More than most, Turner executive producer Mike Pearl should have a pretty good feel for what goes into a successful Winter Olympics telecast, as he was a producer for ABC in 1984 and 1988, and the coordinating producer of CBS's efforts in 1992 and 1994.
For TNT's presentation, Pearl has a lot less air time to work with than he did with the network, a significant number of restrictions over what he can show and when he can show it and a whopping 14-hour time difference between Nagano and the eastern United States.
And even with all those roadblocks, Pearl and his crew have done sensational work so far, offering a comprehensive and usually fascinating package that plays to both the sports fan and the curious observer.
From an extended look at a United States-Canada women's curling match to a tip on cooking from an Atlanta-based Japanese chef, yesterday afternoon's show, the first of nine midday programs, moved crisply from event to event.
And in the case of anchor Jim Lampley, crisply is quite the accurate word, since he is working from an outdoor set. Lampley, who has anchored Olympic programs for ABC and NBC, has been superb, moving things along and injecting commentary when needed.
The figure skating magazine show, "The Cutting Edge," has already proven its worth with a terrific demonstration yesterday between host Alice Cook and analyst Peter Carruthers -- both former skaters -- as the two showed and explained various lift techniques, something you hardly ever see in skating programs.
And reporter Jim Huber, who is largely ignored on CNN/SI, came up huge again yesterday with a brilliant and thought-provoking look at rice farming in Japan that told a good story in a simple, but effective way.
THE GOOD: CBS's Gary Thorne and Dan Janssen have been a treat to listen to from the speed skating venue, with good calls of Sunday's 5,000-meter men's distance race and last night's 500-meter men's sprint, though Janssen needs to watch the rooting for American skaters. And the pictures, especially on the turns, and the sounds, particularly of those clap skates, have been quite nice.
THE BAD: While we appreciate the other networks' interest in reporting the Nagano results as soon as possible, it would certainly be appreciated if they'd give viewers who intend to watch either TNT or CBS a bit of a warning so they can tune away and not have a part of their viewing ruined.
THE MISSING DUDE: Everybody's favorite snowboarding comedian, Jim Rippey, was surprisingly relegated to reporting duties for last night's coverage of the women's giant slalom. Now, if CBS could just find some place to hide the annoying Kennedy.
BY THE NUMBERS: CBS is reportedly promising advertisers a 19.4 rating, and Sunday's program (20) was the first to top that, though that figure is still below the 23.5 for the comparable night in Albertville in 1992, and dramatically lower than the 29.4 from the third night in Lillehammer in 1994.
COMING UP: Tonight's CBS (Channel 13) prime-time show will be dominated by the pairs skating final. TNT, meanwhile, will have the U.S.-Canada men's curling match and an interview with Norwegian speed skater Johann Olav Koss, who dominated the 1994 Lillehammer Games.
Milton Kent can be reached via E-mail at MEDIAWTCHol
Pub Date: 2/10/98