Street story shows some personality LILLEHAMMER '94

RADIO-TV

February 20, 1994|By RAY FRAGER

See, the '60s weren't so bad; they helped produce Picabo Street.

CBS' breezy personality piece -- which included her parents' hippie roots -- and Street's own free-spirited nature on camera during competition were a highlight of last night's prime-time Olympic show.

Hey, CBS, give her a sitcom instead of Tom Arnold. Here's a theme song: "Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Picabo Street . . ."

Sleep on it

Bjorn Dahlie, Norway's cross country skiing hero in Lillehammer, has insomnia. Has he tried watching Pat O'Brien on CBS' late-night show?

Another look

On second thought, I still don't like the way CBS handled Dan Jansen's gold-medal speed skating victory.

Yesterday afternoon, the network replayed the call of his race from several countries -- Japan, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Germany among them -- but that only served to emphasize the pedestrian nature of the Dick Stockton version.

On Friday night, CBS had played the Norwegian call, and the excitement of the announcers -- even though I couldn't understand anything they said except for Jansen's name -- conveyed the emotion of the moment better than CBS' Stockton and Eric Heiden.

The network compounded its mistake Friday by cutting away from Jansen's victory lap with his 9-month-old daughter to show celebrating friends and family back home. The scene in Wisconsin could have been a bunch of Packers fans cheering a '' touchdown. The scene in Lillehammer was a uniquely Olympic moment.

Bodacious

Sometimes you just get lucky, even if you're a TV network. It so happens that NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine's involvement in designing U.S. bobsleds allowed CBS to tell that story yesterday and promote its coverage of today's Daytona 500 at the same time.

The rest of the story

Yesterday afternoon, CBS bobsled analyst John Morgan -- and do you think that's how he lists his occupation on his tax return? -- mentioned during the two-man competition that U.S. driver Brian Shimer had been having problems with starts and had considered dropping brakeman Randy Jones. But Shimer didn't drop Jones, leaving room to wonder -- at least in this iced-over brain -- what had happened and how his working relationship was. No answer was forthcoming in the afternoon.

However, last night in the prime-time show, Jim Gray presented a well-done report on the Shimer-Jones situation. But the question hung in the air for a few hours. Hope you had enough Lysol spray.

Numbers game

These Winter Olympics could wind up as the highest-rated Games ever. Friday night's prime-time marks of a 27.5 rating and share gave CBS a seven-night average of 25.1/38. The 1972 Munich Olympics set the top prime-time rating average at 24.4.

The Lillehammer Games also boosted David Letterman to his best week of ratings since moving to CBS in August -- a 9.1 average.

Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. Larry "Bud" Melman taught me that.

Looking ahead

This morning (9-noon, channels 11, 9), CBS looks at female ice hockey, focusing on 13-year-old players in Minnesota. Perhaps one of them will be in Nagano, Japan, in four years, when women start playing hockey in the Olympics.

During prime time tonight (8-11), CBS reviews the 1984 gold-medal-winning ice dancing of Jayne Torvill and Christoper LTC Dean. When you hear the "Bolero" music, send the kids from the room and don't get close to the TV -- Torvill and Dean generated a lot of heat.

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