Showtime axes Gelbart ‘Fast Track’

Racing show a ratings drag

NEW YORK — Showtime has canceled Larry Gelbart’s race-car series “Fast Track” after a one-season run of 22 hourlong episodes.

“Showtime told me it couldn’t sell the notion of the world of Nascar drivers to the Hispanic and black audience that makes up a large percentage of its viewers,” Gelbart told Daily Variety.

A spokesman for Showtime acknowledges that blacks constitute more than 20% of the network’s typical audience and Hispanics more than 10%, but adds that the overall viewership for “Fast Track” was not high enough to warrant a renewal of the series.

Gelbart, whose credits included TV’s “MASH” and the feature “Tootsie,” said that he and his partner Gary Markowitz, the executive producers of “Fast Track,” “weren’t able to do enough real racing scenes to pull in the stock-car enthusiasts.”

The budget also dictated that “Fast Track” be shot in Toronto, which is not exactly a mecca for Nascar racing. “We didn’t have a Nascar track in Toronto,” Gelbart said, adding that most of the actors used in the series — and all of the directors — were Canadian.

Gelbart says that American actors would have cost more money, both in salary and in airfare and accommodations. Three of the regular cast members of the series were Canadian: Fred Williamson, Duncan Rehegr and Brandy Ledford. The lead was Keith Carradine.

TV series about race-car drivers have rarely turned up on broadcast TV, in syndication or on cable, says Mark Zakarin, executive VP of original programming for Showtime. He chalks up the lack of interest in fictional accounts of the Nascar world to industry perception that they have limited appeal, so the network knew it was taking a risk in greenlighting the project.

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