Friday, August 03, 2012

NBC: Nicely Butchered Coverage

Yes, it's that time again: time for NBC to show us how inept they are at covering the Olympic Games.

This is not a rant against the usual jingoistic, flag-waving (stars and stripes only, please), USA-centric coverage of the games themselves; I'm used to that by now. I know that the average NBC Olympics viewer could be forgiven for not knowing that other countries also have national anthems, or that there are actually events other than gymnastics, swimming, and the Kerri Walsh-Jennings & Misty May-Treanor swimsuit parade in the Olympic line up.

No, I'm still a little peeved about the botch-job that they made of covering the opening ceremonies.  I can sort of understand NBC delaying the broadcast until prime-time, for ratings bragging rights; I can almost get past the insane number of intrusive commercial breaks that continually halted the flow of the show, but what I can't fathom is why they saw fit to edit out an entire sequence.

The sequence in question was widely perceived as a tribute to victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London in 2005. These attacks occurred the very day after London was awarded the 2012 games, and the 52 victims were among those memorialized in a poignant dance sequence set to the strains of "Abide with Me" performed by Scottish singer Emile Sande.  By all accounts, it was quite moving, and one would think a rather important part of the ceremony. But for some reason, NBC honchos felt that their US audience would be better served by splicing in a taped and tepid interview with Michael Phelps instead.

What? We missed the most sensitive part of the proceedings to watch Michael Phelps squirm and shrug his shoulders at the same old tired, inane questions again? Surely we'd be seeing enough of that during the coming 17 days or so? I can't imagine what their reasoning was. Was it somehow politically motivated? Like NBC, I have no clue. It certainly wasn't to give the three nitwit NBC presenters something more to do; after all, they were already busy yammering incessantly over much of the broadcast.

Actually, when I think about it, the trigger-happy TV presenters might have been the real low point of the broadcast. Losing the memorial tribute section was, after all, achieved by way of a swift editorial scissor snip, and much of the US viewership was none the wiser. In contrast, the wince-inducing commentary from the boorish Bob Costas, the comfortably smug Matt Lauer and the completely batty Meredith Vieira cast a pall on the entire programme.

During the National Healthcare tribute segment, Vieira was heard to utter, "Quite frankly, none of these children look really sick to me," which although a bit of a head-scratcher, still wasn't the kind of wtf moment that occurred with her use of the term money shot while referring to the Queen. I know the editors were busy engineering the coverage to suit what they perceive to be American tastes, but you'd think that since this was a delayed broadcast, someone would have thought to put those censor's scissors to good use here.

I suppose you could forgive Ms.Vieira for not being familiar with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, although her eagerness to admit it just as he was being featured in the ceremony came across as a little cavalier ("If you haven't heard of him, we haven't either.") and certainly the irony of Matt Lauer's response, "Google him" is giggle-worthy, but the fact that she later saw fit to actually impose herself on the musical soundtrack by singing along with karaoke-like aplomb to the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" for a few bars was painful, and well, unforgivable.

Not to be outdone, Lauer's schoolboy-insightful commentary included such zingers as, "Djibouti's name sounds funny!" and "Madagascar - for our younger viewers, a country associated with a few animated movies." Wow. Sounds like he really did his homework.

The unbearably glib and condescending Bob Costas, is of course, an Olympics veteran and should know better. Actually, when I think about it, he does know better -  he knows better than almost anyone how to routinely belittle and marginalize an entire nation with a smarmy, xenophobic quip. Political failings? Budgetary crises? Lack of international sporting success? It's all fair game for Bob. 

 He demonstrated this ably during the parade of nations part of the broadcast. As the athletes entered the stadium, his commentary veered between patronizing and mean-spirited, and made for uncomfortable viewing. Botswana, for example, simply merited a mention as a country whose basketball team was crushed by the US "Dream Team" in 1992 by over 40 points, while Egypt's political climate was referenced with a condescending comment about the country being in "a transition of some sort," adding, "From military dictatorship to Jeffersonian democracy? Not quite." 

His dismissive barb about Australia being "originally founded as a penal colony" was simply lazy and irkesome, but the dismissive "Not a country I would be visiting soon" comment aimed at the North Korean contingent was totally unnecessary, and by the time the Ugandan athletes entered the stadium and Costas actually saw fit to reference Idi Amin, the ex-Ugandan dictator/mass murderer, I broke out in cold sweat and had to throw in the towel. 

Oh well, looking on the bright side - we've got another 4 years before we have to endure the NBC's own broadcasting dream team treating us to assorted vapid factoids about Carnival, and (Brazilian bikini) waxing about life in the slums of Rio. Can't wait. 

NBC: No Bloody Clue.

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