I don’t know anyone who has been thrilled with CBS’s slick but dispassionate Olympic coverage. Not that CBS isn’t excelling on some fronts. They’ve done a smashing job of presenting local color in the Savoy region, thanks in large part to Charles Kuralt’s savory spots. The network switches smoothly from event to event (which, of course, you would expect, given the six-hour time difference). CBS has also incorporated hip music like EMF and Naughty by Nature to enliven feature and highlight footage. Unfortunately the network has to get around to covering events, um, eventually.
Though proficient, CBS’s announcers, especially Scott Hamilton (skating), Mike Emrick (hockey) and Andy Mill (downhill), lack the easy enthusiasm that their ABC counterparts brought to so many Winter Olympics. And with America’s medal chances clearly overhyped in the days leading to the Games, the network hasn’t been as adept at locating and building human stories among the foreign competitors. But the biggest problem for CBS has been the misguided appointment of Tim McCarver as prime-time cohost, a role in which he seems woefully artificial and uncomfortable. His partner, Paula Zahn, fares better in their brittle, overscripted and superfluous exchanges. And why send them over to France only to plunk them down in a generic living-room set studio? Actually the weekend team of Jim Nantz and Andrea Joyce have been doing a more capable job than McCarver and Zahn.
Still, good action will always outweigh bad commentary, so CBS is in a can’t-miss position. Though people are griping about the coverage, they are also tuning in for the spectacle. Except for that tacky Opening Ceremony. What was with those costumes? They looked as if they were designed by a grade-schooler who had seen too many episodes of The Jetsons.