Every four years I get to remember why I really hate watching the Olympics on television. It’s not about the advertising, it’s not even the endless parade of “background” vignettes instead of showing us more events, it’s not the non-family-friendly previews for movies and TV dramas slipped into the advertising stream, it’s not even the talking heads in their quasi-newsroom sets telling us what we need to know about the day.
No, what drives me completely batty are the commentators.
There, I’ve said it. Maybe I’m the only person in the entire country who feels this way, but I just loath these idiots that NBC have hired to “talk us through” how the athletes are doing in specific events. Yes, they know more about the event, about the scoring, about the history of each athlete than I do, but I don’t want to know all of that while the athlete is competing. Afterwards, maybe, but not during.
Last night’s coverage of the men’s figure skating was a classic example of the terrible pontificating coverage of the Olympics. Russian Yevgeny Plushenko was skating to a well-deserved gold medal and the commentators were busy telling us how he can’t “integrate his hand motion with his jumps” and how he has a “dull routine” and how he’s “worked since childhood to be here” and on and on.
Then next up was American Johnny Weir, whose father was watching him compete at this level for the first time, “something that’s probably causing Weir more anxiety than being here at the Olympics” one of the commentators blithly informed us. How do they know? Why would we care? Did I sign up to get insipid psychological commentary during skating events too?
Oh, how I wish that the commentators could be pushed to a separate audio track, like SAP, so I could turn them off and just watch the skating and listen to the music and the cheers of the crowd!
(Yes, I could mute the audio while watching the events, but the music is such an integral part of figure skating that it’s impossible to fully enjoy it without sound. And the cheers and reaction of the audience is also fun and exciting)
Is it any wonder that advertisers are complaining about NBC’s ratings and the reach of the Olympics again? Maybe more events and less commentary, less expensive background mini-documentaries, could help bring people back?
While I’m in a complaining mood, am I the only one who finds how NBC coverage is organized to be terrible too? I have a Dish Network connect with an on-screen guide, and instead of NBC making it easy for me to, say, just record snowboarding and figure skating, I get these monolithic blocks of events:
What I really want to see here is some planning on NBC’s part. I want to see this sliced up so I know that 1:00am-1:20am is the luge (which, btw, still seems to be a sport purely for the insane), and 1:20am-1:35am is downhill skiing, and so on. There are no technological limitations to NBC organizing its coverage this way and you could still have “highlights” segments where they’d have flexibility to cover whatever was the breaking sporting event or news, but when we’re fast-forwarding through three and a half hour blocks of ads, background profiles, idiotic commentary and the occasional few minutes of actual sporting events, it’s darn frustrating.
And I can still distinctly remember our disappointment in the 2002 Olympic coverage when the description promised a specific event that wasn’t actually included in the block of coverage.
I recall a few years ago the attempt to have ‘all Olympics’ channels (I believe there were three channels, “red”, “white” and “blue”?) that failed, but surely there’s some middle ground here? We’re living in the twenty-first century now, with more technology and video processing capability than you can shake a stick at, and we’re still trapped with this terrible coverage of the Olympics?
Ah well. I think I’m just ready for “Olympics 2.0”.