Monday, February 16, 1998
CBC covers mistake for primetime
CBC's Steve Armitage couldn't have picked a worse moment to suffer the TV version of falling flat on his face.
As speed skaters Catriona LeMay Doan and Susan Auch flew off the final turn of the women's 500 metres early Saturday morning, Armitage crashed.
In arguably Canada's biggest moment of the Games, the veteran announcer confused the two skaters, leading viewers to believe Auch was going to win gold.
"They come off the final turn ... it is the two Canadians," Armitage bellowed in the raspy voice that usually makes him a perfect fit for the big race. "It is Auch on the inside ... oh my what a tremendous finish."
All spine-tingling stuff, except for the fact it was LeMay Doan who was on the inside and headed for gold. Armitage quickly made the correction after the skaters crossed the line but it was too late.
Or was it? Fortunately for Armitage, the stumble happened in the middle of the night here, allowing the CBC spin doctors to perform some quick surgery.
If you caught the reprise later Saturday, you would not have known of the blunder. That's because CBC producers, revisionist historians that they were, had Armitage revoice the call to get it right, complete with contrived emotion.
It was an unfortunate miscue for Armitage, who can raise the hair on your back with his exciting race calls. It certainly wasn't the first time an announcer has re-voiced a mistake, either.
It's just too bad there was so much on the line.
YOU BE THE JUDGE: CBC commentators have been sharply critical of the judging in figure skating and rightfully so. Host Brian Williams called the dance marks "a farce" while Chris Cuthbert and Paul Martini also blasted the apparent bloc voting. Strange then, that nothing critical was said when the Canadian judge gave Elvis Stojko a hug after his free skate.
Somehow you can't picture referee Kerry Fraser doing the same with Eric Lindros.
MORE FIGURES: Martini deserves generally good marks for his handling of the men's free skate, pointing out that Ilia Kulik was a deserving gold-medal winner ... The same cannot be said for CBS's Scott Hamilton, who threw credibility out the door with U.S. skater Todd Eldredge. "Todd's program was very, very strong," Hamilton blathered. "It was nothing to be ashamed of because he was so close." This was a program so bad, CBC's Cuthbert immediately said: "He was poised for a medal but it all unravelled here." ... Hamilton, by the way, had this to say about the U.S. pairs duo of Jenny Meno and Todd Sand: "They are such wonderful people."
Yeah, but they finished eighth.
ALL CANADIANA: It is moments like last night's in-studio interview with bobsledders Pierre Lueders and David MacEachern that make for emotional Olympic TV. CBC producers hooked up the parents of both gold-medal sledders in a conference call and, with moderation from Williams, viewers got a peak at the patriotic pride parents of Olympians take in their children's accomplishments.
LAUGH TRACK: Apparently figure skating announcers aren't the only ones prone to gushing. Armitage actually said this at LeMay Doan's medal ceremony: "Every time I see that smile I want to giggle, I want to laugh."
HOCKEY TALK: The Olympic hockey competition has created a world of problems for CBC's Bob Cole, who often referred to the Czech Republic as Czechoslovakia during a game against Kazakhstan yesterday ... Strong work from John Garrett has helped make CBC's women's hockey coverage first-rate ... CBC was on the ball capturing the controversy at the end of the Canada-U.S. game in which Canadian Danielle Goyette accused a U.S. player of making a tasteless comment about her recently deceased father.
QUICK CUTS: CBS's overall prime-time ratings are 34% lower than at Lillehammer. Because the audiences are well below what CBS guaranteed its advertisers, the network will have to issue make-good ads. For viewers, that means even more commercial time to put up with over the next week ... Best pictures of the Games so far have come from the speed skating oval where a moving camera catches skaters coming off the final turn ... CBS's computer-enhanced graphics helped show, in viewer-friendly terms, figure skating's quadruple jump.