First let me say that I'm not what you would call a huge Olympics fan. This isn't an essay on sports. I'll tune in occasionally for things like basketball, soccer and Brazilian women's beach volleyball (LOTS of Brazilian women's beach volleyball), but it's hardly Must-See-TV for me every four years. If I had more patience, I'd probably watch more — but researching how the scoring works in water polo (and where they hide their horses) kind of takes the fun out of things.
I do love the drama of sports. I grew up the music nerd who didn't like sports because it was for jocks. My stance softened thanks to the 1999 Cincinnati Reds. Living just a few blocks away from the old Cinergy Field, I probably went to 50 home games that year — paid five bucks for a cheap "Top 6" seat (before they'd stop you from moving closer if there were open seats, which there usually were). Some of the dramatics of that season (cut short by a devastating one game playoff loss to the Mets) re-made me into the sports fan I was as a 10 year old.
The way drama in sports moved me reminded me (and still does) of the way music moves me. Though quite different experiences (sports is "thrill of victory/agony of defeat" exciting, while music moves me to my very core, caresses my heart, soothes my pain, gets me pumped up, etc.), they both give me a somewhat similar tingle in my brain.
As this year's Olympics progressed, I began to notice a lot of complaints about NBC's "tape delayed" coverage, whereby the network would hold back all the key, shining (mostly American athlete-oriented) moments for its prime-time broadcast. Of course, as pretty much every person with the ability to communicate online noted, this meant hearing that, say, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt just made Olympic history … then turning on NBC to hear "tune in at 9 p.m. to find out how!"
Anyone with access to a radio, TV with channels other than NBC, a computer, smartphone or an excitable Olympics superfan BFF usually found out what happened up to 10 hours ahead of time. In some ways, I felt bad for the piling-on of NBC's Olympic events coverage. I mean, they did broadcast hours upon hours of live footage from London on their multiple Olympics platforms (iPad apps, Android apps, websites, additional channels, etc.).
But some people are busy, work strenuous jobs (without access to the aforementioned fancy devices) and want to come home, have some dinner, maybe smoke a doobie and THEN see what happened earlier at the Olympics. I'd be curious if anyone was actually able to avoid all spoilers — every time someone won a medal, I received a "news update" alert on my smartphone or would find out instantly on a British news website or within my Twitter or Facebook feed.
So I cut NBC the slightest of slack for fouling up some of the tape-delayed broadcast decisions (but there was no excuse for promoting Today show interviews with "new gold medalists" right before viewers actually saw said gold medalist win the top prize, something NBC did multiple times). If you really wanted to see an event live, you could do so.
The same can be said for the Closing Ceremonies, which streamed live on the Olympics many media platforms. But when it came time for editing it all down to a tight two-and-a-half hour or so prime-time broadcast, NBC had to cut some material out of the Closing Ceremony to make it fit and leave room for McDonald's and Coke commercials.
During the Opening Ceremonies, NBC shamefully cut away to show Ryan Seacrest interview Michael Phelps instead of airing the ceremony's tribute to the 52 victims of the July 7, 2005, terrorist attacks in London.
There's editing for time and then there's just rude ethnocentrism. If New York City hosted the Olympics and the BBC cut away from the broadcast to show Simon Cowell interview legendary British track cyclist Chris Hoy, I wouldn't be shocked if the U.S. immediately began discussions about when to start the bombing of London.
Thankfully, nothing quite that insensitive occurred during the Closing Ceremonies.
The Closing Ceremonies piqued my interest the most of all of the Olympic happenings, mostly because I'm a proud Anglophile when it comes to music. Of my favorite artists ever, I'd be shocked if half weren't from the U.K. (if not more).
So I was fairly excited when I heard that the Closing Ceremonies would be titled "A Symphony of British Music" (look, you can already buy a CD) and focus primarily on England's greatest export, alongside comedy (which was spotlighted cleverly in both the opening and closing events) and Cadbury Creme Eggs. (I was only "fairly" excited because these things can often be cheesier than a Super Bowl halftime show with Up With People)
I had a slightly busy Sunday (well, busy enough that I couldn't watch stuff on TV or online all day), so I checked a handful of performances from the Olympics live stream, figuring I'd be able to catch the whole thing later.
There were some great moments. The John Lennon/"Imagine" salute was touching in a pure, unforced and restrained manner (not much else was, but that's not what ceremonial, once-in-the-lifetime, music-driven ragers should be about, especially in London).
It was interesting to see athletes from other countries singing along to Oasis' biggest hit, "Wonderwall," in seemingly their own languages (not sure how Noel Gallagher felt about his little bro's band Beady Eye playing it, though; Noel did turn down a chance to participate).
The unfussy cover of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" was serviceable, but gets bonus points for bridging a generational gap by bringing together hot new singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran and RIchard Jones from young Brit band The Feeling with PInk Floyd drummer Nick Mason and Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford.
Meanwhile, the only thing missing from Eric Idle's perfectly nonsensical performance of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" was a chorus line of singers nailed to crucifixes (a la Monty Python's Life of Brian, the film in which it first appeared).
And, cheesy as it may have been, Freddie Mercury (in video projection/hologram-ish form) leading the stadium through a chant proved he is STILL the best frontman in Rock, even in death.
There were also, as is to be excepted, several cringe worthy moments.
The Spice Girls were a big deal for a few minutes, but did they deserve to perform more than one song at a global event like the Olympics? What exactly did they give the world besides a lady-friend for one of the planet's (former) greatest soccer players? I know, I know — it was a "rare" reunion (though it feels like they have "rare reunions" ever six months or so). I kept hoping for a five-olde-timey-taxi pile-up as they zoomed around the performance area at seemingly dangerous speeds.
Singer Jessie J must now be bigger than Princess Diana in the U.K., because she was able to perform multiple songs as well, like her big hit "Price Tag," showing the U.K.'s contribution to crappy Pop music, and "We Will Rock You" with Roger Taylor and Brian May, presumably because Paul Rodgers either wasn't available, passed away recently or refused to wear a nude, bedazzled unitard.
Ms. J also jammed with the artists during the segment where the London Olympics showed the world that there are indeed black people in the U.K., though Taio Cruz and Tinie Tempah are essentially carbon-copies of crappy American R&B/Pop singer/rappers. They did do a fun, mercifully short cover of the Bee Gees's "You Should Be Dancing," which probably pumped up views of the Bee Gees' Wikipedia page thanks to all of us who could have sworn the trio was from Australia (they were born in the U.K., moved to Australia, then back to the England where their career kicked off in earnest … in case you don't get Wikipedia).
There were a few glaring omissions from the parade of British Music stars, but the ceremony director gets a pass for that. How do you fit a century of music into three hours? Still, I could have done with seeing The Cure play (anything but "Killing an Arab") or New Order do a Joy Division/New Order mini-set or even Def Leppard (at least!) representing the influential New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement in lieu of Russell Brand singing a Willy Wonka tune and miming "I Am the Walrus."
And, hey, remember how Britain co-invented Punk Rock? Beside awkwardly copping "London Calling" as a sort of unofficial anthem (before people apparently listened to the lyrics) and a mention of designer Vivienne Westwood, Punk Rock wasn't very big in the U.K., I guess. And Fatboy Slim apparently invented the British rave scene and U.K. dance music (while living inside a giant inflatable octopus).
Finally, in the spirit of mixing British humor and music, it would have been hilarious if George Michael would have appeared with former Wham! mate Andrew Ridgeley clasped around his leg ("I let go once — never again!").
The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Sex Pistols, Kate Bush and others reportedly turned down invites to be involved in the ceremony, though at least most were given props during the ceremony (Bowie's "Fashion" soundtracked the tribute to British fashion through the years, while a remix of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" was used as the music for a dazzling dance number spotlighting the tune).
The biggest blunder of the Closing Ceremonies, though, came once again courtesy of NBC's prime time broadcast.
I'm an editor and I understand that sometimes you can't fit every single thing you want into the tiny box given to you; tough calls must be made sometimes.
But what network exec's 14-year-old niece was given control over the U.S. broadcast's final cut on NBC? Whoever made the tough decisions made a few seriously bad ones and the internet has been screaming about how much it SUCKED ever since.
The Kate Bush-soundtracked performance was cut, but I get that. Kate's not a household name in the States. I caught rockers Muse — who wrote and recorded the official song of this year's Olympics, "Survival" — and can forgive that one too — their performance was a bit lackluster and the song has an oddly ominous tone, like something Mussolini would have commissioned had the Olympics ever come to Italy during his reign.
Ray Davies' performance might have been spared if he'd playing "You Really Got Me" or some other U.S. FM radio staple. But Davies could play nothing but his gorgeous ode to London, "Waterloo Sunset," because it was the perfect time and place for the beloved British hit to be performed.
(Click ahead to the 1:35 mark to see it, until NBC removes it)
When I realized NBC cut "Waterloo Sunset," that's when my head-cocked bemusement turned to "WTF!" annoyance. A peek at the internet revealed I was not alone (I think the Davies cut was the hardest for most true Rock fans to take).
That is, until the end of the broadcast.
The absolute worst cut from NBC's primetime broadcast was the deletion of The Who, the perfect British band to provide a grand finale. If you were watching live, you saw the extinguishing of the Olympic flame and then, while Bob Costas was allowed to blather on about nothing over the allotted air time a day or two earlier, causing the show to "run over," Costas signed off with a very quick, "We'll be back from Olympic Stadium in about an hour for the London closing party featuring The Who. But stay tuned now for a full episode of Animal Practice, the new NBC comedy presented commercial free."
The network switched over to Monkey Doctor (or whatever it's called) and then followed it with local news.
THEN The Who's impressive eight-minute medley — touching on proudly anthemic and quite British tunes like "My Generation" — was allegedly aired, an hour after prime-time programming had ended. Pete, Roger and their ringers kicked things off with "Baba O'Reily," with its perfectly dramatic, almost always spine-tingling opening keyboard riff, which would have made a perfect segue way from the flame being put out. Instead — Hospitals for Monkeys (or whatever it was called), commercial free!
I left NBC as soon as Marcus Monkeypants MD started and ultimately fell asleep, mumbling to myself about how I'll never watch another episode of America's Got Talent or something like that. Then I spent today looking up what I missed on YouTube and other sites … when available. There was some good footage posted for a few minutes, but NBC and the Olympics yanked them faster than Fred Willard in a movie theater.
The nbcolympics.com site DID have The Who segment up by this evening. But they called "Baba O'Riley" by its not-actual-title, "Teenage Wasteland."
See — 14-year-olds are running NBC!
Ultimately, it's not that big of a deal — today there was another sad, tragic, inexplicable shooting in public near Texas A&M University. We STILL have not seen what Paul Ryan's abs look like. And NBC says the Olympic games were the most watched in history; one ad exec went so far as to suggest the high ratings in the U.S. were BECAUSE of the weird tape-delay approach. It created excitement (not hair-pulling-out frustration?).
So keep it in perspective and start getting ready for the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil. I'm already plotting how to watch it all as it should be watched — on a live stream, on Brazilian TV or in person (CityBeat, I'm volunteering my services). Because you just know NBC is going to shoot 90% of it from "above the waist." Some of those amazing booties over there are definitely NSF-NBC.