"I love that word relationship. Covers all manner of sins, doesn't it? I fear that this has become a bad relationship, with the President taking exactly what he wants, and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to Britain."
-Hugh Grant, Love Actually
That's a defining part in the 21st century's greatest romantic comedy, and it's not surprising that it's British. Hugh Grant rises like a phoenix -- as the new Prime Minister -- and essentially tells Billy Bob Thornton's American President that he can shove it, that this is England, and England won't be the little sister to the United States's ugly, older tomboy type.
The Americans are no doubt surprised and genuinely flummoxed. Naive, as always, they wonder why the English wouldn't want to be American. Why wouldn't everybody want to be American? If America isn't the greatest country in the world, then why does the TV keep telling us it is?
And, in the opening weekend of the 2012 Summer Olympics, it was the same old story from the Stars and Stripes and their representative cable outlet, NBC. (Yes, Mr. Peacock, we're just calling all of you "cable" now.)
Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira showed their arrogance on Friday night, during a delayed taping of the Opening Ceremonies, where they sounded insulting and petty and reminded viewers that most of the athletes competing in the Olympiad wouldn't medal. Gee, thanks. We were wondering what we were going to do without the spoiled kid's parents showing up at the track meet.
Not to worry, because Lauer is adding to his London experience by bringing us only the important things:
Yes. London cliches. That's essentially all Lauer has, isn't it? Harry Potter. Bond. Pip pip. Cheerio.
Lauer has shown to be more shallow about the Summer Games than he is while reviewing the best pair of pants for you this summer, or something else that Today might cover. I'd rather watch him dismiss Sarah Palin again, and again, and again. The fact that NBC thought that airing a delayed taping of perhaps the greatest Opening Ceremony ever (sorry, Beijing, but there was more personality in this one) -- as if folks all clamoured around one electronic apparatus still like they're waiting for Roosevelt's assurance that the war can still be won or something -- shows how defunct and outdated some (essential) parts of that network are.
Then again, after watching Today show hosts pop a brain cell trying to understand what the Internet is in 1994, I guess the writing was on the wall.
And, there was the whole tribute debacle, where NBC decided that their 1,100,456th interview with Michael Phelps was more important than choreographer Akram Khan's "honest expression of the fear approaching death."
It was also a tribute to victims of the July 7, 2005 subway bombing in London. This you know, even if NBC said they were unaware. I wonder, how would Americans feel if the Brits skipped one of their many tributes to 9/11? Or, was the War on Terror that tribute? Because, if it was, Tony Blair was pretty loyal to them.
Prime Minister: "I'm very jealous of your plane, by the way."
President: "Thank you. We love that thing, I'll tell ya."
NBC's explanation for the snub was that their "program is tailor-made for the U.S. television audience." Sheesh. Why don't you explain it to them then? Lauer and Vieira seemed to have no problem talking over everything else.
That's worse than the network's explanation for cutting out part of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman 9-1-1 call. As Jon Stewart said, "I guess you hit the remove context button."
NBC acts like these things are unintentional mistakes, or like they aren't conscious decisions. The fact is, they sat around a boardroom and decided that Ryan Seacrest's face hadn't been seen enough. And, regardless, should they really be cutting any of the Opening Ceremony? This is London's Games, not Atlanta's or Salt Lake City's. If you're still upset that the IOC wasn't wowed by Oprah's plug for Chicago 2016, maybe you could have thought of a better place to vent.
Every year, we sit through the Oscars and watch Americans brag about the magic of their own movies, and then pretend that Billy Crystal's latest joke about Twitter or Facebook or Justin Bieber (or whatever the kids are talking about nowadays) was funny because we feel sorry for him. We even had to sit through that Michael Jackson "We Are The World 25 for Haiti" thing, which looked more like a farewell to the King of Pop than it did a fundraiser for the hurricane-ravaged island nation.
As if the disrespectful tone set by the Opening Ceremony wasn't bad enough, NBC has continued to delay all of their coverage. Again, do they not know about the Internet? Guys, we've already seen this stuff. We know what happened. They even delayed the Phelps/Lochte race on Saturday, and then they've been tossing it up to Bob Costas and relying on his capable but physically diminuitive shoulders to the save the day as we're all going to bed. It should be called the "National Broadcasting of Costas," because he's the only dude worth tuning in for.
The rest of the time, the network has been overpaying their underused talent to go and do segments on the Tower of London and double-decker buses. I can only assume that a five-minute special on fish and chips is next.
These would be alright, but we already know from the example set on Friday night that NBC could care less about British culture, their people, or their Olympics, so these stories just seemed fabricated and fraudulent. As always, the Americans have viewed these Olympics as their Olympics. Everyone else can take a ticket, and get in line.
(I thought that CTV was bad for this stuff, but at least they put in an effort. At least they don't scoff at the competition. And, by the way, I'm not referring to "Americans" as the 330 million that live back home. I'm talking about their representative network.)
There's also been the commentating and individual event coverage, where American voices have seemed genuinely excited to see other teams fail. As good as the American gymnastics squad is, and as much as we all cheer for that rotating triangle of young, vibrant, female athletes, do you really have to be happy about every Russian slip, or every Chinese bobble?
And, if you're upset that one of your Americans didn't make the final in something, or win something, you can always bring Bela Karolyi on to complain that the rules are screwing you over. Yeah, it happens to all of us, guys.
In only three days, NBC has single-handedly shown all of us why folks are turning off their TVs and turning on their computers. They wonder why their ratings are dropping and why the money is fleeing. Maybe they should watch their own shows. After all, we saw what happened when the Yanks tried to copy Love Actually.
I will now do a victory dance, and I can't think of a better one than this:
This was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.