One good move deserves another: Too bad NBC fell for cheap videos

RADIO-TV

July 30, 1992|By RAY FRAGER

In case the many promos have escaped your notice, NBC reminded viewers last night that the network of "I Witness Videos" is telecasting the Olympics.

After sticking with the U.S.-Germany men's basketball rout for only about a half-hour -- a smart move -- NBC broke away for a short swimming segment.

Then -- hey, lookee here, Vern -- it was the parade of falling horses.

Maybe NBC was trying to expose a larger audience to the ballet of horse and rider working as one in the equestrian three-day event. Sure, and Bud Collins will start buying all of his clothes at Brooks Brothers.

Viewers saw horses faltering at jumps, falling and spilling their riders and running the wrong way. An announcer breathlessly informed us that one horse had to be taken away in an ambulance.

What a gyp: We didn't see it.

Though sports might qualify as a kind of "reality-based" program (the category into which network publicists like to place "I Witness Video," a collection of amateur videos showing disasters, accidents and sometimes death), this was strictly pandering. If auto racing were an Olympic sport, perhaps the prime-time programs would be a collection of crashes.

Do you remember that old "SCTV" routine in which two bumpkins reviewed movies on the basis of whether somebody "blowed up real good"? I guess those two sneaked into NBC headquarters overnight.

Hoops du jour

We could have done without the equine version of a Marv Albert blooper tape, but leaving the U.S. basketball game quickly was a wise choice. If NBC is to rally non-sports viewers around the tube, basketball probably isn't the way to do it.

If you're a marginal sports fan, turn on the Olympics and see basketball, you might shrug it off. More hoops? Hey, you overdosed on that back in March. But does anyone get bombarded by gymnastics and swimming other than at Olympics time?

Don't overestimate the power of the Dream Team. It seems NBC quickly has learned not to.

No PC from MC

Political correctness would call for not making fun of a Third World country. But host Bob Costas just couldn't resist last night.

He reported that an attempted coup in Madagascar had failed -- the 10 liberators were able only to take over a radio station for a short time.

"They were unsuccessful," Costas said, "but they were able to change the station's format from classical to country western."

Looking ahead

Tonight is one of NBC's big nights. The prime-time show (channels 2, 4, 7:30-midnight) will focus on a marquee event of the Games, the women's all-around final -- the competition that made Mary Lou Retton the star of pharmacy commercials nationwide.

Tonight, it's Kim Zmeskal's chance. Somewhere between shots of coach Bela Karolyi hugging the 4-foot-8 linebackers, look for a dizzying collection of spins, flips and leaps. And all you he-man sports fans out there, don't look down on this as sissy sport. Take away her ponytail and short stature, and Zmeskal's back silhouette from the waist up could be that of Redskins defensive lineman Charles Mann.

More swimming also is coming your way, with lots of Americans. Towson's Anita Nall should be part of the 4 x 100-meter medley relay team.

Numbers game

N-B-C, N-B-C!!! That peacock network really is shaking a tail feather in the ratings so far. Day 3's prime-time Olympics telecast on Tuesday drew a 20.5 rating and 37 share, topping NBC's high for any night during the 1988 Games (20.1/36).

NBC's three-night ratings average of 19.4 is 16 percent higher than the three-night average of 1988 (16.7).

NBC has sworn on the gap in David Letterman's teeth that it will deliver a 15.3 prime-time average.

Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. And if you put 100 monkeys in a room with 100 typewriters and waited long enough for them to type the two preceding sentences, you'd end up with a very messy room and broken typewriters.

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