Could laughs lure you from Olympics?



* What's so funny? Laughter may be good for the spirit, but how much can we stand? You have to wonder from tonight's schedule.

Up against CBS' three-hour coverage of the "Olympic Winter Games," for example, ABC has slotted "Class Clowns" (at 10 p.m., Channel 13), an hour of comedy about schooling from the likes of Bill Cosby, Roseanne and Tom Arnold, Howie Mandel and Burt Reynolds.

And on cable at the same hour, the funniest part of the Lifetime "The Comedy Battle of the Sexes" is sexologist Dr. Ruth Westheimer and suntan-ologist George Hamilton as odd couple hosts.

The stand-up hour includes only moderately amusing gender-specific routines by comics Judy Tenuta, Monica Piper, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Aleck and Rhonda Shear.

* From the Olympics Watch file, some Good News/Bad News on the first weekend from Albertville:

Good news is the "turn-away" feature first used Sunday morning by CBS hosts Andrea Joyce and Jim Nantz.

The men's downhill was slotted for prime-time coverage yet already had finished, because of the six-hour time difference from the eastern U.S.

While Mr. Nantz noted many viewers might want to know the results, he acknowledged others would prefer the suspense of watching the taped coverage as if it were live. So he suggested those viewers turn away while the results were flashed on screen, and added, "when the music stops, it's safe to turn back."

Bad news was the disjointed and, toward the end, frequently interrupted (by commercials) CBS coverage of the opening ceremonies Saturday night.

Especially bad was the apology which Mr. Nantz and Ms. Joyce noted Sunday morning for the failure in the evening program to show the triumphant entrances of teams from newly independent Lithuania and Latvia.

The emotional moments were apparently among the audience highlights, judging from the clips shown on the morning show. So how did CBS squeeze them out of a show broadcast with the benefit of hours of editing time?

Finally, a cautionary Olympics note: If viewing prime-time events with suspense is your interest, beware of both radio news and local sports news reports. Results of the day's activities may be broadcast before they make it to the tube.

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