Thursday, February 18, 2010

NBC: America is Swell

It's hard to figure out who is influencing who in the style of coverage The Winter Olympics is receiving: NBC chief Dick Ebersol or faux-conservative talk-show host Stephen Colbert. To Colbert's credit, he waves the American flag constantly, and it is such an integral part of his act that he has managed to cheese off the Canadian hosts of the sporting event.

With NBC, I suspect the incessant flag-waving is a bit more calculated.

Just as an example, I watched the Women's Downhill event last night. The breathless chatter for days about the event was all Lindsey Vonn, all the time-- Her serious injury weeks before, her chances of competing. It also doesn't hurt the NBC "inspiring narrative" approach that Ms. Vonn is absolutely adorable. All the medalists were Nordic beauties, in fact. I mean, check out the babe factor on the podium-- it looks like a still from a Hallmark Channel movie, huh?

So when the long-anticipated event happened, the NBC commentary was so Vonn-obsessive it was almost comical. I'm paraphrasing, but it went something like this:

[Near the beginning of the event, an Austrian skier has a pretty decent run.]
ANNOUNCER #1: There is the time Lindsey Vonn has to beat!

[Later, American skier and long-time Vonn rival Julia Mancuso sets the best time for the run]
ANNOUNCER #1: And Mancuso is in gold medal position by almost a full second!
ANNOUNCER #2: A flawless run! Lindsey Vonn will have to go all-out to beat that!

[A Swiss skier has a horrific crash near the end of the course]
ANNOUNCER #2: Lindsey Vonn had better be careful on that last jump!

[Thirty or so other skiers have their runs. For the most part, none are broadcast.]

[Finally, Lindsey Vonn begins her run.]
ANNOUNCER #1: Lindsey Vonn! Lindsey Vonn! Lindsey Vonn! Wow! Lindsey Vonn!
ANNOUNCER #2: Lindsey Vonn! Lindsey Vonn! Wow! Lindsey Vonn! Lindsey Vonn!

It might have made a pretty decent drinking game-- take a shot when you-know-who was mentioned-- but you'd pass out half-way though the event.

At the conclusion of the event, when Lindsey Vonn had secured the gold medal, she had a televised moment with her husband/trainer Thomas. He was miked. NBC shouldn't have bothered. She cried (which is understandable, but the fact her mascara ran when she did was not) and he ran off a monotone string of stunningly clich├ęd words of praise: "You were due. It was amazing. You deserved it. I'm proud of you." and so on. If he knew NBC was going to clip on a lavalier so 80 million people could hear him, I think he'd take ten seconds to think of something, I don't know, genuinely original to say.

I'm just singling out Women's Downhill because it was so overdone: NBC gave Shani Davis, Apolo Ohno, and Shaun White the same breathless narrative treatment. To be honest, snowboarder Shaun White truly deserves breathless praise: Unlike the other measured-by-milliseconds events, even a neophyte viewer can see he's flying ten feet higher than anyone else on his aerials.

No comments:

Post a Comment