American viewers of the Sochi Olympics have had to deal with the unfamiliar experience of not seeing Bob Costas, currently in the midst of a nasty eye infection, at the helm of NBC's Olympic coverage. While some viewers likely consider this development a positive, it's still required some adjustments for everyone involved. Costas has been a fixture in NBC's coverage for decades, and his absence came with little warning.
On Thursday, 'Today' anchor/alarm-clock Matt Lauer manned NBC's primetime coverage for the third consecutive night. Yet, with Lauer still taking on his usual responsibilities, he's being stretched a little thin. As such, NBC is looking into other fill-ins in the event that Costas cannot return. From Richard Sandomir for The New York Times:
Mr. Lauer, who is also co-hosting the “Today” show, said he had not considered the possibility of replacing Mr. Costas for the duration of the Olympics. But, he said, “Even if Bob can’t come back, they’d probably give me a day or two off.” [...]
[Executive producer] Mr. [Jim] Bell declined to say if Al Michaels or Dan Patrick, who are anchoring other portions of NBC’s Olympic coverage, might follow Mr. Lauer until Mr. Costas returns. “We’re blessed with a lot of talent at NBC,” he said. “We’ll see how Matt is doing.”
Mr. Lauer’s workday certainly has gotten busier. He does early-morning location shooting for “Today,” and heads to the morning show’s set for the live program from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sochi time. Then he eats, sleeps a few hours, and gets to the prime-time studio around 11 p.m. He is there for another three or four hours, then sleeps a little while before restarting his morning routine.
“I can’t do this schedule for any prolonged period of time,” Mr. Lauer said, adding: “I don’t want the fact that I’m doing double duty to impact the way we do the ‘Today’ show.” Filling in for Mr. Costas has prevented Mr. Lauer from attending any events.
So there you have it: the most visible American TV personality in Sochi can't actually experience the Olympics, which means he's telling people information he gets secondhand, at best. Whether that's especially different from the usual situation is an open question, but it seems a little ridiculous nonetheless.
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In the event that Costas cannot return, it would make sense for Bell and other NBC execs to allow other anchors entry to their Fortress of Quasi-Solitude. The NBC roster is deep, even if it might be nice for some diversity beyond the names in the NYT article, so it's not as if Lauer is the only choice. It makes little sense to force him into continued double duty.
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In fact, switching up anchors might even be beneficial to NBC. If Costas' absence is weird in part because he provides continuity across Olympic years, then the network really has no hope of manufacturing that familiarity without him. Why not play up the fact that there are new names and perspectives at the desk? Make it so viewers have something different to see every night.
More Winter Olympics coverage from Yahoo Sports:
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- Bob Costas
- Matt Lauer