NBC Coverage Aesthetically Pleasing, Lacks Authoritative Presence
May 31, 2010 11 Comments
After a long night of guarding a stairwell at a Bon Jovi concert performed at the New Meadowlands Stadium (which would make a great, personality-free, neutral home for a Winter Classic, by the way) I stayed awake, fired the old DVR up and turned on Game #1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks on NBC. It was embarrassingly sloppy at times, but a 6-5 score is a 6-5 score, and it makes for a fantastic entry point into the series. The casual fan learned a lot of new names in Game #1 based on their statistics on the scoreboard, and they learned just as emphatically the superstars who aren’t performing. It’s key in a series between two teams who haven’t been to the Final in a while that casual fans, or even fans who don’t see the teams too often, get to know personalities.
Anyway, here are some observations from the broadcast:
- Pierre McGuire takes a ton of undeserved slagging from fans and critics alike for his overenthusiastic, hyperbolic nature. That said… they really could’ve used someone like Dan Patrick to host things and give interviews during Games #1 and #2. McGuire is at times extremely overly, and awkwardly friendly to players. His interview with Dustin Byfuglien in the pre-game was almost as awkward as this. Mike Emrick brings a ton of gravitas to a telecast like this, but it didn’t feel like he had the autonomy a James Brown or a Jim Nantz will often have. Perhaps after Emrick hangs ‘em up from play-by-play he can take on that role and be the presence. We’ll have to see if Dan Patrick improves things for a potential games 5-7.
- NBC (and I presume, VERSUS) need to cut the length of the pre-game show. Both this year and last year, not starting until 8:20 PM has hurt the first half-hour ratings-wise, and has kept the viewer levels of the games down. Cut out the extended commentary at ice level from Milbury and McGuire, and the banter between Emrick and Olczyk, and lets maybe attempt to start at 8:15 PM ET. Not quite the 8:10 start of a regular season game, but early enough. Honestly, nothing likely hurt NBC’s ratings more last night than Roy Halladay’s perfect game drawing eyeballs in Philadelphia. I guarantee the Game #2 ratings will be much higher.
- That all said, I did like the pre-game feature demonstration between McGuire and guest analyst Ryan Miller, who I enjoyed the low key commentary from for most of the game. He was especially helpful given that the focus of the game was on how poorly the two starting goaltenders had played. I would like to see if Miller can improve on television, it is a shame he’s got that whole millionaire hockey star thing going on for him. Another thing Miller provides: a recognizable face, as NBC immediately connected him to his star-making Olympic performance.
- Kudos to NBC also go for the organizers of the intermission features. I think going after the dynamic/relationship between Chris Pronger and Mike Richards was a ballsy move. It’s certainly something you won’t hear about on VERSUS or CSN Philadelphia. I hope NBC keeps lavishing attention on the controversy Pronger continues to jovially create during the Final, as Chris Pronger vs. the World always makes for terrific TV.
- Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk were good, but I cannot stand – at times – how NBC just drowns out the commentary to an almost inaudible level. Especially during the goal announcements from the public address announcer. You’re going to show the scoring play on your score overlay graphic, and chances are Emrick will repeat it himself, there’s no reason to hear the initial announcement over play-by-play of what’s going on, particularly in a 6-5 game where no lead lasted more than 5 minutes until the third period.
- All this in the bag, the game continues to look better than it has before, NBC provided ample camera angles to show the key plays (being able to determine that the game’s first goal had gone off Chicago d-man Nicklas Hjalmarsson’s face was awesome). The 360-degree, “IceVision” camera is as understated an innovation in hockey broadcasting as the effect of HD and the “glow puck” were overstated. I wish we could see that for just regular replays, it could really help the viewer on TV get that “in the arena” feeling. I’m as big a proponent as you’ll find on that.
- Finally, most awkward moment of the night: Any time they cut to McGuire standing next to CBC’s Glenn Healy in the cramped “inside the glass” position. I can’t imagine how weird that must’ve been for both.