Every four years, The Olympics arrive to remind you how out of shape you are. It’s already bad enough that you’re nowhere near the shape those athletes are in, but the fact that you’re sitting down watching other people exercise, with crumbs of last night’s pizza slowly colonizing that sweaty space between your ass and the corner of the couch, kinda just makes you feel like crap. Seriously, at least do a push-up. And part of you wants to, and some of you may. But then the McDonald’s ad comes on and tells you that every time you shovel a Big Mac into your mouth hole, you’re helping a hardworking young person realize his or her dreams. And when you at least think to get some water or something nutritious on the side, Coca-Cola’s on deck to let you know that when you drink some of that high-fructose, you basically put a medal around someone’s neck. On camera, while the anthem’s playing, and that person’s on the podium staring off into space, they’re not thinking about their families. Or their friends. Or how hard they worked. Or apple pie. No. They’re thinking of you. And they’re getting excited. Sexually.
But it seems NBC, who paid a cool billion dollars for the rights to air the Games exclusively is also determined that you watch as little of it as humanly possible. NBC’s approach to airing the Olympics is like a mother shielding her kid’s eyes when a nipple comes on screen in a movie. That’s NBC. They hate nipples. A lot. And also the Olympics. So they simply won’t let you see either of them if they can help it. They’re so bad at coverage this year that I’m just gonna go ahead and say this is the best Olympics ever. It takes effort to be this bad, and they’re doing well. There’s even a decent reason for it. For the rest of this article, I decided to find a picture that would represent NBC the best. I scoured the Internet for all of five minutes before I said, “Screw it.” and just googled Ryan Seacrest. This is him in high school. This is NBC.
Done laughing at him? Yea, it took me a while to stop too. Yes, it’s okay, I totally want to take his limited edition Dr. Horrible figurines out of their packaging too. Ryan Seacrest has gotten an insane amount of airtime these Olympics, completely in spite of people who worked their asses off to actually deserve recognition. Take, for instance, the case of Akram Kham, a choreographer whose piece honoring those who died in a 2005 London terrorist attack, was left out of the Opening Ceremonies broadcast in the States. You wanna know why? So that Ryan Seacrest could interview Michael Phelps. And his mom. And his sisters. Because the whole nation has just been dying to hear from his family. It wasn’t even a particularly deep interview. He basically just asked the dude if he thought he could win. So in a massive, lavish Opening Ceremony with Mary Poppins and Voldemorts and British people with hats and James Bond skydiving with the Queen, we in the States just had to take a break to see Ryan Seacrest film a circle-jerk with a guy who’s kind of bound to win something or another.
What’s bizarre about this is that there’s not really any kind of benefit to producing original entertainment when there’s already entertainment happening live. It actually costs money to produce his annoyingly quaint little slices of wholesome Americana. It’s like someone trying to show you his home movies during a Lady Gaga concert. Yes it’s adorable how Little Billy keeps trying to box the dog, but man, there’s a chick dressed up as meat singing about being born that way. The spectacle will always win. And so when NBC somehow got bored with how crazy the Opening Ceremonies were and sort of changed the channel in the middle of it, all of us should have been seriously excited.
The Internet is this magical thing that connects people. It’s pretty great, and super popular. And in real-time. So when you sit down to surf the web, hours before the Olympics are supposed to air on TV, and #MichaelPhelpsWonAGoldMedal is already trending on Twitter, you might be a bit annoyed. The Olympics are as much about the suspense of the events, the uncertainty, the close-calls, the shameful schadenfreude you feel every now and then, and moments where you hold your breathe along with the rest of the world. That part’s important. Yes, London is in a different time zone. So? Even the US has to deal with that. That’s why they film SNL twice. Show it when occurs and rerun it when it’s convenient for people who can’t stay up late. Simple. Instead, NBC’s basically turned the Games into American Idol, something you and your family are expected to sit and watch together around 8 pm. Just don’t go online the entire day leading up to it. Or even watch the commercials on NBC, because they’ll actually spoil what happens themselves. That’s deliciously insane. It’s like NBC’s trolling us all.
Speaking of commercials, they air an average of every ten minutes and often in the middle of events. It really does build suspense though, when Jordyn Wieber is upside in the air and all of a sudden someone says, “We’ll be right back,” and you kind of wonder if she’s frozen in time somewhere upside watching the same ad you are. Because of how stupidly expensive it is to show them to you (NBC already made back its $1 billion), you only ever see roughly the same five. All of them are so majestic and grand and totally boring in real life. Classical music doesn’t play when you use a Visa, and your BMW doesn’t play dubstep unless you make it. My favorite moment of the entire Olympics so far has been when Michael Phelps lost his signature event and was totally bummed out and then they smash-cut to the Morgan Freeman ad where he wonders if “lightning can strike twice”. You know the one.
In spite of it all, NBC definitely has a reason for doing things like this. For one, it’s NBC, and their ratings consistently suck. It doesn’t mean people aren’t watching the channel, really, it’s more like the Nielsen ratings don’t take into account what people watch online, which is kind of this massive new way to watch television. They also kind of suck in general. What a small sample size consisting of people who are self-aware they’re being watched watching television says should in no way endanger shows tons of people love, like Community or basically any good show that’s ever been unfortunate enough to be on Fox. I get they’re necessary, to a degree, for the TV business, but they’re painfully behind the times. And I get they’re trying to change how they do things, but they’re certainly taking forever. So, in order to get better ratings, NBC is trying really hard to “broaden its audience”. That means “become terrible”. And what better first step – after vowing to never show anything as interesting as Parks and Recreation or 30 Rock ever again – than to buy The Olympics this year. The funny thing is, The Olympics are, ironically enough, a really bad way to diversify your audience. You see, young people don’t actually care about them. People 55+ are the ones who watch the Games the most, and though you’ll get them to watch, the trolling on display with the time-delays and the ads and the spoilers will continue to keep young people from giving a damn. Because what better way to get ’em to watch than by…Ryan Seacrest? Hm.