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Goodbye, Olympics -- Hello, Politics and Other "Dangerous Jobs"
August 25, 2008  | By David Bianculli
The XXIX Summer Olympics are over, and should be considered a major success, in several categories: As TV entertainment, inspirational content, successful propaganda.

Tonight, the Olympics are replaced by day one of the Democratic National Convention from Denver, and by NBC's aggressively premature launch of the first new show of the fall season. In those same three categories -- entertainment, inspiration, propaganda -- how will the Democrats, and NBC's entertainment shows, measure up?


First, one last nod to the Olympics. It was a great Games, and the splendor with which the Chinese packaged it was the Olympic equivalent of shock and awe. Even when they sank to something hokey, like the closing ceremonies British double-decker bus, it somehow managed to charm as much as it perplexed.

And it's worth noting, too, that as figures come in for those watching the Olympics, more than 90 percent of those watching were doing so on television, not on their computers. Something to keep in mind.

NBC's entertainment shows, so heavily promote during the Games, begin rolling out tonight, with a special Deal or No Deal promising to present the first $1 million grand prize in more than 200 contests. (Just shows you how good the bait-and-switch game has been for Howie Mandel and company for years now.) That's followed by the premiere of America's Toughest Jobs, a competition reality series in which contestants compete to do some tough, dirty, physically risky jobs -- crab fishing and Alaskan trucking, in the first two outings available for preview.

americas-toughest-job-crabs.jpgThe show isn't bad, and has enough travelogue aspects to give it some of the flavor of The Amazing Race, as well as a general Walter Mitty aspect to it. It feels, to me, like a good show for cable, but still beneath the level of offering a major broadcast network should be presenting. But I forget -- now that the Olympics are over, we're not talking about a major broadcast network any more. We're talking NBC.


And now for the news, and the convention, and the news about the convention. C-SPAN is the starting place, showing you exactly what's at the podium. And among the commercial broadcast networks, one hour a night is deemed sufficient. At that hour (10 p.m. ET), I'd suggest tuning to CBS, because it's poor Katie Couric's biggest chance to make an impression. As soon as it's over, she and her crew are shifting online. Not cable. On line.

At least Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw and company get to stretch their legs and talk at length over at MSNBC, where Keith Olbermann reins himself in and Chris Matthews runs looser than ever. Here and on NBC, you may also catch glimpses of Luke Russert, Tim's son, making a high-profile debut as correspondent at large, as well as see more of the rapid ascendancy of plain-speaking analyst Chuck Todd.


The point, though, is to be fickle. Jump around to hear what Jeff Greenfield and Bob Schieffer have to say at CBS, and George Will and Maureen Dowd at ABC, and Mark Shields and David Brooks at PBS. And on cable, don't stay on your own side of the political fence. If you usually watch MSNBC, see what they're saying over at Fox News this week, and vice versa. Watch CNN, but also watch the competitors, and broadcasters.

And by all means, remember that Jon Stewart and The Daily Show are covering the convention beginning Tuesday night on Comedy Central, and Bill Maher is returning to HBO with a new Real Time edition on Friday. The Olympics are over, but the political circus is back in town.

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