February 15, 2014

Olympic Viewing: Live and die with figure skating

Highlights from television coverage of the Sochi Olympics:

SKATE OFF: Live by figure skating, die by figure skating. Friday's men's free skate competition had neither artistry nor suspense, with underwhelming performances from many of the top competitors. Figure skating is the most popular event of the Winter Olympics, so it's easy to understand why NBC locked in the final 90 minutes of its broadcast for it. When things turn out so poorly, it can't help but bring the entire broadcast down. NBC's analysts didn't hide their disappointment, although in one case maybe they should have: Scott Hamilton's nearly teary reaction to Canada's Patrick Chan succumbing to pressure and losing out on a chance to win a gold medal was over the top. Best observation came from Sandra Bezic: "Skaters of this generation tend to have computers for brains. They're counting points, instead of just skating."

WEIR WARDROBE WATCH: Johnny Weir could have gone the easy route and worn red on Valentine's Day, but instead NBC's skating analyst had a sparkling silver jacket, with what seemed to be a pearl bolo tie.

EYE ON COSTAS: Meredith Vieira was a solid pro in her first turn as prime-time Olympics host, filling in for the still-ailing Bob Costas, although she wasn't given much to do. There's been some online grumbling about NBC turning to two "Today" show hosts to sub for Costas (Matt Lauer did it the last three nights) instead of a sportscaster. But, really, what's required is an engaging MC. If NBC attracts just a sports audience to the prime-time telecast, it fails. It was smart to have a woman do the job on a night where skating dominated the agenda. Vieira is likely to be back again Saturday; NBC says Costas is improving but is still day to day.

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