CBS captures emotions, which burn on like flame

RADIO-TV

February 11, 1992|By RAY FRAGER

Bonnie Blair stood tall, lifted over the speed skating rink she ruled as Olympic champion. Gazing up at the flag with watery eyes, she sang the national anthem.

At its best, Olympics coverage reminds us of why sports and their practitioners so interest us. It is to CBS' credit that, though we may be talking about the Mike Tyson verdict today, next week we'll remember the images of Blair's family celebrating in the stands and of China's Ye Qiaobo, the silver medalist, weeping in frustration at not getting another chance to skate.

CBS saved Blair for the last hour of its prime-time coverage last night, by which time almost everyone must have known that she'd won the gold. Did that make the coverage any less dramatic?

Sure, but listen to Chuck Blair, Bonnie's brother, on seeing his sister's victory on television for the first time: "Knowing she won the gold, I was still in there pushing for her."* Anyone remember the theme from "Ultra Man"?: One of my favorite moments from last night's telecast was CBS' use of the "Speed Racer" cartoon theme song to go with footage of ill-fated bobsled runs. . . . A telling shot came from men's figure skating practice: American Christopher Bowman arguing with his coach, apparently over a difficult maneuver Bowman is having problems mastering.

*

Not downhill from here: By the time it reached the screen last night, the downhill portion of the men's combined ski competition was pretty old news. But CBS' prime-time show put a fresh face on the coverage.

Analyst Andy Mill used the telestrator to demonstrate how Luxembourg's Marc Girardelli ended up falling. Who needs John Madden?

And excitement was pumped into a feature on Switzerland's Paul Accola -- a country guy whose big off-course thrill is driving a tractor -- by giving his skiing a soundtrack of "Good Vibration" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.

*

Looking ahead: Watch for CBS to play up its main event tonight the pairs figure skating final. To that end, Harry Smith will report from the skating arena in Albertville during this morning's show (7-9), which will also feature an interview with American skaters Calla Urbanski and Rocky Marval. . . . Mark McEwen, the "CBS This Morning" weatherman, will be at the cross country venue in Les Saisies on the morning program. . . .

Greg Gumbel is scheduled to interview Jean-Claude Killy, the driving force behind Albertville's Games, this morning. . . .

Planned for tonight's CBS program (8-11) is a piece by Charles Kuralt -- does he ever do anything that fails to entertain or inform or do both? -- on the mothers of athletes. . . . In conjunction with Kuralt's report, CBS will attempt a live interview from Moscow with the mother of pairs skater Natalia Mishkutienok, who is expected to win gold with partner Artur Dmitriev.

Ratings game: CBS' national ratings for its first two nights of Olympics programming (Saturday and Sunday) averaged a 19.0 rating and 29 share, 29 percent higher than ABC's first two nights during the 1988 Games from Calgary. A rating measures the percentage of all television households watching a program. A share is the percentage among homes where television is in use.

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