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by Matt Paproth

24 Feb 2010


This is the first Olympics that I have viewed in a post-Tivo world. The DVR is such an omni-present part of my TV viewing experience that I am now finding myself struggling to view the Olympics without mediation by my Tivo. Like so much about the Olympics, though, I am torn about how Tivo affects it.

The biggest problem is also the greatest strength—the ability to fast-forward. Once you start picking and choosing your way through a five-hour portion of Olympic coverage, it becomes very clear just how little you care about most of what is going on. In most cases, it simply is not compelling to watch a bunch of people who you do not know engage in the same task over and over again. You sit and watch the clock as various people ski down a hill (or, even more identical, race down a bobsled or luge course), wondering what you are supposed to be looking for. The carefully-packaged back-stories are only provided for people who will medal or crash… oh, or Americans—is our narcissism any clearer than in how we cover the Olympics? But without these segments, the actual competition is meaningless.

by Matt Paproth

23 Feb 2010


So, it has been over a week since my last contribution to this blog, and I am going to put blame where blame is due – the Olympics.  I have been obsessing majorly over the Olympics throughout the past ten days, and, as they wind down here throughout the week, I want to record the duality of my feelings toward them (and, particularly, NBC’s coverage of them). Yesterday, I looked at the good. Today, the bad…

Like a gassy, bloated cow, NBC’s coverage of the Olympics continues to trudge forward toward its predictable end. Complemented by the talking puppets of the Today Show, NBC’s exhaustive (and exhausting, in most cases) coverage of various events spans many, many hours on many, many channels.

The biggest problem with the coverage is how thoroughly sanitized it is. The majority of the events are shown many hours after they occur, making the entire primetime broadcast a really compelling viewing experience… FOR MY GRANDMA!  I mean, apart from the rare event taking place late into the evening, isn’t anyone who really cares about Lindsey Vonn’s gold medal pursuit going to look on the million websites where this information is readily available in real-time?

by Michael Landweber

22 Feb 2010


It’s a foreign policy nightmare. A country with a radical Islamic government that hates the U.S. is developing a nuclear weapons capability. Nukes and terrorists are pretty scary on their own; combine the two and it’s time to hide in the bunker. If only our enemies would talk to us. We could work it out.

But wait. What’s that you say?  An American President is sitting down right now with the leader of this Islamic Republic? They’re not only talking, but they’re within striking distance of an agreement to end the rogue weapons program. All they need is to agree on the composition of an international inspection regime. Furious international diplomacy ensues – and an accord is reached. There will be peace in the Middle East.

Clearly, this is the crowning achievement of the Obama Administration. The culmination of its stated policy of engagement with our enemies. Oh, wait. It’s not the Obama Administration talking to Iran. It’s the Taylor Administration talking to the Islamic Republic of Kamistan – no, you won’t find it on a map – in the first episode of this season of 24. In the real world, Iran is still charging ahead with its nuclear program and thumbing its nose at any proposed compromise.

by Matt Paproth

22 Feb 2010


So, it has been over a week since my last contribution to this blog, and I am going to put blame where blame is due—the Olympics. I have been obsessing majorly over the Olympics throughout the past ten days, and, as they wind down here throughout the week, I want to record the duality of my feelings toward them (and, particularly, NBC’s coverage of them). Today, the good…

The Olympics are thoroughly compelling, both as emotional and physical drama. From the little-seen hockey games that must be sought out on CNBC to the ratings-grabbing figure skating competitions, from the slow-moving cross country skiing to the adrenaline-rush of short-track speed skating, the Olympics are engaging, appointment television. The commentators for the individual events are complemented by the recorded pieces giving more detailed background about particular athletes, and they combine to give real substance to the experience of watching an event.

by Steve Leftridge

18 Feb 2010


A few days ago, Ryan Seacrest tweeted that he had just watched the final cut of tonight’s episode and described it as “gut wrenching” and the “most dramatic [he’d] ever seen”. Perhaps Ryno was trying to draw folks away from the Olympics—or at least relegate DVR space to them—in favor of watching the judges whittle the 70-odd contestants down to the highly-anticipated (but previously leaked) Top 24. Yes, the Dirty Double-Dozen was just a Bing away for the last two weeks, but that didn’t stop American Idol from dragging out the official unveiling over an excruciatingly boring three hours.

So with Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White winning gold on another network, Idol stretched across two nights what could have been effectively accomplished in 15 minutes; instead, they made 46 contestants walk to the stage one at a time so the judges could act out a tired fake-out (“You know there were a lot of talented singers this year, and we only had room for 24…”) before letting them through, often delivered with Simon’s little wink, the subtlest in all of show business. The only entertaining twist on this charade was Ellen’s, who lampooned the whole thing by talking at length about how cruel it was to keep contestants’ fates a mystery by talking at length.

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