NBC’s ‘live’ coverage generally means it’s taped
For those of you watching the Winter Olympics – and apparently there are millions of lost souls doing just that – you may have noticed, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein’s famous line about Oakland, there’s no there there, only it’s colder. NBC is giving us 17 straight nights of winter inactivity – imagine if you had tuned in to “Roots” in 1977 for eight consecutive evenings and KuntaKinte never got off the couch.
I have nothing against biathlon or speedskating or luge. The problem is: There are only a dozen or so Winter Olympic sports spread out over hundreds of TV hours and thousands of commercials. It’s like going to a three-ring circus with only one ring in operation.
Here are the major storylines of these Winter Games:
■ Johnny Weir is not wearing fur.
■ Apolo Anton Ohno won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2007.
■ Lindsey Vonn is nursing a bruised shin suffered while training for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.
It’s reached the point where I look forward to that Weather Channel fella coming into NBC’s Olympic studio to update the weather – he’s exciting to watch and I keep thinking he might even give a five-day forecast for L.A.
On a positive note, NBC is losing so much money on the Winter Olympics, it might need a bailout from Jay Leno.
(Incidentally, if NBC wanted higher ratings, it should’ve marketed these games as emanating from Vancouver-o.)
And who can argue with any event that sidelines the National Hockey League for two weeks?
(The NHL shuts down during the Olympics and MLS stops play during the World Cup. So can’t we get the WNBA to go on hiatus during QVC’s Fashion Week?)
As much as I dread sitting down daily for a long day’s journey into nightmarish nothingness, I can find little fault with NBC’s primary studio broadcasters. It’s nice to see MLB Network lends its top voice, Bob Costas, to NBC for a fortnight, and it’s nice to see Al Michaels working more than 16 Sundays a year. But frankly, I’d rather hear Costas interviewing Willie Mays about The Catch in 1954 than Evan Lysacek about The Quadruple Jump in 2010.
(By the way, when did Mary Carillo get this good? She’s so smart and measured, she could double as a yardstick. When you’re on TV long enough, you’re bound to say something stupid – she never says something stupid. Heck, if she did an investigative series on the problems anthills face during rainstorms, I’d be glued to it.)
At this very moment, I feel compelled to briefly discuss the whole live-vs.-tape-delay issue on NBC, simply because it is the topic in which I get the most reader e-mail. Personally, I don’t care when it’s happening – I mean, would I enjoy “Friday Night Lights” any better if it were live instead of taped? – but there are a lot of angry viewers out there ready to storm 30 Rock, or wherever the Peacock sets up its live-on-tape shop these days.
(I’m not 100 percent sure Bob Costas is sitting in a studio in Vancouver; I wouldn’t be surprised if he were in St. Louis, or Passaic, N.J. And I guarantee you that’s a gas fireplace burning brightly behind him.)
Best I can tell, if NBC Sports covered New Year’s Eve, it would tape-delay midnight.
I live in Los Angeles – the same time zone as Vancouver – where we get the entire games on tape delay, like poker. In fact, by the time NBC’s prime-time coverage premieres on the West Coast, the only people who don’t know that Shaun White has won a gold medal that day are those playing poker.
(I understand NBC is having trouble programming 10 p.m. weeknights. Here’s an idea: Year-round delayed coverage of Olympic men’s halfpipe!)
I also must inform viewers that on NBC, when it does say “LIVE” in the corner of your screen, that means, “Maybe LIVE, maybe NOT.”
Footnote: This column used to be live, but lately I’ve found it reads better the longer it’s delayed. NBC might want to take the same tack with Al Trautwig.
Ask The Slouch
Q. What’s your RPI and strength-of-schedule compared to other sportswriters? (William Freeman; Sugar Land, Texas)
A. Sadly, my RPI is 0.5078, which ranks me 168th among sports columnists; I am penalized because I never leave home when I write.
Q. Since we have a Winter and Summer Olympics, do you think there will ever be a Fall and Spring Olympics? (Roger Roudebush; Anderson, Ind.)
A. I believe that is NBC’s next programming innovation.
Q. Is President Obama working diligently to have the hostages from the Tiger Woods press conference released? (Scott D. Shuster; Watertown, Mass.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. What would happen to the ESPN ticker if Tiger Woods were discovered to be having an affair with Danica Patrick on the very same day that Brett Favre announced his retirement and Michael Vick was caught organizing cockfights? (David Paul; Sugar Land, Texas)
Norman Chad is a syndicated columnist. You can enter his $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail email@example.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!