NBC's Olympic coverage is so often the brunt of legitimate complaints – not airing events live, tape-delaying coverage for the West Coast, irresponsible product placements, too many puff pieces – that it's easy to ignore the many positive aspects of the network's Winter Games coverage.
In all honesty, aside from the lack of live coverage of marquee daytime events, the peacock network does an excellent job with its telecasts. (That may be like saying "Aside from the landing, the Hindenburg had a great flight," but we're in a good mood today.) Here are our four favorites:
1. Bob Costas and Al Michaels. You know you have a pretty good hosting team when Michaels, the legendary voice of primetime NFL football (first on Mondays and now on Sunday) and the Miracle on Ice, is the daytime guy. Costas may rub some the wrong way, and he blurs the line between coverage and commentary when he goes out of his way to rip Bode Miller, but he deftly handles the studio broadcast, is a fantastic interviewer, and keeps things light enough to remind us that, beyond all the pomp and circumstance, we're still just watching sports on TV.
2. The production. The last two Olympics have been the best-looking sporting events ever aired on television. NBC's crisp 1080i HD broadcasts are aided both by stunning Vancouver visuals and top-notch camerawork. You can see snowballs falling down the hill on a downhill run, watch the concentration on a snowboader's face as he flies 30 feet in the air, and see a slalom skier get knocked in the face by a pole during a run. The replays are used to perfection. And, unlike other networks (cough, CBS, cough), NBC doesn't use technological innovations merely for technology's sake. The overlays of one skier "racing" the other skier is both amazingly cool and informative.
3. Announcers (some of them). We'll save our dislike list for another day, but here are a few broadcasters who greatly add to the viewing experience: Dan Hicks (speedskating), Dick Button (figure skating), Jonny Moseley (freestyle skiing), Bob Papa (luge/bobsled/skeleton), and Mary Carillo (studio).
4. Lack of hockey. (Ducks while Puck Daddy throws a goalie mask at me.) It's not that I don't like hockey; I just don't like the idea of it eating up half of NBC's prime-time coverage. Some people may be mad that the sport has been relegated to other NBC properties like CNBC and MSNBC but they need to relax. It's not 1988. If you like a sport enough to be angry that it's not on network television, then you should get cable. There was no difference between watching Sunday's U.S.-Canada hockey game on MSNBC than on NBC. It was the same production value, same announcers, same great quality. NBC is right not to spend 2½ hours "stuck" on the same game. I, for one, loved having the ability to flip back and forth between hockey and whatever was airing on the main network. Purists might scoff, but this is a 500-channel age. As long as NBC is showing the games somewhere, does it really matter?