CBS scores well with offbeat reporting, but loses credit for drug charge


February 21, 1994|By RAY FRAGER

Making cross country skiing and biathlon entertaining can't be the best assignment. In fact, it must rank right up there with trying to give Dan Rather a regular-guy image -- and we've all seen how that's gone.

CBS has given it a good run, though. The network has documented the wild enthusiasm of Norway for the sports and the fanaticism of the followers. There has been the whimsical -- a search for the nut who dived into the snow at the cross country finish while wearing nothing but long underwear. And there has been the heartbreaking -- the Russian single mother who leaves her young son six months at a time for cross country training.

Yesterday afternoon, though, CBS did some competitors a disservice. Biathlon analyst Lyle Nelson aired charges of blood doping against the Germans. Other than their remarkable improvement, no real basis was offered for the accusations.

Like the best biathletes, the network needed to go the distance and be on target in reporting such a story. CBS did neither.

Root for the home team?

CBS bobsled analyst John Morgan can't be accused of being a homer. Yesterday afternoon, he ripped a start by the U.S. two-man team of Brian Shimer and Randy Jones.

"That's deplorable. . . . They're going backward," Morgan said.

As it turned out, the U.S. start fit in well with others yesterday, when many teams were a little slower at the top. Morgan didn't apologize.

On the other hand

Three of the better moments on yesterday's telecasts:

* Swiss bobsled driver Gustav Weder, depicted as the most intense, intimidating of competitors, celebrating his gold-medal win by flailing around on the ground like a 3-year-old being tickled.

* The shots from the camera stationed by the end of the ski jump. The view down the hill was scary and spectacular.

* Bill Giest's funny piece mocking the sameness of ice dancing compulsories. Scott Hamilton and Mary Carillo got in on the act.

Name game

You may have noted the presence of Norwegian ski jumper Espen Bredesen. His first name, of course, is Norwegian for "cable home of Fred Edelstein."

The Leeza we could do

Maybe you've been dozing for a month and a half. Maybe you just can't miss anything that features Leeza Gibbons. Maybe you get paid to watch this kind of stuff.

That last one is my excuse, so pick one of the others as a reason for watching last night's "Shattered Glory," an unrevealing rehash of L'Affaire Harding (ooh, it drives me wild when I speak French).

The syndicated show, aired on Channel 2, featured a staple of such programs -- the psychologists who analyze people they've never met.

Numbers game

In the greatest of Olympic athletes, there is a consuming inner drive, a force that enables them to persevere. As I repeat the ratings news each day, I feel a little of that drive.

But then I take some aspirin, and I'm much better.

CBS' Saturday night prime-time Olympic show drew a 25.8 rating and 43 share, 43 percent over the second Saturday of the 1992 Winter Games. The eight-night ratings average is 25.2, 35 percent over the 1992mark at the same point.

Ratings measure (c'mon, man, you can do it!) the percentage of television households (go for it, baby!) watching a program. Shares (stay focused now!) measure the percentage among homes (push it, push it!) where television is in use (way to go -- U-S-A! U-S-A!).

Looking ahead

This morning on CBS (7-9, channels 11, 9), Paula Zahn has breakfast with Dan Jansen and his family. If he'd won silver instead of gold, would he have gotten Jim Nantz?

Because it's Presidents' Day, CBS Olympic coverage will be on 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. this afternoon. The highlight should be the live, must-tie game for the U.S. hockey team against Italy. Tonight, a half-hour has been added (8-11:30) because of the ice dancing finals.

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