excited about helping viewers understand the intricacies of the sport with the second biggest audience base, trailing only the NFL.
Jack Davenport may not formally qualify for the descriptor “television staple” in the U.S, given that the majority of his Stateside series have lasted a single season or less, but between “Swingtown” in 2008 and “FlashForward” during the 2009-2010 season, he’s made enough headway on the airwaves that, when coupled with a U.K. success like “Coupling” and a recurring role in Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, he’s at least in possession of a face that inspires people to wonder, “Wait, why do I know that guy?” Davenport creeps ever closer to a more immediate recognition level as he continues onward with the season season of NBC’s “Smash.” I was fortunate enough to chat with him for a bit during the January edition of the Television Critics Association press tour, and although we didn’t get into too much detail about his current work on “Smash” (mostly because the interview took place before I’d seen any of Season 2), we still ended up discussing a fair amount of his small-screen work, along with a few stops on his cinematic efforts.
Bullz-Eye: Your character on “Smash” is regularly described in reviews as “difficult but brilliant,” and even on the NBC website they sum him up in a single sentence by calling him “one of Broadway’s most brilliant, yet arrogant, director-choreographers.” Did you have to pay people off to get the word “brilliant” out there so prominently?
Jack Davenport: Probably, yeah. [Laughs.] You know, the way the character’s written is the way people generally refer to him, and you are to believe that the man has half a dozen Tonys, probably two musicals that are international franchises, but that also makes you cocky. Also, in the real world of show business, no one refers to anybody as talented or brilliant. But when you’re doing a show about show business, weirdly, you do have to point that out on occasion. Not too often, but it’s sort of… Otherwise, you’re not really setting the scene properly, I don’t think.
BE: True enough. A few adjectives can save the writers from having to come up with a complete back story right off the bat.
JD: Oh, yeah. And as for “difficult,” I think that one speaks for itself. [Laughs.]
If you’re a regular reader of Bullz-Eye, then you’re well familiar with a recurring feature that we like to call our TV Power Rankings. Back in the day, we used to offer up a list of our top 25 TV series every six months, but those who caught our most recent Rankings – we posted it back in February – know that we’re only doing it once a year now. As this is the first fall season to come around since we’ve scaled back, however, we thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the new programs that are slowly but surely making their debuts on the broadcast networks and give your our thoughts on which ones seem to have the potential to make their way onto the next Power Rankings…but with that said, you will please note the way we’ve made a point of clarifying above that this is in no way a formal declaration that they will end up on there. As we all know, shows can start strong, turn on a dime, and become craptacular within the span of only a few episodes. In short, it’s all very wait-and-see at this stage of the game, but if a show is on this list, that means that we at least think that it’s worthy of giving it a shot
At first glance, “Revolution” may seem to be a little bit like “Terra Nova” without the dinosaurs, given that it’s more or less about humanity trying to recover from a nasty situation (in this case, a sudden and seemingly total absence of electricity), but the pilot – directed by Jon Favreau – sets up the premise nicely, establishes the new power-free world, and gives stars Billy Burke and Giancarlo Esposito a chance to shine as the good guy and bad guy, respectively. The truth of the matter is that I’ll give anything with J.J. Abrams’ name on it a shot, but after the debacle that was “Undercovers,” I’m still going to enter with hesitation until “Revolution” proves itself.
As I’ve said elsewhere on Bullz-Eye, I didn’t even know I had a three-strike rule until I tried and failed on three separate occasions to get a decent interview out of Hayden Panitierre, so it’s a testament to how much I enjoyed the pilot for the country-music drama “Nashville” that I included it in this list. (Admittedly, it doesn’t hurt that she’s playing a complete bitch in the series.) There’s a very real possibility that the show could leave music-industry reality behind so quickly that I bail out well before mid-season, but with Connie Britton and Powers Boothe in the cast, it’s going to have to get pretty ridiculous for me to give up the ghost.
I’m a sucker for a good-looking period piece, so “Vegas” has already got me in its clutches by premise alone, focusing as it does on the growth of Las Vegas in the early 1960s, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that the show is headlined by Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis, then rounded out by Carrie Ann Moss and Jason O’Mara. I’m as excited about the possibilities of this series as I am just about anything premiering this fall…so don’t let me down, CBS!
Sure, the kick-off of the 2011-2012 TV season is still about four months away, give or take, but it’s never too soon to start getting excited about the new shows that will be gracing the broadcast networks come the fall…or to start placing bets on which ones will be the first to be cancelled. I’m keeping my mouth shut on both topics for the time being, but I have no doubt that most folks who check out these network-provided plot synopses and trailers won’t hesitate for a moment to offer up their opinions, so I look forward to reading what ya’ll have to say about what’s coming up…
666 Park Avenue (Sun., 10–11PM): At the ominous address of 666 Park Avenue, anything you desire can be yours. Everyone has needs, desires and ambition. For the residents of The Drake, these will all be met, courtesy of the building’s mysterious owner, Gavin Doran (Terry O’Quinn). But every Faustian contract comes with a price. When Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable), an idealistic young couple from the Midwest, are offered the opportunity to manage the historic building, they not only fall prey to the machinations of Doran and his mysterious wife, Olivia (Vanessa Williams), but unwittingly begin to experience the shadowy, supernatural forces within the building that imprison and endanger the lives of the residents inside. Sexy, seductive and inviting, The Drake maintains a dark hold over all of its residents, tempting them through their ambitions and desires, in this chilling new drama that’s home to an epic struggle of good versus evil.