When there was action -- and there was a lot of it yesterday--NBC covered its Super Bowl XVII clean and complete. Nothing fancy--no cameras in anybody's helmets or microphones buried in midfield. Just good pictures and smooth, smart talk.
When there wasn't action, though, NBC did a number of things to cause some of us to wonder what kind of people they think we are at home.
Anybody out there remember which program you could see immediately following the Super Bowl? Something with Mr. T in it, wasn't it? Five separate shots of Mr. T, the loud, mean-talking star of NBC's "A Team," were about four too many. Especially since he was interviewed by Bob Costas during NBC's two-hour pregame show, when he told us at home that if we didn't watch "A Team," he would "come into your house and take your TV and give it to somebody who will watch it."
It isn't often NBC gets 100 million viewers, which is what the Super Bowl, the most-watched telecast in sports, was supposed to bring it yesterday. And an NFL season shortened and cheapened (in the network advertising sense) by a strike might also explain the shameless promotion of upcoming NBC fare peppered through the pregame and game. It might also explain the two-hour length of the pregame. Thirty seconds of commercial yesterday sold for as much as $400,000.
Costas' pregame interviews also included Danny DeVito ("Taxi") and his wife Rhea Perlman ("Cheers"), and Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan of NBC's "Remington Steele." Zimbalist was qualified to comment, of course, because her mother's family, she told us, lives in Washington.
Anyway, we should not get picky. NBC Sports allowed its own A Team, Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen, the option of hearing from the panel of experts NBC had assembled outside the booth, or of doing the game without them. They chose to do the game without outside help, and for the most part they were without fault. Particularly Olsen.
We saw the experts--Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Bob Trumpy, John Brodie, Gene Washington and Ahmad Rashad--during the aforementioned pregame. We also saw a slew of taped warmups and preparatory pieces, but the standouts include Mike Adamle's fine, hard-thinking piece on the 1982 season's off-the-field highlights--and lowlights.
Also a report from Joe Piscopo, ersatz sportscaster of "Saturday Night Live," whose one-word exclamations speak volumes.
"Season! Strike!" he said. He furrowed his brow. "Stupid!"
Producer Larry Cirillo and director Ted Nathanson, NBC's coordinator of NFL coverage, are hereby appreciated for remarkable restraint in crowd shots. In fact, I can recall seeing only one close-up shot of cheering--a two-second flirt with some flying Redskinettes in the final period. The only shot of those ubiquitous banners hailing Redskins and NBC I saw came just after the game ended.
Nathanson and replay directors John Gonzalez and George Finkel are also appreciated for not missing anything, but likewise chastised for going slightly overboard with their 11 tape machines yesterday.
You could tell it was coming. Olsen would start off by saying "You've heard us talking about Joe Jacoby, and . . ." Bang. What NBC calls an "Action Capsule" (and sometimes labels them so on-screen) was about to grow out of the center of your screen. Accompanied by the painstakingly cheerful narration of Father Merlin Murphy, these packages are most times tolerable, even instructive, but not when they go on so long as to interfere with the snap of the ball--and to make difficult distinguishing between live and tape.
Yesterday we saw a quick package of replays of how Don Shula and Joe Gibbs send in their plays. Also a taped primer on how Miami backup quarterback Don Strock spent the first part of the game--talking to Shula, nodding his head. Lots of action there. Olsen used his telestrator--the video crayon CBS dubbed a Chalkboard--only five times, and all under the right circumstances. Best was when he pointed out Don McNeal's ultimately failed scramble, after being led astray by the motion man, to catch John Riggins on his 43-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run.
NBC had its share of gaffes. It listed Andra Franklin as "Andrea Franklin" on a super. Olsen referred once to the "Mighty Rizzo"--did he mean Riggins?--and Adamle referred to Riggins in the postgame show as "crazy" and steamed Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke. Nathanson once cut to a tape machine in the throes of fast-forward.
Small stuff, though. NBC did this one relatively straight, and relatively well.