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Monday, October 30, 2006

Olympic Television Woes Revisited 

And my favorite Olympic network is involved. Here's the story:

The European Broadcasting Union protested the IOC's decision to hold some Olympic swimming and gymnastic finals during the morning at the 2008 Beijing Games.

The International Olympic Committee announced the changes last week in a concession to NBC, but the EBU said the timing of the finals will put them in the middle of the night in Europe. The events will be shown during prime viewing hours in the Americas.

My question on this topic - since when has NBC ever chosen to show a major event live? Does this mean that NBC plans to show these events live on the West Coast? I seriously doubt it; we'll probably get a tape delayed broadcast.

But coverage, live or taped, will not address Dave Taylor's concerns:

Every four years I get to remember why I really hate watching the Olympics on television. It's not about the advertising, it's not even the endless parade of "background" vignettes instead of showing us more events, it's not the non-family-friendly previews for movies and TV dramas slipped into the advertising stream, it's not even the talking heads in their quasi-newsroom sets telling us what we need to know about the day.

No, what drives me completely batty are the commentators....

Last night's coverage of the men's figure skating was a classic example of the terrible pontificating coverage of the Olympics. Russian Yevgeny Plushenko was skating to a well-deserved gold medal and the commentators were busy telling us how he can't "integrate his hand motion with his jumps" and how he has a "dull routine" and how he's "worked since childhood to be here" and on and on.

Then next up was American Johnny Weir, whose father was watching him compete at this level for the first time, "something that's probably causing Weir more anxiety than being here at the Olympics" one of the commentators blithly informed us. How do they know? Why would we care? Did I sign up to get insipid psychological commentary during skating events too?

Oh, how I wish that the commentators could be pushed to a separate audio track, like SAP, so I could turn them off and just watch the skating and listen to the music and the cheers of the crowd!

And for those who have not had the...privilege...to listen to NBC's Olympic coverage, here's part of a parody of the 1996 Olympic coverage.

BOB COSTAS: Good evening, and as you can tell by the sound of the Olympic Theme Song that we play almost as much as we show Kerri Strug's historic vault, it's time for our broadcast of The Recently Videotaped Olympic Games Featuring Americans. We're going to start by taking you right to the track-and-field stadium, where the men's 100-meter dash is about to get underway (despite the fact that it actually happened four hours ago).

TRACK COMMENTATOR: Bob, this promises to be an exciting race, featuring Americans.

COSTAS: And what are the obstacles that these Americans have overcome to create a Human Interest Factor for our broadcast?

TRACK COMMENTATOR: Bob, from left to right, they have overcome psoriasis, vertigo and a bad allergy to vinaigrette dressing.

COSTAS: We'll come back to the men's 100-meter final, but right now we're going to replay the video of Kerri Strug, an American, overcoming her ankle injury to make her courageous vault.

(Kerri Strug vaults.)

COSTAS: What a human moment! Time for a commercial....

COSTAS: We'll have more on that exciting cycling race, but right now we're going to return to the Olympic track stadium for an update on the men's 100-meter dash.

TRACK COMMENTATOR: Bob, the race started about two seconds ago and should be over in about eight more seconds. None of the Americans has fallen down.

COSTAS: We're going to break away from the men's 100-meter dash at this point, but we will be covering it throughout the course of the evening. Right now, however, we want you to see this moment, captured by our NBC cameras.

(Kerri Strug vaults.)

COSTAS: Now let's head out to the pool to check on the progress of the American swimmers, all of whom have overcome asthma.

SWIMMING COMMENTATOR: Bob, here we see an American swimmer winning a race. This happened earlier.

COSTAS: How much earlier?

SWIMMING COMMENTATOR: Twenty-four years, Bob. This is Mark Spitz.

And if you suspect that I'm still P.O.'ed that NBC offered more coverage of Michelle Kwan (who didn't compete in the 2006 Winter Olympics) vs. Kiira Korpi (who did)...well, let's just say I have a long memory.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

I could not agree more. NBC's coverage sucks.
Why did they bother to have the swimming events changed to the morning... so they can better pre-empt them with tape delayed warm-ups of gymnastics of course!
Most people learn from their mistakes. NBC just gets worse and worse every 4 years.
Hello, this is Ontario Emperor under my real name (long story). It's now 2012 and NBC is getting ready for its tape-delayed coverage - again. I want to note that I have just discovered that the Olympic parody was written by Dave Barry. You can find Barry's version at http://www.davebarry.com/gg/olympicskerristrug.htm
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