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While some Ute fans were unhappy that Utah's win over Oregon State on Saturday was closer than anticipated, that was not the case for the people behind the Pac-12 Network series "The Drive."
"We don't pick sides," said coordinating producer Michael Tolajian. "It's just the closer the game, the more compelling the show."
The 27-12 Utah win was a matchup between the teams that headline this season of "The Drive." The weekly series goes behind the scenes in a season with built-in contrast.
"In a 30-minute span, you get a window into two programs that are in very different stages," said Tolajian. (Utah is 7-1; OSU is 2-6.)
"Our show gives you a raw, documentary-style version of what they are," said P12N sportscaster Yogi Roth, who narrates "The Drive."
The most amazing thing about "The Drive" is that so much is done by so few. The onsite crew on Saturday was bigger than usual because both featured teams were playing, but it totaled just five people manning cameras, two sound people, two camera assistants, and one production assistant, along with Tolajian.
HBO's "Hard Knocks" and Showtime's "A Season with Notre Dame" have 50 more people on-site on a game day.
"We're a very stealthy, frugal production," Tolojian said.
You'd never know that. The quality of "The Drive" is certainly comparable.
"The Drive" takes viewers inside the Ute and Beaver programs. You see coaches and players in practice, in the locker room, on the sidelines.
(Although it appears the cameras are right next to Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, he's actually being followed by a camera in the end zone.)
The feedback from Utah fans has been overwhelmingly positive. With one exception.
"They either wish it was a Utah-only show or that it was an hour long," Tolajian said. "Obviously, there are things that don't make the show because we don't have time."
This week's episode (Wednesday, 8 p.m.) focuses on Whittingham and his friend/former defensive coordinator/OSU coach Gary Andersen. Cameras caught the two together before the game. And accompanied Andersen to see his son play for USU on Friday; to visit his mother; and to visit his father's grave.
"This is the week that you wish it was an hour," Roth said. "But with the turnaround, we obviously can't do that."
"The Drive" shoots on campuses on Mondays and Tuesdays. On Saturdays, game-day footage is quickly sent via the Internet to production offices in New York City.
On Sunday, assistant editors winnow the game footage down from 15-20 hours to about three hours. From Sunday night through Monday, editors put together a rough cut of that week's episode, pulling together Saturday footage, Monday-Tuesday footage, game footage from the P12N, ESPN or Fox telecast (if necessary), and footage from the two schools' on-campus videographers (if needed).
The script is completed on Tuesday; Roth does the voiceover that afternoon. Editing continues until about 5 p.m. MT on Wednesday three hours before the telecast.
"It's a little nerve-wracking, to say the least," said Tolajian, whose team has cut it as close as about 45 minutes before air time. And, on a couple of occasions, technical problems have had to be fixed while the program is actually on the air.
So trying to do an hour-long show or multiple shows about multiple teams is unrealistic. At least for now.
"We might get to the point where we expand it," Tolajian said. "The teams want to do it, and we would love to do it."
In the meantime, "I guess leaving fans wanting more is not a bad thing," Tolajian said.
Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.