Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winter Olympics: Will TV Ever Learn?

This is my sixth Winter Olympics as a TV critic, which puts me one ahead of Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe-Langenburg, the oldest competitor this time around.

Winter Olympics: Will TV Ever Learn?

Lindsey Vonn. (Marcio Sanchez / AP)
Lindsey Vonn. (Marcio Sanchez / AP)

This is my sixth Winter Olympics as a TV critic, which puts me one ahead of Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe-Langenburg, the oldest competitor this time around. He started before me, in 1984, but was missing after 1994 until now. The skiing prince, who comprises the entire Mexican Olympic team (his name and title come from a former principality in Germany), gets a zillion points for style and chutzpah, though he has never come close to winning an actual medal.

I'm two ahead of NBC, or three, if you don't count the distant past, so they should listen to these three tips:

1) Please remember that many viewers don't know doodly about these sports. Help them understand. Don't throw techincal terms or baffling insider jargon into your analysis. Don't conduct an interview, as Cris Collinsworth (and isn't he looking particularly oily?) did Friday night with snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis, referring to some event in "ancient history" without saying what it is.

2) Beware pretentious cathedral music and overblown bloviating. This is how the network described Jacobellis' 2010 Olympics: "Her story is simply sympathetic. After surrendering gold with a premature celebration gone wrong, Vancouver is about redemption." The two senseless sentences came in the opening tease for the entire 17-day extravaganza. Editors had plenty of time to fix them, giving them some semblance of grammar and also helping them explain how Jacobellis landed on her kiester, in second place, after hot-dogging it with a big lead in a snowbard race back in ancient 2006.

3) Don't get stuck in your pre-arranged stories. Everybody loves the USA, and lovely skier Lindsey Vonn and super scamp snowboarder Shaun White, who makes Carrot Top look like a brunette and always gets "Big Air." (Please try not to use that expression more than 100 times.) But new stars and stories will emerge. They always do. Cover them, even if they come from some boring place like Norway. Also, try to keep the proportion of coverage no greater than two parts United States, one part the rest of the whole wide world..  

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 jstorm@phillynews.com.

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