Highlights from television coverage of the Sochi Olympics:
TOUGH STUFF: Bob Costas' sharp, if jarring, commentary Friday changed the narrative for those who thought NBC ignored or displayed a naive attitude about the world outside of the Olympic Village. The NBC host noted how Ukrainian athletes at the games were showing their concern for their country's political unrest, and tied what was going on there to Vladimir Putin's Russia. Costas said the Sochi Olympics had gone off better than many people feared going in, "all of which is truly wonderful, but should not serve to obscure a harsher or more lasting truth. This is still a government which imprisons dissidents, is hostile to gay rights, sponsors and supports a vicious regime in Syria — and that's just a partial list." While the games' may burnish Putin's reputation in some eyes, "no amount of Olympic glory can mask these realities," he said.
CURLING & SKIING: CNBC gets a solid audience at dinner time with its curling coverage, climaxed Friday by the men's gold medal match between Canada and Britain. It's an odd, complicated sport and the weakness of NBC's Andrew Catalon and John Benton comes in failing to make novices feel informed and involved. By contrast, Christin Cooper — who was maligned earlier in the games for a Bode Miller interview gone awry — did a marvelous job explaining the technicalities of the women's slalom while losing none of the heart-pumping excitement. She pointed out the flawless technique of American gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin, and how close the skier came to losing control in her final run. Cooper criticized the "passive approach" taken by Slovenia's Tina Maze, and the results showed how costly that was.
ROUGH SKATE: Somehow appropriate that the Americans capped their bleak showing in speedskating by losing a relay gold to the Russians. Young NBC analyst Apolo Ohno had a bad race, too. Throughout, Ohno remarked how the Americans were smartly drafting behind the Russians and were in perfect position to take over toward the end. But it was the Russians who took over, and Ohno praised a "textbook" performance that he earlier had found lacking. In an earlier short race won by Russia's Viktor Ahn, Ohno was insightful in his analysis of Ahn's race strategy. "This man had the race won before we all knew the gun had even gone off," he said.