Television

The Olympics, Take 2 (Or, Mary Carillo Cavorts with Polar Bears)

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?

Each taped competition feels thoroughly and utterly drained of all real-world energy and excitement. If the announcers do not talk at length about the Americans competing, you can guarantee that they will do horribly. At the same time, if suddenly they start giving this complex back-story about this Norwegian who is the frontrunner, or this Russian whose husband died, then you can guarantee that they will come out on top.

Of course, the live events offer their own share of problems, as lengthy delays lead to some of the corniest taped segments in the history of the world. I will only describe the experience of watching Mary Carillo’s day learning about Canadian Mounties as SURREAL. Oh, and congratulations to Shaun White for making Janet Jackson blush with his foul-mouthed reaction after winning his second gold. I’m sure the person who had the bright idea to mic up White and his crew is about to go the way of The Jay Leno Show.

Ultimately, the Olympics will end with some endless closing ceremony (with the drama of “will the technology go horribly awry again?” being the only reason to watch) and we will all go on with our lives. Evan Lysacek, Lindsey Vonn, and Shani Davis will fade into our collective memories, and people will continue to recognize Apolo Anton Ohno more for his soul patch than for his skating.

Oh, and I guess I should at least mention Mary Carillo and those polar bears. Here is when you know you are in trouble. You are watching something – speed skating, maybe? – and you see a crawler on the screen advertising “In 19 Minutes, Polar Bears.” You realize that this is not, as you immediately assumed, a warning – it is an advertisement. Then you realize that the target audience for what you are watching will be INTERESTED in seeing what Mary Carillo and Bob Costas have to say about polar bears.

Tomorrow… Welcome to TIVO-lympics!

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