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Skating coverage slightly adrift


CBS opened its pairs figure skating coverage last night with the Drifters' "Save the Last Dance for Me," an eloquent call-to-sequins for the skating.

Later, we got Verne Lundquist talking about inner sanctums and harsh lights of competition. And partner Tracy Wilson was speaking of the pair skating to "the story of their life. They're telling . . . the story of their love for each other."

Me, I'd stick with the Drifters.

Lundquist, Wilson and Scott Hamilton demonstrated the value of being unobtrusive last night. During the routine by Natalia Mishkutienok and Artur Dmitriev, the three were mostly silent, saving their comments for the end. There was more chatter when Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov skated.

The result? The M&D; routine seemed much better than that by G&G;, even though the latter won the gold. The talk interrupted the flow.

Hamilton's strength is in explaining where a performance rises or falls, especially helpful to the figure skating impaired. It works just as well when he saves most of his comments for the replays. Wilson's strength is in saving her comments period.

Take a giant step

Most of us probably have thought of Super G as the economy store brand at Giant Food, but now we know better, thanks to Diann Roffe-Steinrotter.

The American skier's gold-medal victory could have seemed a little more suspenseful, but perhaps that wasn't CBS' fault. Roffe-Steinrotter skied first, then watched the rest of the field fail to surpass her time. She didn't look at all nervous, though, as skier after skier came down the hill.

In fact, other than a big grin, Roffe-Steinrotter didn't display the kind of emotion that plays so well on television. The one twist to her victory was seeing her call home via cellular phone to tell Dad she had won.

Stop the presses

It takes a show with the moxie of "A Current Affair" to break the really big Tonya Harding stories. Here are some headlines off what "A Current Affair" broke last night:

"Tonya kissed Gillooly," "Tonya's cousin: She's huggable" and "Husband saw Tonya topless."

"A Current Affair" makes a fella proud to be in the news biz.

Anyway, the program showed some home video of Harding and ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, including a little kissy-face action and Harding performing a strip tease for Gillooly. Harding was wearing a wedding dress at the time. One supposes this was a handy item to keep around the Harding-Gillooly household, because who knew when they would feel like getting married again?

Numbers game

Monday night's prime-time Olympic show on CBS drew a 21.8 rating and 34 share in national Nielsen ratings. That's 14 percent higher than the first Monday from the Albertville Games in 1992. when Bonnie Blair won a gold medal.

The network has guaranteed advertisers an average 18.6 prime-time rating for the Games, and has surpassed that each night so far.

To read today's ratings and shares explanation, we present famous figure skating bodyguard Shawn Eric Eckardt: Ratings measure the percentage of television households -- you gonna eat that doughnut? -- watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. But I know some guys who can fix it so that Nielsen guy never gives you any trouble again.

Looking ahead

Tonight, CBS gives us a double dose of Brian Boitano. The former gold-medal figure skater is interviewed by Greg Gumbel during the prime-time telecast (8-11) and then he has the honor of talking with Pat O'Brien during the late-night show (12:37-1:37 a.m.).

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