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CBS Jumps In With a Strong Opening Day

Don’t adjust your dial. That snow you will be seeing on the screen over the next two weeks is the real thing. And it is beautiful.

CBS is off to a roaring start with its Winter Olympics coverage.

Saturday night’s prime-time show was tremendous, complete with “hat cams,” French-style bungee jumping and more.

The bungee-jumping was an amazing aerial ballet, with performers 50 feet above the ground. It was part of the fascinating pageant that followed the parade of nations.

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The “hat cam,” as Tim McCarver called it, was worn by American luger Bonnie Warner as she paraded around the stadium.

It was an indication of innovative things to come.

Another came earlier in the day during the Canada-France hockey game, when a replay was shown in a box along with live action in the background. Longtime director Sandy Grossman came up with that idea.

There will also, no doubt, be things in upcoming telecasts to complain about, as there were Saturday night.

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It seemed inappropriate for CBS to show Chrysler Motors donating $3 million to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Unemployed auto workers surely could think of better things to do with $3 million.

Also, a piece titled “Report From Planet Earth,” capsulizing the world’s headlines over the past four years, was nicely put together, but the narration was frivolous. It didn’t work.

However, overall, if Saturday night’s show didn’t get you in the mood for the Winter Olympics, then nothing will.

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Because this is the first Winter Olympics CBS has done in 32 years, there will be some familiar faces in unfamiliar places.

It’s a little odd seeing announcers such as Dick Stockton on the slopes, or Verne Lundquist talking about figure skating, but at least John Madden hasn’t been assigned to the biathlon or some such event.

Madden was originally part of CBS’s Albertville team, but they couldn’t figure out how to get him there. Madden doesn’t fly and the Maddencruiser doesn’t float.

The most noticeable difference with these Winter Games is that McCarver, a baseball announcer, and Paula Zahn, a morning news anchor, are the prime-time hosts instead of Jim McKay.

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McKay was a reporter for CBS at the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, Calif., where Walter Cronkite and Chris Schenkel served as the co-hosts for 15 hours of coverage.

McKay later switched to ABC and became an Olympic fixture through the 1988 Winter Games at Calgary. ABC for years called itself the “network of the Olympics.”

Now it’s CBS’s turn. Counting Saturday’s coverage, CBS will devote 116 hours to the Albertville Games, 30 more than ABC had from Calgary.

Plus, TNT will offer 45 hours of weekday coverage. The TNT co-hosts will be Nick Charles and Fred Hickman.

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The CBS lineup of commentators includes some big names, such as Katarina Witt and Scott Hamilton on figure skating and Andy Mill, husband of Chris Evert, on Alpine skiing.

The lineup also includes some lesser-known reporters, such as John Fee on luge and Jeff Hastings on ski jumping.

And news types such as Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Charles Kuralt and Andy Rooney will be whizzing around the Alps, filing stories.

The CBS telecasts will be divided into five parts: weekday mornings, 7-9 a.m.; midday highlights, noon-12:30 p.m.; prime time, 8-11 p.m.; late-night highlights, 11:30-midnight, and weekend daytime at varied times.

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TNT’s weekday coverage, beginning Monday, will run from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., three hours earlier than it runs in the East.

Generally speaking, except for some of the weekend daytime coverage, nearly everything on CBS will be delayed in the West.

On Sunday, Feb. 23, the final day, the gold-medal hockey game will be shown live in the East at 9 a.m. and in the West at 6 a.m.

Sports fans don’t like delayed coverage for the obvious reason--it eliminates the suspense.

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But in the case of the Winter Olympics, delayed coverage isn’t all bad. For one thing, results usually aren’t as important as the spectacle.

The advantage of delayed coverage, from CBS’s standpoint, is that it allows time to produce a tightly edited, organized program. And, the CBS people say, it also enables them to insert commercials judiciously and unobtrusively.

CBS says it generally will have fewer commercials than ABC did from Calgary, 10 1/2 minutes an hour instead of 12.

Radio coverage: For those who want to get the results before watching the events on television, KNX will carry 200 reports from CBS radio throughout the Games. The reports will generally run at 45 minutes past the hour, beginning at 3:45 a.m., except Sundays, when they begin at 6:45 a.m.

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