by TED S. McGREGOR JR. & r & & r & Summer Olympics & r & & r & (various NBC/Universal networks) & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & ith 1,400 hours of Olympics coverage spread over six networks -- and another 2,200 hours on nbcolympics.com -- why is it that I pretty much only watched NBC's flagship coverage these past couple of weeks? Every once in a while, I'd flip to USA and catch some wicked ping pong, but probably 97 percent of the time I stayed home with Bob Costas.
Covering the Olympics has been a long-term project within the art and science of broadcasting, and this current version is getting pretty close to perfection. Past iterations suffered from too few hours of coverage, or too many sappy athlete profiles and not enough competition. In Beijing, the athlete profiles are mercifully short and sweet, and the competitions are lingered over -- sometimes excruciatingly. They've wrung every bit of drama they can out of these Games.
It all starts at the top, with NBC Sports & amp; Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol, who worked his first Olympics in 1968 in Grenoble, France. He's done everything from launch Saturday Night Live to make Sunday Night Football into the best sports broadcast on TV. In Beijing, he's not only had to oversee the most complicated thing ever beamed into your living room, but he's had to play diplomat, often having to plow through Chinese opposition to his plans. Nice work, Dick!
The other rock is the seemingly ageless Costas, the man with the best vocabulary on TV. His banter with gymnastics guru Bela "You can do eeet!" Karolyi has been something to look forward to, even if gymnastics seems like the summer version of ice skating, with hokey rules and suspect judging. Karolyi has been quick with his questions about Chinese gymnasts (they're supposed to be 16, but some of them appear to be more like 13).
And the Games have played along, with compelling storyline after compelling storyline -- the Chinese earthquake, the Redeem Team, Michael "By a Fingernail" Phelps, Usain Bolt's insane race, the fight between the United States and China over total medals.
My only quibbles are that I would have liked to see more of China --I only caught a couple stories on this fascinating nation -- and they could have shown more random stuff from the day's events on NBC. Not everybody was channel-flipping between Oxygen and CNBC. But those are minor issues I'm sure Dick and Bob will fix by 2012.
Olympics Closing Ceremony
If you haven't had enough of the Olympics, you'll want to tune in for the final curtain call of the athletes. At the end, some English bloke will take responsibility for keeping that flame alive for four more years -- the 2012 Olympics will be held in London. (Sunday, 8/24, 7 pm, NBC)
Between the Olympics and the Democratic National Convention, TV is a rerun wasteland this week. While the NFL won't kick off for another couple weeks, HBO's behind-the-scenes series about the Dallas Cowboys' training camp is new -- and addictive. Let the drama of the upcoming season start to percolate. (Wednesday, 8/27, 10 pm, HBO)
Democratic National Convention
The cable news channels will be going wall-to-wall for both conventions -- hard to say how many Americans will follow. But you know a lot will tune it to hear Barack Obama accept his party's nomination -- and what a historic moment it will be. Just to amp up the drama factor, Obama will speak in front of 75,000 people at Denver's Invesco Field. (Thursday, 8/28, 6 pm, all news networks)