The Olympics: yay, a thing I don't need to add a contextual sentence lest you haven't been watching! Of course you're watching! At this point not having watched the Olympics is like not having heard of September 11. DMX himself knows about it! And NBC just got its best Saturday ratings in 18 years, restoring every last eight hundred forty seven million dollars they fronted for the thing along with the whole notion of American mass media. How did NBC do it? New Yorker television columnist Nancy Franklin has an answer: by appealing to the "lowest common denominator"! (Which is funny, because we thought appealing to the lowest common denominator didn't actually work on the Nielsens anymore unless you multiplied the Nielsen rating by some mysterious inflated self-importance multiplier reflective of the proportion of viewers employed in the New York media.) Franklin kvetches that 2008's "not painfully handcuffed but handcuffed nonetheless" Olympics coverage has been the shlockiest yet in an anachronistically curmudgeonly review that sounds… very New Yorker circa 1990!
In the four years since I was last forced to watch beach volleyball, I somehow have not found the maturity and wisdom to take it seriously as an Olympic sport, and, frankly, I doubt that NBC takes it seriously, either, except as a ratings grabber. Every time I turned on the TV, there was May-Treanor (the short one) and Walsh (the tall one), in those silly little Victoria's Ill-Kept Secret outfits. I now know more about these two women than I know about some of my relatives, including when Walsh met her husband; what's inscribed on her wedding ring (it flew off her finger during a match, and a fair amount of time was spent keeping viewers posted on the successful Search in the Sand); what the tattoo on May-Treanor's left shoulder signifies; and when the two of them plan to start families (soon after the Games are over). I'm not questioning Walsh's and May-Treanor's abilities-they won the gold medal in 2004 and have won more than a hundred consecutive matches-but I don't think their every move had to be documented.
Victoria's ill-kept secret: snicker snicker! It's also funny because Franklin hearts Gossip Girl and tolerates The Hills. ("I think people watch it mostly to figure out why they're watching it," she said of the latter, which I thought about over the weekend between Olympic commercial breaks. And no actually as my gay Ryan pointed out people watch The Hills because it is an opiate.) Franklin has some other quibbles with the coverage. The announcers, for one, are sometimes "punishingly shrill" — and a little given to melodrama and hyperbole! Everyone goes too easy on the Chinese military-gymnastic complex, and reporters make her wince when they try "'funny' food like fried scorpions." Good points, but odd coming from a Gossip Girl apologist! I almost wondered: is it the end of the Nobrow? (You know, the "pop culture writing made to sound just as erudite as actual culture writing but able to sell lots more magazines and make everyone a lot more popular at parties" style that took over the New Yorker when they put that former Tatler editor in charge of things?) Well, probably not, with a line like this:
As of this writing, it's not known whether he will reach his personal goal of winning eight gold medals in the Games, only that he has won more gold medals than any Olympic athlete in history, has broken records with each win in these Games, and is completely awesome.
The Fab Fortnight [The New Yorker]