Weak Finish: NBC Under Fire For Closing Ceremony Coverage

I generally thought the NBC coverage of the Olympics was pretty good and I like Bob Costas as the central host — even though many objected to the delay in showing events to maximize NBC’s audience during the games. However, the goodwill almost evaporated in watching the coverage of the closing ceremonies. As I tweeted last night, I found it really irritating to have to listen to Seacrest and others talk over the music to add predictable and sometimes vapid comments. It appears I was not alone with critics piling on NBC on social media sites.

For many the most upsetting moment came when NBC cut away early to air a new television show,”Animal Practice.” That meant cutting out Ray Davies, Kate Bush, The Who and Muse in favor of an incredibly silly sitcom. NBC was given this contract with the understanding that it was responsible for sharing the games with the world — a responsibility that was supposed to temper the profit-maximizing inclinations of executives. It clearly failed to do so last night.

For me, the coverage was remarkably bad from both a technical and an artistic standpoint. The sound was not good and uneven. Cameras often caught their own crew moving in the frame or chose angles that denied the viewer an optimal view of the action. More importantly, NBC elected to cut away repeatedly to athletes screaming into the camera. It denied the viewers the chance to enjoy the artistic value of the show and create incongruous moments of athletes yelling into the camera at moving or powerful moments in the performance. This is a celebration of the achievement of the athletes but it is also a world event. I do not blame the athletes for such moments but I fail to understand why it was necessary in the midst of key moments or songs to add screaming athletes biting their medals or piling on each other. It not only denied the viewers a chance to experience the impressive ceremony but denied the organizers the opportunity to show their extraordinary creation with a semblance of continuity.

Then there was the constant talking of the anchors over the performers to add obvious or inane thoughts. Just was the show was unfolding into an amazing display, Costas proclaimed the Ryan Seacrest was here to explain it all. It was bizarre. There seemed to be an inability for anchors to allow the viewers to simply watch the event and insisted on arranging the ceremony around its own celebrities and their stream of conscious thoughts.

Cutting up the ceremony and then breaking off to show the sitcom was a betrayal of the trust given to NBC. I say this is great reluctance because I thought the network did a fantastic job in offering expert commentary during the competition and getting wonderful shots of the action. It was a stellar performance tarnished by the final ceremony. Of course, many of the athletes could have warned NBC that many of top performers were undone by a weak finish.

What did you think?

39 thoughts on “Weak Finish: NBC Under Fire For Closing Ceremony Coverage

  1. I was not impressed with the themes, but most of the music was good. I do not enjoy Bob Costas at any time, but when he and Seacrist were talking over the music it was driving me crazy. I also thought the Brazil portion of the performance was weird. I hope they can improve in 4 years.

  2. The greatest sports announcers had enough self esteem to take a back seat and allow the audience watch/listen to the activity. Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell, Ray Scott, etc. knew that less is more. The Hemingway like way they chose their words, and how they knew silence as a great play developed was more important than narration, is a lost art. Early in his career Costas had that, ego changed it. Ryan Seacrest is, of course, a carnival barker.

  3. I thought the inane comments at the Closing Ceremonies were far less intrusive than the incessant blather over the Opening Ceremonies – but just as annoying. I was quite surprised that they interrupted the program to air that silly sit com. My thoughts through out the Olympics was that NBC could’ve tamped down the urge to make money over honoring the privilege of being the only network allowed to air this wonderful event. Silly me.

  4. While i agree with some of your criticsm I believe all in all NBC did a terrific job in covering the Games…As far as the closing ceremony goes are you really upset seeing old acts lip synching old songs? With all due respect to Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey after hearing “Teenage Wasteland” I dont think one should be too upset not seeing it…

  5. That was the best torch/Cauldron ever….the show was spectacular…Rio confused me a bit…I adore Pele… I was shut out of the Opening ceremony and all of the US coverage…thankyou Roku, I saw the last, best and I got to catch up in the stream …..

  6. The only part of the closing, that struck a chord with me was the John Lennon segment…… After that it went straight downhill and I changed the channel. The Olympics become less & less relevant, the older I get. I don’t think I watched more than 5 or 6 hours all together. NBC’s coverage really sucked….. I was able to get the results on my tablet, to many events, before NBC broadcast them. The broadcast should have been available online and for tablets too…. In 2016, if they are not, I just won’t watch…………

  7. Boring inane B.S. anyway, both opening and closing. But that’s just MO, of course. But it allows me not to care even a tiny bit about all this hoopla.

  8. I agree wholeheartedly on on each of these views so far. What more is there to say? Badly done.

    I suppose I had the luxury of not liking some of the musical acts so I could turn off the sound and not miss much. That way I didn’t have to suffer the annoyance of having to listen to the announcer.

    One would hope that with the reality of modern cable television, that is having Avogadro’s Number of channels with “nothing on”, at least one could have been devoted to a channel of the Olympics without announcers. Perhaps call it Olympics Pure. Maybe just have closed captioning with the names of the Contributors and their score.

  9. I can live with everything except not showing the names/nation of the swimmers in their lanes as they compete.

  10. Exactly what Nick said. Sports coverage in general, I believe, started to deteriorate the year the Red Sox won the WS. It seemed that’s when all attention was focused in on the crowds and not on the playing field.

  11. I watched live on the BBC, which did a brilliant job of both covering the games and providing alternative entertainment for those of us who don’t enjoy the sport so much. The BBC has also kindly provided a commentary-free stream on cable for those who wanted to just enjoy things as they happened, and I watched this stream throughout last night’s closing ceremony.

    If you are able to find a way to watch shows on the BBC’s iPlayer page (I know it’s difficult if you’re using a non-British internet provider) I strongly recommend it. Look for the link to the commentary-free alternative.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/olympics/2012/live-video/p00w33fl

  12. Maybe in Rio, NBC can just have the commentators talk all the time, non-stop; no cameras required. I thought Brandy Chastain would NEVER shut up and the announcers on the other events talked incessantly. And what does Seacrest even have to do with anything Olympic? And out of the panoply of events at the Games, we got to see basketball and volleyball and swimming and some track (very little field). Only at the end of the second week, with the closing ceremonies looming did NBC jam together a bunch of coverage of different events.

    There are almost 30 different sports in the summer games and that’s just the basic categories. We saw very little of anything not involving Americans or the major sports I mentioned above (and gymnastics). Anyone not familiar with the Games would be baffled at all the time it takes just to crown a few swimmers and basketball players.

    As someone commented, next time I’ll get the results on my smartphone or on the web and skip the coverage.

    Tom Hunt

  13. This is another important criticism of the coverage. “WAR ISN’T ENTERTAINMENT— AND SHOULDN’T BE TREATED LIKE IT IS

    An Open Letter to Mr. Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment,
    General Wesley Clark (ret.), Producer Mark Burnett and others involved in “Stars Earn Stripes”:

    During the Olympics, touted as a time for comity and peace among nations, millions first learned that NBC would be premiering a new “reality” TV show. The commercials announcing “Stars Earn Stripes” were shown seemingly endlessly throughout the athletic competition, noting that its premier would be Monday, August 13, following the end of the Olympic games.

    That might seem innocuous since spectacular, high budget sporting events of all types are regular venues for airing new products, televisions shows and movies. But “Stars Earn Stripes” is not just another reality show. Hosted by retired four-star general Wesley Clark, the program pairs minor celebrities with US military personnel and puts them through simulated military training, including some live fire drills and helicopter drops. The official NBC website for the show touts “the fast-paced competition” as “pay[ing] homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services.”

    It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining.

    Real war is down in the dirt deadly. People—military and civilians—die in ways that are anything but entertaining. Communities and societies are ripped apart in armed conflict and the aftermath can be as deadly as the war itself as simmering animosities are unleashed in horrific spirals of violence. War, whether relatively short-lived or going on for decades as in too many parts of the world, leaves deep scars that can take generations to overcome – if ever.

    Trying to somehow sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition further calls into question the morality and ethics of linking the military anywhere with the entertainment industry in barely veiled efforts to make war and its multitudinous costs more palatable to the public.

    The long history of collaboration between militaries and civilian media and entertainment—and not just in the United States—appears to be getting murkier and in many ways more threatening to efforts to resolve our common problems through nonviolent means. Active-duty soldiers already perform in Hollywood movies, “embedded” media ride with soldier in combat situations, and now NBC is working with the military to attempt to turn deadly military training into a sanitized “reality” TV show that reveals absolutely nothing of the reality of being a soldier in war or the consequences of war. What is next?

    As people who have seen too many faces of armed conflict and violence and who have worked for decades to try to stop the seemingly unending march toward the increased militarization of societies and the desensitization of people to the realities and consequences of war, we add our voices and our support to those protesting “Stars Earn Stripes.” We too call upon NBC stop airing this program that pays homage to no one, and is a massive disservice to those who live and die in armed conflict and suffer its consequences long after the guns of war fall silent.

    Sincerely,

    Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1997

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize, 1984

    Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize, 1977

    Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize, 2003

    President José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize, 1996″

    find this at Warisacrime.org

    Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize, 1980

    President Oscar Arias Sanchez, Nobel Peace Prize, 1987

    Rigoberta Menchú Tum, 1992

    Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1977

  14. I guess if one loves volleyball it was great. I can’t stand that stupid sport and wonder why it’s even an olympic sport. NBC as usual stinks to high heavens. I watched most of the Olympics on BBC. with NBC screen next to it without sound. Even then it was so much volleyball, beach volleyball or whatever they are calling it that it made me want to scream. I loved all the gymnastics, equestrian & swimming events. BBC did a 1000% better job than NBC.

  15. “WAR ISN’T ENTERTAINMENT— AND SHOULDN’T BE TREATED LIKE IT IS”

    Jill,

    Thank you for that letter. I couldn’t agree with the sentiments more. When I saw the commercials for that insane show it turned my stomach.

  16. Zarathustra,

    The coverage WAS available on the internet and for tablets. I watched some track and field live on my computer and tablet using NBC’s website and the app for the tablet.

    T,Hunt

    You are right if you only count the NBC local channel coverage but depending on your TV system, there were a lot more choices. My DirectTV system had 3 different channels with different events all day long and two more with a few hours a day in addition to the NBC channel. Given that I had so many channels available, I would say that overall the coverage was good.

    Having said that I do agree that there were a few commentators in some specific sports that were absolutely terrible and I agree that the coverage of the closing ceremony was not particularly good.

    One big complaint I have is the lack of coverage of the gold medal women’s indoor volleyball match. (SPOILER ALERT -> STOP reading now if you don’t want to find out what happened in this game). …. The US women were the favorites to win the gold and this is a very popular sport in the US. The US won the first set but then the Brazilians destroyed them and took the match. I guess NBC did not want to show the US women losing so they scheduled the game for the last segment on Saturday night and only showed the first set and the end of the game. And this after they had spent an hour on a documentary on World War II at the beginning of the broadcast. Volleyball fans deserved to see the best teams battle it out for the gold.

  17. “The greatest sports announcers had enough self esteem to take a back seat and allow the audience watch/listen to the activity. Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell, Ray Scott, etc. knew that less is more.”

    Nick,

    Exactly true and that is what made them great, though I would add Red Barber to that list. You’re also right that Costas had the seeds of greatness in the beginning of his career, but has lost his way.

    As to the NBC coverage in general it was a horror show. Each four years the tendency towards just viewing the Olympics from an America-centric perspective seems to become stronger. what hooked me on the Olympic Games as a boy was the showing of track & field, with gymnastics as a centerpiece. Team sports in the sense of basketball, soccer etc. should never have been in the mix.

    TV as a medium is visual and yet it seems when it comes to sports the powers that be feel it necessary to constantly talk over the visual. When it comes to the carefully planned rituals represented by the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, these are meant to be seen without commentary. The coverage was deplorable, the jingoism insulting and the end result was self-defeating in terms of what should have been presented.

  18. Mike my list was very short so as not to bore. I got to listen to Red Barber toward the end of his career w/ the Yanks. I heard him Call the Maris 61st homer. Without question, The Ol’ Redhead is one of the greatest.

  19. after seeing a network quick take of The Who I was wondering if I fell asleep and missed it. Now I know that we were all betrayed. Oh well. NBD in the long run. I did perceive that these talking heads were strangely quiet during the Brazilian section of the ceremonies. Great but the sound was not up to par to hear them. Plus, the “entertainers” generally were facing away from the cameras. Romney was right to say that a little improvement was needed. HA!

  20. I was in Canada for most of the Olympics, and able to watch real time events without the inane and jingoistic commentary which usually spews out of the U.S. based coverage.
    Back in N.Y., I only waited for the closing ceremonies to see Ray Davies and the Who. Waited through three hours of cheesy theatrics, garish productions and third-rate acts (a boy band, Spice “Girls,” and fashion models??? C’mon!,) only to be told at the last minute that the Who would
    be seen after yet another hour of brain-dead programming.
    By then, I as too tired, and way too furious, to give NBC any more of my time.
    Who was responsible for this? Names should be named. And effusive apologies should be made.

  21. NBC? what’s that. i and others here in Sweden watched the bits selected by out TV channels from feeds from somewhere (NBC) with swedish commentary.
    Our guys are OK, can be quiet, do not do tricks to compete, and the 3 or 4 hour segments run without interruption. We have no commercials on our subscription channel where this was shown.

    Jingoism, you say. Agreed, I did not see your version.

    Only American wins shown? Same thing. We saw our medal chanses too. As could all nations purchasing it from NBC could select and show I presume.

    As for ceremonies, nothing will go up against a shaking Mohammad Ali lighting the torch, unless it would have been John Lennon lighting this one.

    The worst opening ceremony: the one in LA when the guy rode in on his spaceman “rocket”-driven transporter in the air.

    The best: Norway’s winter olympics which captured nordic cultural history seen by the common people.
    A visit to the heart of Scandinavia.

    See you at the next Olympics, if we all survive and the bombs don’t drop and the folk don’t rise in revolt.

  22. For events like the Olympics I always watch them on the Spanish speaking channels. I don’t understand Spanish but they don’t talk during events or ceremonies and it’s actually quite enjoyable again. All my foreign friends agree: “Americans just don’t know when to shut up”.

  23. I can’t stand to ever hear Ryan Seacrest. To ever see him. But he is now THE host.. And as far as talking over the music and ceremony it has become customary for all networks to have their comercials for their upcoming shows to roll over the closing credits of every show. If I was the Best Boy or catering by Helena’s I’d be kinda pissed. But Seacrest has become the king of inane comments…. and when you have the IQ of a gnat stating the obvious is often quite a feat..
    As for the new reality show who can’t wait to see Kim Kardashian run around in a cammo bikini top and cammo daisy dukes with a buff drill instructor type as she breaks a nail on an obstacle course,…. Hey maybe she’ll even marry one of her drill instructors or even two.!

  24. Matt,

    What makes you só slow? Thanks for the compliment.
    Looking for me to tell you to sober up. And I know you don’t drink, but I’ve said it before,and you promised to stop getting inebriated on your own personality kicks. Be a good boy now.

  25. Jo,

    Don’t know if you are right. We don’t get him in Sweden, but in general I support women.

    I’m from Raleigh, left in ’59. My niece was here a week ago. Nice.
    Who’s your hippo friend. Cute dress you were wearing.
    Retro, huh? So, where do you beach? Topsail?

  26. How about this format for an individual Olympic Event (Uneven bars)

    Announcer: “Jane Doe representing Bolivia will now begin her performance.”

    // Jane steps to the bars, begins and later completes her event.”

    Announcer: “A superb performance, good concentration, performed the xyz movement in fine form. There was some concern of risking the xyz due to its difficulty but she came through and a flawless dismount….The judges have now rendered her score…9.8 and that puts her into the bronze medal range…..next up is …”

  27. ID707, I grew up on Topsail Island. Went to Topsail High. Go Pirates.RAH RAH! It was a lovely place to grow up in the 60s and 70s. It was a sweet tacky little fishing villiage. With some weekenders and a few vacationers. (I lived in Surf City) We danced a dance called the shag to beach music which is not at all like California Beach music. I’m sure you must be familiar with the Shag and NC/SC style beach music, Being from Raleigh.
    The beach is not what it used to be. Now it is covered with multi-million dollar houses built by people with much more money than sense. These garish Architectural Wonders are placed on the ocean side (after all who wants to spend millions of dollars for a place to come several weeks out of the year and not have it right on the ocean).They slam them so close to each other you have to turn sideways to walk between them.(Years ago there were laws that spacing between houses had to be a certain distance apart and I estimate the distance to be 25 feet and the houses had to be raised on pilons to allow water to wash beneath them in unusually high tides and to allow for the growth of sea grasses.Helped keep down erosion) but you know if we put the houses very close to each other we can have more houses.These houses are beautiful from ground to the top third story and some of them are even made of brick!(Crows with laughter) Ever seen a 3 story brick house on the dunes right after a cat 4 hurricane?? But they are rich and can get insurance and then the state jumps in and helps them which means that I have to help a millionaire who built a garish Architectural Wonder so he would have a place to go a coupl of weekends a year. OK I am a little bitter but it was once the most beautiful place on earth.
    The Hansome Hippo was my escort to the very last of the very best of the Victorian balls ever held. But always remember there are drawbacks to having THE Handsome Hippo as your escort. Yes you are right, jealousy. The other ladies at the ball were so catty, Trying to get a dance with him. So light on his feet. So charming.

  28. I was lucky enough to watch the opening on the live BBC feed. No comparison to the NBC version- which cut out key performances and cut the directors vision into an unintelligible mash. The opening was a radical art piece- really radical- so much so that I was amazed it got approval.

    I had to try and watch the closing on NBC. It was terrible, awful. The comments by the ‘hosts’ were an absolute embarrassment.

  29. I agree things could have been better; but, it was the only game in town. I am a person who will never, ever see an Olympics in person. And, that is why I like TV. There are many things that I would never had experienced in my life without TV. Such as Secretariat winning the Triple Crown, the New York Yankees, Peggy Fleming, France as seen by the bikers in the Tour de France. And, Alastair Cook on many Masterpiece Theaters, the Boston Pops live on July 4 playing Tshchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, the Army-McCarthy hearings (my Dad watched them), the Watergate hearings, many World Series games including Don Larsen’s no hitter, etc. The commentary was not good as seen in ABC’s coverages of many Olympics; but, it was still better than nothing in my book. The best were surprises from the women’s gymnastics team, the men’s and women’s track teams, the American diver who won gold, and Usain Bolt’s three gold medals. There countries who won the first medals for their countries ever AND the US sent more women athletes than men. Cool.

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