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NBC's 2010 Olympics: Off to a Tragic/Thrilling/Impressive Start
February 15, 2010  | By David Bianculli

OLYMPICS-shen-xue-zhao-hong.jpgThe opening weekend of NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games from Vancouver started tragically, ended thrillingly, and featured a lot of emotional and impressive moments in between. All in all, it was a strong start, establishing, once again, that the best - and worst - Olympic moments follow no set script...

Athletically, the best moment of the weekend came Sunday night, when Chinese pairs skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo (shown above) -- the first to take the ice -- set a standard so amazing, no other duo that evening came close.


Patriotically, the best moment of the weekend also came Sunday night, when moguls skier Hannah Kearney, who had won the first gold medal for the U.S. at these winter games, was shown standing atop the podium as the national anthem played. Her run the night before, stealing the gold from Canadian favorite Jen Heil, was a riveting high-speed display of both athletic talent and raw exuberance.

The same was true of Canadian moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau, who managed to gain instant superstar status by ending his country's streak of not winning a gold medal when hosting a Winter Olympics.


NBC had better televise Bilodeau's medal ceremony tonight, when "O Canada" gets to be played before the home nation. Listening to other anthems, and watching the nationalistic pride of athletes from other countries, is one of the best parts of these games -- and perhaps the truest example of the Olympic spirit.

Other athletic events covered provided drama of their own. The luge contests, after the death during a Friday training run of Georgia athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili, were invested with a tragic sense of almost palpable tension.


NBC, forced to shuffle the broadcast schedule when inclement weather postponed most alpine skiing events, did not hesitate in shining a prime-time spotlight on luge.

U.S. Short-track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno, this time, was the beneficiary of a literally last-second slip by two competitors, which allowed him to reach the podium, and gain a silver medal, in his first final of 2010. Had that not happened, though, he had been outskated in that particular race by three other athletes -- something NBC, at times, seemed to downplay.

The network did not, however, downplay the luge-track tragedy, and opening the Olympics with it was the right way to go. And overall, my favorite contribution by an NBC broadcaster came Sunday night, when Bob Costas remarked on the post-interview massive kiss planted on Canada's gold-medal-winning Bilodeau by his girlfriend.

"Judging by the scene with Bilodeau immediately after Tina [Dixon]'s interview," Costas said wryly, "this is going to be a very good Valentine's Day for him all the way around."


As for the opening ceremony, it was most definitely a mixed bag. I loved K.D. Lang's version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," but the malfunctioning hydraulics at the end didn't help much. And the delay, in fact, resulted in the indoor Olympic torch (as opposed to the "real," permanent outdoor one lit a while later) being ignited four hours and 31 minutes into NBC's coverage -- seconds AFTER the opening-night coverage was scheduled to end.


And is it just me, or when anyone else saw that arctic bear constellation, rising from the ground during the opening ceremonies, did it bring to mind the giant Stay-Puft marshmallow man from Ghostbusters?







Robert D said:

I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the continuing train wreck in the NBC's prime time schedule during the Olympics. NBC's coverage is drowning in previews for new shows they are rushing into production to fill Leno's slot. They seem to be betting on the merging of reality shows with big name celebrities.

Jerry Seinfeld's creation, "The Marriage Ref," appears to have guest hosts/judges in Kelly Ripa and Alec Baldwin. I am assuming Alec Baldwin was chosen to add a touch of irony. Here's hoping Tiger Woods makes a guest appearance to give advice to a couple from Idaho who is having trouble in the bedroom.

In another celebrity meets reality show, "Who Do You Think You Are?" (brought to you by ancestry.com), we will seemingly be forced to delve into the genealogy of Sarah Jessica Parker, among other celebs. How deep do Sarah's roots go? We will have to wait until March to find out.

I must admit that despite its over-saturation in a mere 3 days of Olympic coverage, I am interested in "Parenthood", a new dramedy? produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. With Monk over, I will be glad to have Craig T. Nelson back inside my TiVo.

Unfortunately I still haven't seen a promo for the all new "Tonight Show with Jay Leno." I can't wait to see how NBC will handle promoting their chosen one's return without further alienating Team Coco.

Comment posted on February 15, 2010 10:03 PM

Patrick said:

"Parenthood" isn't exactly new; it's a revival of a failed 1990 series. (Both are based on the 1989 movie.) It's being promoted so much, I'm already tired ot it.
Remember when NBC, back in 1992, decided to put most of the Summer Olympic events on pay-per-view? The packages cost so much ($100, $150 and $200, if I can recall) that you'd have to base your vacation around watching Olympic events to get your money's worth. NBC took such a (well-deserved) bath on that strategy, they never attempted it again. And frankly, I have better things to do with two weeks than watch the Olympics.

Comment posted on February 16, 2010 11:30 AM
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