2012 London Olympics
Sure, NBC's presentation of the Summer Games isn't perfect, but THR's TV critic has an unabashed appreciation of the drama, schmaltz and, yes, even steeplechase.
As a critic and very often an unrelenting complainer about television, the Olympics represent something you really and truly have to train for. You can't imagine how difficult it is to complain out loud for that long. It's exhausting.
And yet, I didn't even bother this time around. Do I hate the tape delays? Yes. The editing? Yes. The schmaltzy packages? Sure, sometimes. The extended flashbacks to previous Olympics when the time could be better spent on something happening right then? Yes. Ryan Seacrest? Yes. Bob Costas? No. You try doing that job, then you can bitch about it.
Could NBC be doing better? Hell yes. And if ABC did it, the answer would be hell yes again. CBS, too. Fox as well. ESPN, for sure. If you created a dream team of announcers and wrote a Magna Carta-esque charter on the absolutely perfect way to produce an Olympics, guess what? People would complain. A lot. And for a long time, with searing specificity.
So I'm not complaining about NBC and the Olympics. I may soon start to complain about people complaining about it. It's tiring. And repetitive. And it will not help. The Olympics will never, ever be broadcast in real time unless the U.S. government foots the bill and tells PBS to turn the cameras on and go home. You'd hate that, too. And PBS would probably find a way to sneak in some pledge breaks right when Usain Bolt is winning the 100 meters.
See? You'll never be happy. And guess what? If you live on the West Coast, everything is tape-delayed to death anyway, and our whining goes for naught. So I accept it. But as much as it pains you, give NBC credit for going on a massive buying spree, acquiring all types of cable channels that now show you things like steeplechase and badminton and whatever else is curious and awesome.
Part of the reason I'm not complaining is that I love the Olympics. NBC can't break me. I will watch hours and hours of the Olympics. I will tape-delay them for further consumption. I will watch the primetime package because I know that's how NBC pays the bills, and oh, by the way, NBC shelled out more than $4 billion -- that's $4 billion you, me and the government do not have -- for rights to the Olympics in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020.
I'm exhausted thinking of all the complaining for the next eight years, so I will play the game as it's presented to me. I'll watch as much Lolo Jones and Logan Tom as I can find, and there's nothing you can do to shame me about it. I'll watch Team USA basketball almost against my will. I'll be the one to decide when I've seen enough interviews with Michael Phelps. See, there is some control on the part of the viewer.
As for spoilers -- we are not Luddites. Look, I love Twitter. But I know better than to be on it during sports events I don't want spoiled. For the Olympics? Well, I can't be off it that long, so some things will be spoiled. I will watch them anyway. I will watch Bolt and the U.S. swimmers and whatever else NBC has decided to package. Hell, I watched a U.S. women's soccer match live -- tremendous television! -- and I will watch it again, edited for highlights.
Despite the glitches in NBC's streaming services, that's a great option. I don't begrudge the network trying to get its money back and packaging the saccharine. I don't worry about spoilers because in our world, it's not just Twitter that spoils things. Sometimes it's Today promos. Sometimes it's people behind you in line at the cafe. It happens. I've got bigger things to worry about. And also to complain about -- you should see the NBC fall schedule.
I love all the obscure sports. I watch the women's marathon start to finish. I watch badminton and archery. I was mesmerized by the trampoline nuttiness. I mute Seacrest. I do what I have to do to enjoy this little slice of Olympic beauty. I love sports. I also love complaining. But I know when it's pointless.
3 BEST AND WORST MOMENTS: Dont' let NBC fool you about what is or isn't an Olympic moment. We viewers create those on our own. We don't need violins to pull emotions. Here are my three best and worst moments -- so far.
1. U.S. women's soccer star Alex Morgan's header for the semifinal win against Canada. The whole match was thrilling, but that was the drop-to-your-knees, fist-pump moment.
2. A combination of accumulated pride on the faces of each British athlete, particularly heptathlon winner Jessica Ennis (right) and the very un-British but highly welcome public displays of affection from Prince William and Kate Middleton. Hosting is tough, and Britain is doing well at it.
3. Joy. Granted, this is not a singular thing. But it's why we watch. Witness South African swimmer Chad le Clos' reaction after beating his idol, Michael Phelps, for gold -- even better, the off-the-charts enthusiasm of his father, Bert. Worth Googling.
1. People obsessing about Gabby Douglas' hair.
2. Falling for the speed and grace of badminton, only to realize -- in the most obvious way possible -- that top players were tanking matches.
3. Twitter. No, not that it ruins NBC's tape-delayed results but that a lot of athletes have used it to make asses of themselves.
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