Saturday, May 23, 2015

NBC Announcers Get It Right at the Olympics

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NBC Announcers Get It Right at the Olympics

The Olympics pairs champions.
The Olympics pairs champions.

NBC's announcers are hitting some high notes at the Olympics by not hitting too many notes at all. Sandra Bezic's gasp spoke volumes, breaking the silence when Zhao Hongbo almost dropped his wife in the pairs figure skating finale. Zhao and Shen Xue (the best way to deal with these names is to copy and paste from the Associated Press) won the event, even though their teammates, Pang Qing and Tong Jian, skated better. But that's how it goes in hidebound figure skating, where the night's performance combines in the judging with various off-ice stories. Props to the exuberant American skaters, who went breathakingly all out, even if they had no chance to win. They were easier to watch, too, coming at a respectable time in the evening. Live coverage is great, but it also creates an Olympic TV-watching event, the late-night awake-athalon, as viewers struggle to keep eyes pried open way past 11 p.m. 

Todd Harris used actual words to convey a concept well at the finish of the snowboard cross: "In a sport where the one thing you can count on is absolutely nothing, Seth Wescott controls his moment of Olympic Gold." Westcott became the first person to win a snowboard event in consecutive Olympics. Snowboard cross is my favorite new event because it's easy to understand and provides plenty of chills and thrills with multiple racers simultaneously on the mountain, and wonderful wide views of the spectacular scenery wherever the Winter Olympics are held. "Artistry, speed and guile are all tested," said Bob Costas, doing a fine anchor job, even if he should stop trying so hard not to look his age, which will be 58 next month.

As a writer, I have tended to concentrate on the words covering the Olympics over the years, but with a decent-sized flat screen and high definition, we are seeing pictures now that overwhelm the sound, and the NBC announcers get that, letting skis and snowboards do more of the chattering.

But it's not all sweetness and light, NBC. There was no place for a product placement promo for a coming feature film cartoon (and there will be no title placement here, Dreamworks). Costas, also clearly offended, almost gagged on the intro. Worse was a half-hour Vancouver travelogue from NBC's LX.TV that aired in many markets, including Philadelphia, and was nothing more than a series of commercials.

The network's doing great in the ratings: More than 30 million viewers for Friday's opening ceremonies, the most ever for a non-American Winter Olympics, and the numbers last night were considerably better than the current prime-time gold standard, American Idol.


About this blog
My So-Called Life, Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Survivor, I’ll Fly Away, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The X-Files, Northern Exposure, Roseanne, Gilmore Girls, NYPD Blue, Frasier, Ally McBeal, and, in the much-too-overlooked category, American Dreams, The Riches, Flight of the Conchords and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

TV has given us wondrous fare over the last 20 years, and Philadelphia Inquirer TV critic Jonathan Storm has been paid to watch it. He has also been forced to watch five cycles of presidential debates, Fear Factor, The Swan and Bill O’Reilly. There is no free lunch in life.

He’s still watching and talking to the folks who make TV, from mega-producers Jerry Bruckheimer and David E. Kelley to the little kids in Medium. And now he’s blogging about it, with insights and info that you won’t find anywhere else. Reach Jonathan at

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