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No mystery here: CBS saves the medal-winning Americans till end


During prime time, there are times when you can tell which way the plot will go without paying much attention to the story.

Remember "Combat"? When Sarge would send the new guy and two regulars to scout up ahead, you could bet that it wasn't Cage or Littlejohn who would step on the mine. On "Miami Vice," no sooner would Don Johnson fall in love with a woman than she would get caught in Uzi cross fire.

It's sort of the same thing in CBS' presentation of the Winter Olympics, though in a lot less violent manner. When you see an American competing early on the prime-time show, you can pretty sure he or she won't be winning a medal.

It happened last night with early appearances for some U.S. men skiing in the moguls competition, and the same held true in pairs skating.

On the other hand, the early appearance of Donald Trump last night -- to make a pun on mogul -- signaled only that the show had to get better.

Material girl

Morley Safer's segment on Sonja Henie, the late Norwegian figure skating and movie star, didn't cover much new territory if you'd read any of the pre-Olympic pieces on her in various publications (including this one). However, it's not often that Milton Berle and the late Cesar Romero pop up on a sports telecast.

But wasn't it inevitable that Henie, who was very much in control of her professional and personal life, would be likened to Madonna? At some point, it seems, every person on the planet will be compared with Madonna.

Home fires burning

Last night, CBS' coverage of Norwegian speed skater Johann Olav Koss included a heartwarming look at his friendship with a blind youngster.

The network often goes for the heart strings, telling us about an athlete's loving family or seriously ill relative. Which leaves room to wonder how CBS will develop this angle with Tonya Harding.

" . . . and while Tonya skates in Norway, back in Portland a battery of lawyers misses her. They look up from their briefs, glimpse briefly at a TV picture of the tiny figure on the ice half a world away and then they sigh. . . ."

Close encounter

CBS reports that the network's top sports production executive, Rick Gentile, was praised by a stranger on Tuesday. The man approached Gentile in the Lillehammer International Broadcast Center and told him, "You must be very proud of your work. Congratulations on all the nominations."

Though confused, Gentile thanked the man. The stranger then took a closer look at Gentile. "My mistake," the man said, "I thought you were Steven Spielberg."

Numbers game

Sure, you look at the medals count, but what you really want to know about is CBS' ratings. That's why I'm here.

Tuesday's prime-time show drew a 27.3 rating and 39 share (the overall rating was 26.8 if the 11-11:30 period, outside of prime time, is counted). The numbers were 25 percent higher than on the first Tuesday of the 1992 Albertville Games.

The four-night average for CBS is 24.8/37. The network has guaranteed advertisers an 18.6 prime-time rating.

Ratings m-m-m-measure the percentage of t-t-t-t-television households watching a program. Sh-sh-sh-sh-shares measure the percentage among h-h-h-h-homes where television is in u-u-u-u-use. (Sorry, but there's a draft coming from my TV. It must be from that luge r-r-r-run. Or just from talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-g- generation.)

Looking ahead

It's a skate-a-thon tonight (8-11, channels 11, 9), with coverage of the men's technical program and pieces scheduled on two figure skaters, Canadian Elvis Stojko and Israeli Misha Shmerkin.

During TNT's afternoon show (1-6), the U.S.-Canada hockey game is scheduled to be shown live. No word yet on goalie cam.

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