It’s been six days and my love affair with the Olympics has ended. Or, to be more accurate, it’s been EIGHTEEN GODDAMN YEARS and NBC has BROKEN MY HEART.
I have not fallen out of love with the Olympics; no, I still go to bed every night during this fortnight murmuring “Citius, altius, fortius,” I’m still obsessively monitoring the Excel spreadsheet that features my Olympic pool (I’m currently in seventh place with six points, thanks, Shani Davis), and I’m still planning on, you know, watching the rest of the Games. But I would like to beat NBC with flaming sticks. For a couple of reasons.
First, the tape delay. Look, I know that NBC paid a shitload of money for the exclusive broadcast rights and wants to air as much of the Games as possible in primetime, because primetime commercials cost more and that’s how they make the fancy money. I work in media; I get it. But for the LOVE OF SHAUN WHITE. NBC was able to sweet-talk the Chinese into scheduling every single one of Michael Phelps’s finals in primetime, that is, at like 9:30 in the morning Beijing time. I understand that several Olympic sports, namely, the skiing, are dependent on daylight, and therefore can’t be held at 10 p.m. when it’s conducive to East Coast television schedules. But there are a number of sports that are competed indoors, namely, the massive ratings draw that is figure skating, and both snowboard halfpipe and freestyle moguls can be done at night, under lights. Not to be all EST-centric about it, but would it EFFING KILL YOU to schedule those at like 5 o’clock West Coast time and air them live? On both coasts? Because here’s the thing: I don’t like finding out who wins nine hours before I watch the race! It’s anticlimactic! It makes still-miked Lindsey Vonn sobbing happily into her husband’s chest somewhat less poignant for me! You know what I like? Suspense! Maybe if NBC put the tiniest bit of effort into preserving some of the element of surprise, we wouldn’t be all, “What, that? I heard about that five hours ago!”
Second: The Interwebs. So NBC has insisted on tape-delaying various events, including snowboard cross, skiing events, and all the short track events that don’t involve Apolo Ohno, which are relegated to the late night block with Mary Carillo and her dead eyes (more on that later). BUT. They still have live results on nbcolympics.com, so if you wander over there during the day to, say, check on how your pet luger is doing, you’ll see a great big animated graphic trumpeting Seth Wescott’s surprise repeat gold. When you had planned on watching that race after you finished your work.
I’m just confused about why NBC can’t manage to stick to one or the other. Either you’re going to tape-delay the events, and make us wait to watch them, OR you’re going to tell us who won as soon as they happen. WHY ARE YOU DOING BOTH?! It’s infuriating. Almost as infuriating as the fact that there’s nothing on the television for me to watch at work other than CURLING. SERIOUSLY. Today, there was nothing on except curling on USA until 3 p.m., when NBC started showing tape-delayed cross-country skiing. While the ladies’ downhill was happening, as Pat Kiernan’s Twitter told me. Pat, interestingly, is actually attending the Olympics with his family. And he’s a more efficient news source when he’s on vacation than NBC is while doing their effing jobs. DUDE, NBC. Stop sucking.
Third, the insane features. I know it’s a hoary cliché with, like, cobwebs on it at this point to talk about how NBC’s features are maudlin, overblown, and ridiculous. But I think they’re even worse this year. Don’t get me wrong; I love anything that reminds me that Evgeni Plushenko is a Bedazzled Darth Vader. But in Beijing, we had NBA players wandering around the Great Wall of China, and that, at least, was kind of interesting, because Dwight Howard looks funny next to befuddled Chinese tour guides. In Vancouver, which from all accounts is a completely lovely city full of delightful people, good food, and high-qualify drugs, we have MARY GODDAMN CARILLO asking some poor Yukoner when he first met a polar bear. DURING LIVE SPORTS, Mary “I do love tennis” Carillo and her dead eyes are interrogating innocent Canadians about their wildlife! WHAT THE FUCK, NBC.
This is not to say there aren’t good things. NBC finally took Dick Button out of the figure skating commentators’ booth (although they retained underminery Sandra Bezic and excitable gnome Scott Hamilton), and they’ve hired some reasonably intelligent people to call sports they specialize in, like Jonny Moseley, who did a respectable job with moguls, and Dan Jansen, who barely looks like he’s aged since his Visa commercial. And have I mentioned how I enjoy Brian Williams? I do. And I like how the Today Show folks are calling their satellite studio “Studio 1-Eh.”
Oh! But one other thing? What the HELL is up with all the fucking Dreamworks promos? It’s not just that the creators of How to Train Your Dragon bought like forty-seven-thousand ad spots during these Games, NO. They actually paid to have the commentators kick to the ad with drivel like, “Well, if you thought that ski jumping was great, wait till you see what our friends at Dreamworks have dreamed up! They think they know how Vikings might have ski jumped!” And then there are some antiseptic animations that make Shrek look like Akira and it SUCKS.
I’m too tired and tipsy (happy birthday, Kyle) to look up whether NBC has already bought the exclusive rights to the London Games. I seriously effing hope they haven’t. I don’t remember much about how the networks covered the Games pre-NBC hegemony, but SOMEONE has got to give Dick Ebersol a fucking wakeup call. Because if they’re this inept when the Games are happening three hours before us, how viciously crappy is it going to be when they’re five hours ahead?
This does not mean I am not excited about the figure skating tomorrow night. It means I want to smack some sense into Dicks Ebersol and Button, because they are RUINING THIS FOR EVERYONE. Also, I am not too dignified to say that I kind of want to see Lindsey Vonn’s gnarly shin bruise. And I want to know what cheese can do for you. Fuck, that is some air Shaun White is grabbing, yeah?
February 18th, 2010