Thursday, March 4, 2010

NBC's lost weekend

I have commented before on what a big fan of the Olympics I am (I'm sure I wrote a few posts about it in August of 2008). The Winter Games are no exception, and I watch pretty much every minute that I can. That watching is, of course, all on the big network, as I don't have cable TV, but one certainly gets one's fill from the flagship.

And the coverage was pretty much what we've come to expect. I'll probably have a post or two over the next few days about specific quibbles, but there really were no surprises. The pre-selected stars (Vonn! Ohno! White! Lysacek!) were given far more than their share of attention, and the network left some time to accommodate the stories that actually grew out of the events (Mancuso! Miller! That big bobsled guy!). Naturally, these were all Americans, as someone needs to be really special in a marquee sport to be noticed if they aren't from the 50 states (Kim Yuna! Joannie Rochette! Alexandre Bilodeau!). [Note: it really helps if they are from or train in Canada.]

This is all pretty standard stuff. What I don't understand is the series of odd decisions NBC made in their final weekend coverage. I could chalk some of it up to having to give 3 hours to a hockey game that they had not anticipated (do we really think they would have given most of Sunday afternoon to the Czech Republic vs. Finland?).

The problems actually started Thursday night in the coverage of the ladies' figure skating final. This is one of the major events of the Games, there's a massive amount of hype, and NBC gave it surprisingly short shrift. They showed a total of 9 programs, and, other than the final group of six, made curious choices as to who they showed. We "got" to see Tugba Karademir, who finished last (I wonder why NBC finds her so compelling, as they featured her four years ago), Cheltzie Lee, who finished 20th (and we saw her short program as well), and Elene Gedevanshvili, who finished 14th. Why they picked these three is beyond me.

[By the way, who finished 4th in the free skate? Laura Lepisto of Finland, who jumped from 10th after the short to 6th overall. As far as I can tell, she was never mentioned once, and was omitted from the graphic showing the final scores - we saw 1 through 5, then 7th.]

On Saturday night, NBC showed six programs in the figure skating exhibition gala. I personally don't care too much for that, but I would think it a big draw for the audience, and NBC kind of threw it away. Of course, if you had cable, you could have risen at 5:30 AM (Central Time) on Sunday and watched it on MSNBC, but I still don't grasp the rationale.

Then, Sunday afternoon, they showed almost every minute of the Men's 50K cross-country race. I like endurance athletics; had I grown up in a place with recreational skiing, I'd probably be out there myself. But watching it was not all that interesting; NBC could have cut it by about half, had a perfectly exciting event to show, and left time for other things.

Finally, there was the bizarre decision to cut abruptly from the Closing Ceremonies to Jerry Seinfeld's new show. There was almost no warning before Bob Costas told us to come back in an hour. As I get older, I find the Closing Ceremonies to be less interesting - I mean, Nickelback? Avril Lavigne? - it's like watching video of a party to which I wasn't invited. Nevertheless, it seemed like an odd choice to move so quickly from one to the other.

What a shame NBC had to end that way.

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