US Television Stages its Own Olympics



An evening of Olympics with NBC first makes one feel aggressive, then depressed. After two hours, it is clear: the American broadcasters planned it exactly so.

This voice is right. The guy in front of the TV is not as fit as he was 10 years ago. On the way to the fridge, his back and left knee hurt, and he once was much more motivated to get physical exercise. “It’s not your fault,” whispers a voice, which by the way, is not located in his own head, but instead comes from the TV speakers and promises that a testosterone remedy will improve his quality of life and libido.

It is a commercial break during the Olympic Games, a break that happens very frequently on the American TV network NBC, and next to the usual triad of cars, beer and soft drinks, there are regular promotions for medications and dietary supplements.

After almost two hours, it becomes clear to the guy in front of the television that there is a long-term strategy from NBC to make each individual viewer first feel aggressive, then depressed, and then to use these reactions to make compliant customers of the life-improvement product industry.

NBC Largely Abstains from Live Sports

The sports are hardly shown during prime time—and in case there were any doubts, the term “sport” in this case does not mean live sports, but instead, merely images of people who compete in Rio during that day. The broadcaster largely abstains from covering live sports. For theatrical reasons, they say. What happens during the day has been run through NBC’s script machine and is then broadcast as a pre-chewed and pre-digested whole to those who only want to chew and digest chips in front of the television in the evening.

What is shown instead of sports is what these people, who finished their competition a couple of hours earlier, did a few weeks or years ago. It is a bit like the tragic resumes of the candidates on the television show “Germany Seeks A Superstar,” only much sappier. One takes care of his seriously ill grandmother, another overcomes a life-threatening illness. A former soldier now wants to bring home a medal for his country.

Because all of this is told without irony, the message consistently resonates with the people in front of the television: What have you accomplished in your life? What difficulties have you already had to master? Who have you helped beside yourself?

Then, a commercial break. With instructions on how to order a hair growth remedy.

Losers Do Not Exist on NBC

Finally, there are actual images of athletes who competed for medals a few hours earlier. These are, not coincidentally, American athletes who have overcome or tended to an illness, who take care of grandma on the side or sing in the church choir, and who somehow still found time to prepare themselves for the Olympic Games so intensively that they now have defeated the athletes of other nations.

This also takes place without irony; the not so subtle message is that this person on television, with a medal around his neck, is better than the guy on the sofa.

A commercial break follows with an announcement that there is a wonderful medication for depression.

So Naive and Innocent, So Sweet and Sad

Naturally there are, after an intensive review of the results from Rio, also American athletes who do not win medals. Who fail. Who do not fulfill expectations. In Germany, such German athletes are displayed, followed by moments of disappointment and outraged comments about too few medals, against the cries of “Ooooooch” or “Eieieieiei” that only German reporters can pull off.

The Americans spare themselves those moments. Failed U.S. athletes do not exist in the world view of the NBC prime time broadcast, and the victors of other nations exist only as side notes if they do not have the last name of Bolt (a hero) or Efimova (a villain). It is a program about winners, a celebration of records and medals, and a hymn to the praises of grandiose athletes. It is so naive and innocent in its earnestness that it is both sweet and sad at the same time.

The guy in front of the television observes it all, though he already knows the winners from the reading the ticker-tapes and from the live-streams. He has not been bored once, but exhibits the shock of a person who has at some point been robbed of his innocence and naivete and who urgently needs a testosterone remedy to avoid breaking into tears. What he also quite urgently wants to do is buy every athlete who did not manage a personal best or a medal a sugary soft drink.

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply