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The New Morning Drive: Bigger Is Not Better

February 7th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

by Jeff Skinner

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  Someone please get that message to the suits at NBC because they broke it, they broke The Morning Drive.

When NBC took control of The Golf Channel there were some definite advantages.  NBC has a ton of golf broadcasting experience and talent and both channels have benefited from the union but I think The Golf Channel may be suffering from a case of “corporate creep.”

Morning Drive 1I can’t help but think that the new changes at the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive were driven by some corporate desk jockey trying to milk their biggest hit show for all they can.  Making the switch to seven days a week, The Drive looks like a Today Show wannabe.

Gary Williams had carved out a great niche at the controls of The Morning Drive.  It seemed like everybody that’s anybody wanted to spend time on The Drive.  After jettisoning original partner Erik Kuselias, Williams hit his stride as he carried the show while they had “on air auditions” for the other seat.

Recently they selected Damon Hack, formerly of Sports Illustrated, as Williams’ partner and he has been excellent.  Williams does the heavy lifting, Hack is a fine addition and the two of them have a good chemistry.

But this week we saw the much ballyhooed changes that The Golf Channel  promised would give us a bigger and better Morning Drive.  Well after three days the verdict is in and it’s not good.  They’ve screwed it up big time.

First of all the desk has grown from a standard twosome with an occasional third to a full time foursome.  Williams and Hack have been joined by the jovial Charlie Rymer and former NBC correspondent Ahmad Rashad and the results are dismal.  Please, more is not necessarily better.

Rymer is certainly watchable.  His trademark self-deprecating style works well and he’s always good for an interesting anecdote.  But Rashad is awful.  He looks unprepared, distracted morningdriveteam and unprofessional.  I feel for Williams as he has done his best to carry his ill-equipped partner but so far it’s not working.  Please tell the suits at NBC that playing golf with Tiger Woods doesn’t necessarily qualify you for The Morning Drive. It’s hard to believe that Rashad has been in this business for two decades because he looks like an amateur.  Maybe he’s distracted by all the turmoil in his life but his only contribution to the these three shows have been updates on where his next round is.

The addition of two permanent members at the desk hasn’t been smooth.  The Drive has gone from a relaxed, concise discussion of the day’s topics to a forced, contrived dialog with all four members having to comment and get their allotted face time.  Where the old Drive had matured into a silky, Ernie Els type swing the new Drive starts and stops and stutters like Charles Barkley.  The table is simply too crowded with four guys all needing to say their piece.

So many new faces on The Drive have made it look like a casting call for the next Tin Cup.

John Cook showed up one morning and while John is insightful enough he has that irresistible quality that makes him an NBC’s executive dream: he’s a friend of Tiger.

Long time anchor Kelly Tilghman has hitched a ride on The Drive and she now has the task of handling “The Front Nine” and “The Back Nine” where she throws out topics to the crew.  Tilghman is her usual adequate self but her addition has pushed Holly Sonders out of that spot.  Sonders is relegated to giving updates from her new and cleverly transparent podium.

Matt Gianella joined The Drive earlier this year from years at Golf Digest as their travel editor and he is still learning the game.  But with such interesting content I can live with his on the job training.

For my money the new and improved Morning Drive is any thing  but improved. And not to be picky but where are Gary’s trademark sweaters?  He’s been in sports jackets since the change.  Has The Drive suddenly become a formal affair?

A few shows may be a small sample but The Morning Drive has a long way to go to get back to what made it The Golf Channel’s best show.

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  1. G. Rennie
    February 8th, 2013 at 06:22 | #1

    I think you nailed this one,Jeff. In the brief time I watched MD Thursday there wasn’t any sign of Ahmad Rashad. Maybe the power brokers at NBC read your analysis and pulled him?

  2. Jeff Skinner
    February 8th, 2013 at 09:05 | #2

    I think Ahmad had a tee time with MJ and a meeting with his divorce lawyer. Whatever the reason, The Drive, and all of us are better off without him.

  3. D A
    February 14th, 2013 at 14:21 | #3

    Man NBC can do a number on a network. See weather channel. Now you can see anything but the damn weather on that channel. Now at GC they recruit any NBC/ESPN reject they can and the only qualification is that they know nothing about golf. Some have been bad but Rashad takes the cake. He is hopeless and one can only hope that a Kuselias like “promotion” to the NBC Sports Network (basement) isn’t far off. The show was always a little awkward the last several months with the endless guest hosts with no on camera presence, knowledge or both. Now they have just gone off the reservation with an overload of talentless, awkward boneheads. The answer is simple. Put Gary and his knowledge next to Win with her looks, charm and on camera presence and let it roll. It’s just golf. There’s only so many predictions a washed up pro can make.

  4. Jeff Skinner
    February 14th, 2013 at 18:21 | #4

    I hear what you’re saying. The New MD leaves much to be desired. The only saving grace is that it looks like Rashad is only on a few days a week. Sat & Sun it was back to “normal” with Williams, Hack & Sonders with a little Rymer thrown in. I can live with that.

  5. Ken A
    February 26th, 2013 at 12:06 | #5

    If I hear another Ahmad Rashad “I was playing with (fill in the blank with celebrity name)”, I will go insane. His incessant need to remind everyone he plays golf with Tiger and Rory and whatever A-list celebrity you can think of is incredibly narcissistic. Please take him off the air as soon as possible before you lose die hard fans who crave intelligent golf discussion.

  6. Arlo Beitz
    February 27th, 2013 at 08:15 | #6

    It’s Wed morning and Rashad is still on the MD. He had been missing and I thought maybe NBC had learned from the viewers feedback or ratings. They have not. They are shoving him down our throats till we cave in and choose to endure this moron. It’s a shame. This was a good show before the changes.

  7. Jeff Skinner
    February 27th, 2013 at 10:02 | #7

    The Morning Drive is unwatchable with Rashad at the desk.

  8. Jeff Skinner
    February 27th, 2013 at 10:03 | #8

    I am ready to start a boycott of the Drive…Rashad is terrible.

  9. Arlo Beitz
    February 28th, 2013 at 22:52 | #9

    Everytime Rashad’s mug is on the screen, I turn it off….for the rest of the morning. It’s a shame.

  10. Jeff Skinner
    March 1st, 2013 at 21:27 | #10

    He makes the best show on The Golf Channel unbearable.

  11. Ted O
    March 13th, 2013 at 18:01 | #11

    I thought I was the only one to think Rashad was horrible-nice to know I am not

  12. nadroj1
    March 19th, 2013 at 09:12 | #12

    i agree, tuesdays and wednesday now when Rashad and Kelly host are just terrible. They need to get rid of Rashad ASAP. Overall the show is worse – everybody is always talking over eachother, the MD wolf game sucks, go back to Gary and damon at the desk in the cozy old studio

  13. Jeff Skinner
    March 19th, 2013 at 09:27 | #13

    Rashad seems to get worse with time.

  14. Carol Peet
    April 22nd, 2013 at 18:07 | #14

    I could not agree more with all of the above criticism about Rashad. His arrogantcy completely turned me off — especially when he talked down to Charlie at ever opportunity. I agree, why fix it if it wasn’t broken. Damon is great, as is Gary. And, I agree, Matt if great — give him an opportunity to get up to speed. Now that Beemer is on-board, I’m assuming they gave Rashad the boot. Now he can spend his days namedropping to someone who cares.

  15. John P
    April 23rd, 2013 at 15:06 | #15

    You’ve hit it on the head. It has become awkward to watch, regardless of which chairs they are moving around the deck. The little gem that ws MD is like the restaurant that expanded too fast. I feel bad for some of the on air talent that seem out of step, like they too are trying to figure out ‘what’s going on with this show?’ It probably seemed like a good idea to make it like the Today Show. Wrong. You never know what or who to expect from one day to the next. They are trying Everything to capture the magic. Hasnt work. Gary Williams and Damen Hack are good together. Go baack to the sweaters, avoid mini-Brandle. Go back to the two chairs, and five days week. Holly in rotation with Lauren, bring in Charlie, have Matt update on some golf special (we dont need or desire the exposes in golf travel). Less is more. Keep it simple.

  16. January 20th, 2014 at 08:13 | #16

    Morning Drive “was” the best thing for Golf News/Happenings on TV. Gary Williams, Daymon Hack are the worst for the show. Williams sounds like a whimpering 2-year old in a toy store and Hack is just that, “a hack” with no presence nor talent for discussion of any topic. However, “all” of the other panelists, guests and hosts are good, easy to watch & listen to. They have natural talent, are soft-spoken and add “quality” to the formula. I watch the show when Williams & Hack are not present. Otherwise, I skip the show. ALL of the other hosts, speakers are just so “heads & shoulders” above these “weak” regulars, the producers of the show must take heed; I’m not alone in these views. I live in one of the largest golf-communities in the country and 90% of my fellow golfers have the same view. For the sake of the long-term potential of this program, get rid of the “bad” and keep/expand the “good” !!!!

  17. T Henhawk
    March 2nd, 2014 at 15:39 | #17

    Tiger quits again because of his back..maybe he should a spine and quit acting like a baby when not playing good!!!

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