Bloodshot Eyes on Beijing

After too many hours of watching the Olympics, here are...

...Some things I still can't get enough of:

-- Those mesmerizing aerial shots of the Great Wall.

-- Replays of the men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay.

-- Slo-mo replays of Michael Phelps's victory in the 100-meter butterfly. He won by how much? Still hard to believe.

-- Track.

-- Field.

-- Swimming.

-- Bob Costas's smooth, smart stylings as emcee of NBC's primetime broadcasts. The man never oversells (take a lesson, gymnastics crew), and always has something useful and informative to say. He's every bit as good as ABC's sainted Olympic host Jim McKay was, with a better sense of humor to boot.

...Some things that there's not enough of:

-- The American men's basketball team in primetime.

-- The American men's volleyball team in primetime.

...Some things I've had enough of:

-- Reaction shots of Phelps's mom. Okay, she's proud of her son -- we get it (And why won't NBC say a word about the whereabouts of Phelps's dad?).

-- Synchronized anything.

-- Classic rock and pop at beach volleyball (Last night, they played "Kung Fu Fighting," which contains the oh-so-racially sensitive lyric, "There was funky Chinamen from funky Chinatown...").

-- Incessant commentary about how much "pressure" the Chinese gymnasts are under. What, the Americans, the Japanese, the Russians and the who-knows-whats aren't under pressure? And wouldn't the pressure the Chinese are allegedly under be offset by their home-court advantage?

-- Teeny, tiny mini-scandals (scandalettes?) such as the Lip-Syncgate, the flap about the fake fireworks and this little business about using ethnically incorrect stand-ins at the Opening Ceremonies. Yes, the West reads these episodes as metaphors for something more sinister -- the Chinese government's authoritarianism and perfectionism -- but even a cynic (who, me?) should be unimpressed by the degree of "trickery" involved and the harm (if any) done. Said cynic would also have to admit that the organizers are running a perfectly nice Olympic Games so far.

-- Morgan Freeman's voiceovers for Visa. Shouldn't he be recuperating?

-- Advertisers who claim their products "unite" the world. Yeah? Can you do something about Russia and Georgia, McDonald's?

-- Preemptions. NBC cut away from an exciting men's volleyball match at a critical juncture Friday night. It did the same with some of the long swimming and bike races. It'll likely do it with the distance-running events. Hate it when that happens.

-- Rowdy Gaines's repeated use of the phrase "left in the tank" to describe swimmers entering their final lap. As in, "I don't think he has anything left in the tank, Dan."

-- Cris Collinsworth hanging around with Michael Phelps's mom.

-- Cris Collinsworth doing anything at the Olympics. Admit it, NBC: He's human product placement for Sunday Night Football. Send him home.

-- Almost all of NBC's promos for its fall shows. Snippets of sex and violence for the whole family! And are they serious about the claim for the new sitcom "Kath and Kim," that it's "based on Australia's No. 1 show"? That's worth bragging about?

By Paul Farhi  |  August 16, 2008; 2:03 AM ET
Previous: Entirely Michael Phelps-free Column! | Next: N. B. Don't See It


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--> the organizers are running a perfectly nice Olympic Games so far.

Don't forget about those empty seats and thundersticks Dan Steinberg is so obsessed about.

Posted by: Chinese Translator | August 16, 2008 3:15 AM

Lets not forget the commentators (gymnastics mostly)making statements like "She made a little, tiny mistake there" For God's sake, its one or the other. Its either little or tiny. Not both.

Posted by: Tim Jacobsen | August 16, 2008 11:03 AM

What about beach volleyball altogether? Sure, it's been nice to see some televised, and sure, it was enjoyable at the outset, but does this really warrant being on each and every night during primetime? What about indoor volleyball (equally compelling storyline there with the US team doing well)? What about soccer? What about more cycling? Sure, ratings are the motor driving the show, but as long as NBC's got some gymnastics or Michael Phelps coming later, they could afford to make this coverage of a broader swath of sports. At the very least, don't cut out coverage on the other channels to move everyone over to primetime.

Posted by: CPW | August 16, 2008 12:45 PM

I, too, am tired of the Beach Volleyball. It's not as if these are medal rounds. I just don't care. (And could someone PLEASE tell me why the women have to wear bikinis that look like they could fall off in a stiff breeze, but the men get to wear long baggy shorts and baggy tank tops? If you're gonna make the women strip, I want the men shirtless in Daniel-Craig style swimming briefs ;) ).

And I'm also ultra annoyed at the obsessive coverage of Women's gymnastics over Men's. And the fact they spent tons of recap prime-time on Friday night on the Women's All Around, but a quick recap for the Men's. I realize the men didn't provide the same drama as the women, but the Men's events are, in many ways, more awe-inspiring than the Women's. Perhaps Bela Karolyi has dirt on someone so they have to give him screen time or something.

Finally - the US silvered in shotput yesterday. You could see the men warming up in the background of the 100m heats. But they didn't bother airing anything of it until the late-session, and there's the briefest of recaps on the web site. Would it have been too horrible to show the shotput finals last night in prime time, instead of that hideous Mark Spitz/Michael Phelps interview? Track & Field coverage is more about Track, less about Field - I'd like to see more Field.

While better with Costas (as opposed to Couric) as anchor, the coverage is still kind of uneven.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | August 16, 2008 1:00 PM

Agree on the Phelps-Spitz interview. Ridiculously over-long; we got the point in the first minute (Mark thinks Michael is "epic;" Michael thinks Mark is an inspiration, etc.). And toward the end, Spitz was playing back lines from his motivational speeches. Yechhhh!

Posted by: paul farhi | August 16, 2008 3:40 PM

It is ridiculous, thanks for talking about the indoor volleyball. I was looking for a recap or video for the Cuba-USA (fem) match and could not even find an article; it is like a “phantom” game. I went to NBC’s website and, yes… finally I find it. But for my astonishment the twelve-minute video was about the warm-up between both times, what a wastes of time!
What a about the action?

Posted by: rhernandez | August 16, 2008 4:49 PM

Why did an American Olympic commentator,(Bob Costas?), refer to Usain Bolt as a some type of freakish running thing, and Michael Phelps the epitomy of a champion swimmer?

Posted by: Treesa | August 16, 2008 11:44 PM

--> Don't forget about those empty seats and thundersticks Dan Steinberg is so obsessed about.

If you were asked by Uncle Sam to sit for 3 hours to cheer for the Chinese playing the tiny ping-pang. Wouldn't you just be bored to death?

Posted by: English translator | August 16, 2008 11:59 PM

Wow. Some people just can't let winners have their moment. I guess that's the way loosers are. Usain Bolt is freakish, as is Michael Phelps. They're both amazing, and Pheplps has been referred to as so many times.

And gymnastics commentators are kind of annoying, but they do their best to make sure those of us who don't understand gymnastics are in sync with what's going on. NBC's doing their best to deliver what people want to see. They do it for the money, being the buisness that they are.

So I have to get up at 3 A.M. to watch my two countries play Football. (USA vs Nigeria in soccer) Who cares? It's once every 4 years. I'd rather have it this way than no way.

Posted by: Addie | August 17, 2008 1:46 AM

I don't really like this Bob Costas had to say every five minutes that Dara Torres a 41 year old she's professional its smart and nice woman deal with it!

Posted by: Ari | August 17, 2008 2:30 AM

You sound like you are depressed and need a mood elevator.
Relax and just enjoy!

Posted by: Judge Judy | August 18, 2008 2:23 AM

I'm so sick of Beach Vollyball that I could scream. There are so many other sports that deserve at least some coverage that get ignored - why? Because NBC thinks Beach vollyball and women's gymnastics will produce more ad revenue than Judo does, and they are probably right. So, when you come down to it, its all about the $$$$, not about good coverage.

Posted by: Judo Jake | August 18, 2008 10:47 AM

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