McCarver, Zahn haven't earned spot in our living rooms yet


CBS is going to preview the Winter Olympics, which begin Feb. 8, with a two-hour show beginning at 8 p.m. next Thursday. One thing, it will give viewers a chance to see if co-hosts Paula Zahn and Tim McCarver are up to the assignment of being welcome guests in our TV rooms for a long two weeks.

Both are congenial, but, on pre-Olympic shows, haven't been terribly smooth trying to act at home talking about sports they were mostly oblivious to a few short months ago. The network is taking a big gamble, especially considering it has two hosts who can handle anything, Jim Nantz and Greg Gumbel.

Hopefully, we won't be pining for the expertise of ABC and good ol' Jim McKay too soon.

The preview will deal heavily with figure skating (where the best ratings are), the hockey team (John Madden interviews coach Dave Peterson, an unenviable task), speedskaters Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen (who figure to medal) and, of course, a typically flip and vapid piece by late night host Pat O'Brien.

If you can't wait six days, the network has an hour-long show Sunday at noon (Channel 11) profiling athletes.

* CBS must be expecting dozens of breaking news stories at the Games in extremely rural Albertville, France, judging from the heavies assigned to supplement the fun and games: Charles Kuralt, Morley Safer, Bernard Goldberg, Bob McKeown, Barry Peterson and Mark Phillips. What, no Deacon Dan Rather?

* The smart money says Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras don't figure to lose on the hardcourts in Hawaii while meeting Argentina in a Davis Cup match under way today (ESPN). But let's remember the 1991 final and Uncle Sam's pratfall in France. Singles today and Sunday at 4 p.m., doubles tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.

* ABC is going to let viewers fend for themselves tomorrow (4:30 p.m.) when announcerless figure skating shows up on the "Wide World of Sports" mix. Coordinating producer Curt Gowdy Jr. says, "Commentary can be superfluous," which suggests he's been listening to Peggy Fleming lately.

* Last Sunday's Super Bowl got the sixth worst rating of all time (40.3), but CBS couldn't care less. The network points out 120 million watched (or at least had the TV on), the second highest total ever. So the ad rates will go up again (this year 30 seconds cost $850,000). Since 1967, spots have gone up 2,000 percent.

Meanwhile, who would like to take a shot at explaining the Supe pre-game show doing such boffo numbers -- 33.3 rating/30.6 million homes -- when it was such a tiresome and uninspired stroll through nothingness.

* A total of 42 ads, filling 26 minutes, were run in commercial breaks during the Super Bowl. How many do you remember, three, four?

* Alumni report: Remember Lou "Touchdown" Tilley, the Channel 13 whiz-bang who revealed to Philadelphians when he took a job there that we're a bunch of country bumpkins? He has been moved to the weekend sportscasts and has been showing up at 6 a.m. newscasts during the week.

* The NBA doubleheader on NBC Sunday starting at 1 p.m. has Golden State at New York, then Michael Jordan at the Lakers. Markets, gang, that's what it's all about.

On the college hoops scene, CBS goes with Ohio State vs. Michigan at 1 p.m. and ABC has a doubleheader: North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech at 1:30 and Kentucky vs. LSU at 3:35. Dick Vitale is going to try to make both of them.

* Uh, United Artists Cable of Baltimore, what's the definition of that "Franchise Fee" charge of $1.97 that showed up on this month's bill? And how could you, in good conscience, raise the "late" charge penalty a whopping 33 percent when folks are pre-

paying to begin with?

Speaking of cable, here's an interesting statistic: There are 9,000 cable systems doing business and only 45 of them are faced with a competitive situation. As a result, the monopolies charge an average of 18 percent more for basic service.

* Good move by the Fox Network picking up the "Main Event" wrassling show that ran on NBC for a couple of years on Friday nights. The inaugural show Feb. 8 (9 p.m.) has the usual cast of WWF characters but, they say, Vince McMahon has hired some new writers so maybe we'll get some much-needed new plots.

* The HBO fight card tomorrow (10 p.m.) has Lennox Lewis duking it out with Levi Billups and Michael Moorer taking on Mike JTC White. Sounds like a good time to check for good deals on necklaces on the Home Shopper's Network.

* Because of excellent response, TBS is telecasting the Hawaiian Open in prime time next Thursday and Friday (8-10 p.m.), followed by the final rounds on the weekend from 6 to 8 p.m. The reason it might sound like a baseball game is Vin Scully is up on the tower and Don Sutton is out trooping the fairways.

* Make sure the VCR is in working order and you have a blank tape. WETA (PBS) has "16 Days of Glory," Bud Greenspan's look at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, running in its entirety (four hours) beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday. It's only exceptional.

* No wonder Brent Musburger was taking shots at the WLAF while working one of the NFL wild-card games on ABC. He's out from beneath that chore, slipping into the host's chair for golf while Roger Twibell heads over to football. A feature of the games could be Jim Valvano working as a sideline reporter. Hey, remember, he was the athletic director at North Carolina State and knows a touchdown is worth six points.

* Now that the pro football season is over, save for the always-gripping Pro Bowl, here's hoping NBC will continue to update us on the employment status of its studio analyst, Bill Parcells. I mean, it's been a lead item on "NFL Live" since last September and fans coast to coast, particularly in Iowa and Nebraska, await the outcome.

* This "Battle of the Sexes" thing -- Jimmy Connors vs. Monica Seles in a showdown "grunt" match -- just won't go away. Destiny Productions of Beverly Hills (was there any doubt?) is pushing for a March date in Las Vegas and Jimbo's mom Gloria says her boy's considering it. He was less than receptive a couple of months ago, but we're talking a million clams here.

* What many consider the start of the golf season -- uh, when does it ever end? -- the National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, is on CBS tomorrow (4 p.m.) and Sunday (3 p.m.). Question is, what previously idolized star is going to embarrass himself this year?

* Keep those cards and letters coming regarding Channel 13 sportscasts.

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