Witt should be sharper with critiques on the air THE ALBERTVILLE GAMES

RADIO-TV

February 21, 1992|By RAY FRAGER

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?

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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