CBS puts strengths on ice, pairing a worldly moment


CBS led with some of its strengths in last night's prime-time show.

Most prominent was that ratings grabber, figure skating, this time of the pairs variety. And, true to its theme, CBS did share a moment with the world, reporting on Russian and Canadian pairs, as well as America's blue-collar sweethearts, Calla Urbanski and Rocky Marval.

It hardly seems possible that an Olympic skating competition is being conducted without Dick Button's commentary, but Scott Hamilton is a good substitute, though he lacks Button's trademark fussiness.

We also got a dose of Bonnie Blair a day before she begins speed skating competition. Blair is a true American Olympic star, right down to her accent, which makes her sound as if she would qualify for the women's auxiliary of Da Bears fan club.

In the men's downhill, the skiers' flying down the steep, tightly turned course provides arresting images. And give CBS credit for running a feature on Switzerland's Franz Heinzer. It was a nice story of a small-town guy -- his father never has seen him race, even on television -- not diminished by Heinzer's finishing out of the medals, something that CBS knew before air time.


Looking ahead: Blair will be in action today in the 500-meter speed skating, but CBS is saving her for its 8 p.m. show. However, she will be very much a part of the morning program (7-9). In addition to a preview of the competition, CBS plans a live interview with her brother, Chuck, and some of his Champaign, Ill., police colleagues, who have helped support Blair's skating career.

Another live interviewee this morning will be someone associated with warmer sports. Gold-medal diver Greg Louganis, Albertville to catch the Games, will be discussing training methods with Harry Smith and Greg Gumbel.

Also between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., CBS plans a feature on the Stams ski school in Austria.

Competition coverage this morning on CBS includes the men's 30-kilometer cross country race, featuring American Bill Koch. . . . Channel 11 is opting to carry the last 15 minutes of CBS' midday updates, airing local news from noon to 12:15, then picking up the network. . . .

TNT inaugurates cable coverage of the Olympics today at 1 p.m., with five hours of programming that includes figure skating, luge and hockey.


Rating game: CBS reports that overnight ratings (which measure the nation's largest markets) of the Saturday night opening ceremonies gave the network a rare win on that night. CBS pulled a 15.9 rating and 26 share, beating NBC's 10.6/17 and ABC's 8.0/13. CBS averages a 9.7 on Saturday nights. A rating measures the percentage of all television homes watching a program. A share measures the percentage among the homes where television is in use.


The C word: It's not often that a sportscaster uses the word choke." But it came up twice yesterday, once applied to a ski jumper, the other to a luger.


Saturday night's all right for lighting (a torch): Normally, I'm a sucker for the emotion of the Olympics, especially the ceremonies. But, except for the torch lighting, I was unmoved Saturday night. It seems that the parade of nations could have been quite an emotional experience, what with all those newly independent teams marching. Come on, CBS, manipulate us.

Maybe that update on the world's past four years in song -- "Report from the Planet Earth " -- was meant to be a surreal match to the opening ceremonies, but the bouncy, lighthearted music just didn't jibe with the serious pictures.

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