Fingers crossed, NBC hopes outcry over Russia’s anti-gay laws won’t spoil Olympics


A detail of the Olympic Rings which hang in the arena during the Women's Basketball Bronze Medal game on Day 15 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 11, 2012 in London, England. (Jamie Squire/GETTY IMAGES)
Hank Stuever
TV critic July 28, 2013

NBC executives don’t seem too worried (yet) that a growing international outcry over Russia’s strict new laws against gay “propaganda” and activism could interfere with their usual wall-to-wall coverage of the Winter Olympics in Sochi next February.

“Like every Olympic site, [Russia] comes with political and social issues, some of which have been in the news recently,” NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus told reporters Saturday at the Television Critics Association’s press tour here. “We will address those issues as they are relevant at the time of the Games.”

Hank Stuever has been The Post's TV critic since 2009. He joined the paper in 1999 as a writer for the Style section, where he has covered an array of popular (and unpopular) culture across the nation. View Archive

By “relevant,” NBC means something that gets between the camera and the Olympians — or foreign visitors. Lazarus noted that both NBC and the International Olympic Committee aren’t happy with Russia’s crackdown on gay rights.

“Right now [Russians] have a law that is the law of their land, and governments across the world have different laws,” Lazarus said. “But as long as it doesn’t affect us or the athletes, we will again acknowledge that it exists, but I don’t know what it’s going to mean to us yet. So I cannot tell you how we’re going to cover it. . . . We don’t believe that the Games are in the spirit of the law that they’ve passed, and we’re hopeful that the Olympic spirit will win out.”

Within the last week, protests against Russia have stepped up (gay bars across the United States have been taking Russian vodka off the shelves), with some calling for an outright Olympic boycott. It’s not hard to imagine this casting a dark cloud over the Games.


Diane Lane will star in a four-hour miniseries called “Hillary,” about the life and political ascent of Hillary Clinton, starting with the Monica Lewinsky nadir and moving upward. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
‘Hillary’: NBC’s ‘Sharknado?’

In addition to touting a raft of new fall shows meant to further a “year of improvement” (in the words of network executive Robert Greenblatt), NBC on Saturday announced some new “event” projects meant to stir up attention, not unlike a certain recent SyFy movie about sharks and tornados that had social networks infatuated.

NBC’s version of a “Sharknado,” as you may have heard, is a four-hour miniseries called “Hillary,” about the life and political ascent of Hillary Clinton, starting with the Monica Lewinsky nadir and moving upward. Diane Lane will star. Beyond that, there’s no air date, no one yet cast as Bill Clinton and a firm “no comment” from Hillary Clinton’s spokesman. But, from the initial buzz alone, you can bet production is on the fast track.

Other “events” in store from NBC: a “Rosemary’s Baby” remake, an adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Tommyknockers” and a limited series about the Pilgrims called “Plymouth.”

What’s a press tour, anyhow?

Glad you asked! It’s an ancient ritual in which journalists and TV critics — a.k.a., the Television Critics Association — convene for about two weeks every summer in one handy place, so that networks can unload and talk (and talk) about their new and returning shows this fall and into 2014.

Imagine a really big sequestered jury of reporters, living for days on end at the still-fabulous Beverly Hilton hotel (site of the annual Golden Globes; it’s also where Whitney Houston sadly joined the choir invisible) while attending panel after panel. Night descends and we board limo buses or head poolside for swelegant network parties, where we can talk on the record with people who make and star in TV shows. It may sound like an unseemly boondoggle, but we actually get a lot done.

During a buoyant panel Saturday to promote his new single-gay-dad NBC sitcom “Sean Saves the World,” actor Sean Hayes asked the ballroom full of journalists tapping away at their laptops: “Have you all been literally sitting here since ‘Will & Grace’ was off the air?”

It feels like it, yes.

Also of note

HBO execs are just as puzzled as the rest of us about why their new rival Netflix won’t give the public some hard numbers on how many people are actually watching its original streaming series, including the Emmy-nominated “House of Cards.”

“It’s curious. I don’t know what to make of it,” HBO’s programming president, Michael Lombardo, said Thursday, taking the exit marked “high road,” since HBO and other ad-free premium channels partake in traditional ratings data. HBO chief executive Richard Plepler added: “I think ‘curious’ is the right word for it. But quite frankly, [Netflix] is not our business, and we leave it at that.”

Keith Olbermann and ESPN professed their rekindled love for one another in advance of his new nightly talk show, “Olbermann,” which starts airing on the network Aug. 26. Despite what you’ve read, Olbermann said last Thursday that he will be able to talk politics (and culture, and anything else) when the mood strikes, but he also said he’s going to try to stick to sports most of the time. Probably a good idea.

“Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan humbly bragged last Friday that he and his gang totally nailed this final season, which begins Aug. 11. I’ve seen the first episode and, so far, he’s right.

Next up . . .

The press tour continues Monday with new shows from CBS, followed by Showtime and the CW; Fox and FX will present their fall offerings later this week, followed by ABC. And PBS finishes things off next week.

If you can stand it, follow my tweets, @HankStuever, for the latest poop.

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