On the ice, it apparently doesn't do a figure skater any good to be too cautious. Off the ice, it certainly doesn't do a figure skating commentator any good.
Katarina Witt's debut as a skating expert for CBS during the Albertville Games has not been a great revelation. The network has a strong analyst team at the rink in Scott Hamilton and Tracy Wilson; Witt adds little.
Yesterday, during a news conference, Witt spoke of her approach to commenting on the competition. And her answers to some of the questions spoke of the problems in that approach.
"I think I learned that you have to think twice before you say anything," Witt said. "I don't really want to criticize. . . . You want to say what's wrong. You have to say what's right.
"You see them [the skaters], and they don't skate well; you feel sorry for them."
A little sympathy is fine, but Witt can be quite sharper in her comments. For example, here's what she had to say about American Tonya Harding in USA Today: " . . . the choreography and steps are just not there. This is a total weakness. If she misses her jumps, Tonya's program is in trouble, because there is nothing else."
Pretty strong stuff, Katarina, but why are you saving it for the newspapers?
Pass the spinach: Witt was asked yesterday how it felt to be a sex symbol. After an initial response of "aye-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi [I lost count of the yis]," she offered a Popeye answer: "I am what I am, and people see me different ways."
Hanna-Barbera goes to the Olympics: CBS went a little cartoon crazy last night. A run through the bobsled course was illustrated with an animated Sandinavian team. The cartoon just distracted from the information. There was also a rather long excerpt of "The Bartman" video by Bart Simpson through a rather tenuous connection to a speed skater. Save it for Saturday morning, folks.
These are a few of my favorite things: CBS' piece showing American skater Nancy Kerrigan's mother, who is legally blind, watch her daughter perform by pressing up close to a television was quite moving. . . . CBS' cameras and microphones also caught American skier Julie Parisien relaying instructions about the slalom course via radio to a teammate at the top of the hill.
Looking ahead: Set the VCR, sneak a television into the office or take a really long lunch today; the United States vs. Unified Team hockey game is live at 11 a.m. on CBS. . . . CBS will stay on the air with hockey until the game's conclusion, but then move back into regular programming. . . .
This morning on CBS (7-9), the network will preview the U.S. hockey game. . . . Also scheduled are interviews with Gerhard Heiberg of the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee and Sandra Bezic, choreographer for U.S. skater Kristi Yamaguchi. . . . What will we see on tonight's CBS show (8-11)? I'll go out on a limb and say that you might get to watch a bit of the ladies' figure skating.
Ratings game: The female skaters gave CBS a big boost Wednesday night in prime time. After suffering its first ratings loss during the Olympics on Tuesday night, CBS romped Wednesday, drawing a 22.8 rating and 35 share, beating NBC's 14.5/22 and ABC's 9.9/15. A rating measures the percentage of all television households watching a program. A share measures the percentage among homes where television is in use.
Through 12 Olympic nights, CBS is averaging 19.2/30, 1 percent higher than ABC's 12-night average for the 1988 Calgary Games. Though last night's lineup was a little weak, with tonight's figure skating, tomorrow night's skating exhibition and Sunday's closing ceremonies, CBS seems assured of topping the 17.0 ratings average it has guaranteed advertisers.