Sunday, February 21, 2010

These Hosers Are Your Problem Now, Comcast Corp.

The Winter Olympics ended for me last night when Mary Carillo put on a Mounties' uniform. And if television history has any justice (it doesn't), "Mary the Mountie" will replace "jump the shark" as the phrase signifying that a broadcast or program has gone well past its expiration date into self-parody.

I realize NBC regards actual sports broadcasting as about its eighth priority for any Olympic Games. I don't like it, but I've come to terms with it. Tape-delaying events in the daytime for prime time broadcast, when you are actually broadcasting the Games LIVE in the daytime, is less excusable, but ratings are up, and the network is not a public charity (although you couldn't tell that from its recent financial statements).

The canned features on athletes, designed to jerk tears whenever possible, draw much criticism from sportswriters, but I think they're fine. Hell, they are the TV version of about 99 percent of all the columns I wrote at four Olympics. The first journalistic question of any Olympic Games is "Who the hell are all these fine, healthy, unknown young athletes?" Providing a few answers is part of NBC's job.

In theory, there's nothing wrong with features on the host city/country, either. Travel, even vicarious travel is supposed to be broadening. Vancouver is a vibrant and fascinating city, too.

But Carillo hasn't shown us Vancouver -- at least, I haven't seen her do so. The two features I've seen were one on polar bears, and the Mountie monstrosity. NBC's Canada is ice, snow, cute, and quaint.

In short, Carillo isn't showing us Canada, she is showing us a stereotype of Canada held by small children and approximately one century out of date even for them. The average resident of Vancouver has encountered as many polar bears as has the average resident of Melrose. Wasn't the story of this Games how it WASN'T snowing?

The two Carillo features I've seen could not have been more patronizing, insulting, really. It's as if she had gone to the Salt Lake City games in 2002 and done a feature on what it was like to be some guy's fourth wife.

To me, the baseline story of every Olympic Games is that the world is a far more diverse and interesting place than you can imagine, so open up your mind and learn something new. NBC's message here is the exact opposite: The world is exactly the way you thought it was, so don't bother thinking about it any more. Your hazy ideas and prejudices are all you need in life. That sounds like the fast track to the brotherhood of mankind, doesn't it?

It fills me with a sense of faith in capitalism that NBC stands to lose a bundle in Vancouver. It'll just be one more reason the network's new masters from Comcast, who know quite a bit about sports broadcasting, will, or should be, cleaning house at 30 Rock quite soon. They likely will decide that the Games are a bit rich for their blood after this.

That's both good and bad. We will miss Carillo's 2014 feature from Sochi, Russia, in which she joins one of the organized crime syndicates currently building its bobsled run.


Post a Comment

<< Home