What plays well in a stadium doesn't always work so well on TV.
But if the in-person thumbs-up reviews out of London Friday were accurate, the opening ceremonies of the
I hate most opening ceremonies with their overproduced and often idiosyncratic attempts to re-create mythologies with synthesizers, fireworks and way too many dancers. But, for the most part, I really liked what I saw on NBC Friday.
I was only deeply and truly moved once. That came when a choir of children with various disabilities sang "God Save the Queen." From the close-ups, it looked like even the queen was moved by the beauty and earnest efforts of these children -- and just think how many times she has heard that melody.
I was semi-deeply-and-truly-moved when
Matt Lauer and
But no matter. When he got up from the piano to try and bring the crowd more deeply into the chorus, one of the camera shots from behind made me flash back to the first Beatles concert at Shea Stadium in New York, and I was overwhelmed with how many great cultural moments McCartney has been part of on such stages.
And I instantly felt as if I was witnessing something that mattered. I also felt connected to the tens of thousands who were joining him in song. It might be all illusion, but TV has that kind of power to transport and even facilitate transcendence. Great choice by producer
Two emotional moments in four and ahalf hours isn't that great. At the end of long, draining week, I did want the opening ceremonies TV experience to wash all over me, playing my emotions like a pinball machine.
But there were other, less intense viewing pleasures, like the cleverly amusing sequence involving
Speaking of offbeat comedy,
I wasn't quite as moved by the big concept stuff, like the move from England as an agrarian society to the Industrial Revolution. Here we go again, I thought, flashing back to the last winter games in Canada and all the creation myths they were trying to re-stage -- creation myths only a Canadian could care about. Sorry, Canada.
But Boyle didn't go on and on, and the pyrotechnics of the Olympic rings being forged before our eyes were impressive. Did I say I generally hate pyrotechnics?
I could have also done without the teen dancers shaking their way through the 1960, '70s, '80s and '90s. I know they were supposed to mimic the optimism, energy and high spirits of the athletes -- and to some extent they did. But I found their self-conscious sense of cuteness annoying before they ever got past the Kinks and the
And come on, a musical salute to the UK's National Health Service? Medicine in Baltimore is about as good as it gets, and I can't remember ever wanting to break into song or dance over my experience with the bureaucracies that provide it. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe "
In fact, the overall production started to drag about two hours in, but NBC wisely gave viewers a three-minute break from the proceedings in the stadium for an interview with
But NBC was right. By the time Phelps came on with
NBC started strong Friday night, and there is plenty to praise -- from executive producer Jim Bell to director Bucky Gunts, a Baltimore native.
In the end, as much as I generally hate the hype, self-importance, pulled punches and hero worship of Olympics TV coverage, I am mainly feeling good about what NBC delivered on this opening night.
I'll be be back with NBC Saturday to see Phelps swim. Stop back, maybe I won't be feeling so good about the coverage.