Monday, August 13, 2012

NBC and Its Olympics Closing Ceremony Sins of Omission

Last night I did not watch the closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics. Leverage, the second season debut of Hell on Wheels, and the final first season episode of Longmire were airing last night, so I decided to simply DVR the closing ceremonies. As the night passed, however, I heard some very disturbing news regarding NBC's closing ceremonies on both Twitter and Google+. First I heard that NBC had cut Muse's performance of the London 2012 Olympics theme song "Survival." Second, I heard that NBC had cut a performance of "Waterloo Sunset" by legendary leader of The Kinks Ray Davies. Third, I heard that NBC had cut Kate Bush performing "Running Up That Hill." At last I heard the unthinkable--NBC had cut what I consider to be the second greatest rock group of all time, The Who.

As it turned out NBC did not cut The Who. Instead, they cut away from the Olympics closing ceremonies to air a commercial free, preview episode of Animal Practice. They returned to the Olympics closing ceremonies and The Who after the late local news on their affiliates. While many viewers were relieved that NBC did air The Who's performance at the end of the closing ceremonies, they were not happy with the fact that they cut away from the closing ceremonies to air a sitcom. Indeed, initially it appeared NBC had planned to air Animal Practice following the closing ceremonies, but for reasons known only to the network they changed their plans.

To say viewers were furious with the Peacock Network would be an understatement. The hashtag #NBCFail trended on both Twitter and Google+. Twitter and Google+ were filled with tweets and posts by viewers expressing their outrage that NBC had cut Muse, Ray Davies, and Kate Bush. That outrage only grew greater when NBC pre-empted The Who for a preview episode of Animal Practice. The tweets and posts varied from the more sedate "NBC fails again sort" to those expressing outrage that NBC dare cut legends such as Ray Davies, Kate Bush, and The Who to those, well, those that used language NBC probably would not want their children to read.

I must say that I was and I am still angry that NBC cut Ray Davies, Kate Bush, and Muse, and delayed The Who. Indeed, as I DVRed the closing ceremonies I was lucky that I kept the telly on after the late local news or I would have missed The Who entirely. And I must say I fail to understand NBC's reasoning in any of these choices. Did they honestly think that Americans did not want to see Ray Davies, Kate Bush, or Muse? I cannot believe that they did. Ray Davies is a rock legend, a founding member and the leader of The Kinks, possibly one of the four greatest British bands of all time (along with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who) and one that still has a large following in the United States. What is more Mr. Davies was performing one of The Kinks' best known and beloved songs, "Waterloo Sunset." In my opinion, only someone totally ignorant of rock history and American tastes could decide to cut Ray Davies.

While Kate Bush is lesser known that Ray Davies, she is also a legend in her own right. Starting in the late Seventies Miss Bush would have a string of hits in the United Kingdom that would last in the Nineties. She never did quite as well here in the United States, but she did develop a very large following (myself among them) and starting with 1985's Hounds of Love her albums have generally ranked in the top 100 of the Billboard albums chart. I rather suspect far, far more Americans have heard of Kate Bush than Take That, an act without a single hit song or album in the U.S. that NBC included in their broadcast. Again, I think only someone ignorant of rock history and American tastes could decide to cut Kate Bush.

While Ray Davies and Kate Bush are legends, Muse could perhaps be best described as a British band that is wildly popular in the United States. They first came to attention here in the United States with their single "Muscle Museum" in 1999, which did not hit the charts, but did receive a good deal of FM radio play. With 2003's "Stockholm Syndrome" they began to regularly hit Billboard's Alternative chart. In 2009 they actually hit the top forty of Billboard's Hot 100, which went to #37. Since their 2006 album Blackholes and Revelations, Muse have regularly hit the top ten of the Billboard albums chart. This marks Muse as one of the biggest British bands in the United States and one that is certainly better known than acts that NBC did air. To put things in perspective, NBC cutting Muse from a programme in 2012 would be something like NBC cutting Small Faces from a programme in 1968. I think whoever made the decision to cut Muse must be ignorant of American tastes and both British and American popular music.

While there we may never know why NBC decided to cut Ray Davies, Kate Bush, and Muse, one can guess the reason that they decided to cut away from the closing ceremonies and The Who to air a preview episode of Animal Practice. The simple fact is that NBC is the fourth rated, major network and they are desperate for viewers. The programmers at NBC probably figured that with the Olympics closing ceremonies they would have a captive audience who would stay tuned to Animal Practice and would not mind waiting for The Who after their late local news. What NBC failed to take into account is that the viewers had tuned in to see the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremonies and many of them had tuned into specifically see The Who , not the preview of a new sitcom. Indeed, my primary reason for DVRing the closing ceremonies was to see The Who perform (as an aside, I might add that the only Super Bowl I've watched since 2002 was in 2010 when The Who played the halftime show). Viewers who wanted to see The Who probably would not be happy to wait and I rather suspect many changed the channel, switching back to NBC only after their late local news. Indeed, it's quite possible that many, perhaps those particularly angry after NBC cut Ray Davies, Kate Bush, and Muse, might not have returned to NBC at all, electing to watch The Who on YouTube.

Indeed, NBC had to know there was a large audience who wanted to see The Who and I cannot see how they could have possibly thought they would be happy to wait to see them. Of the performers at the closing ceremonies, The Who were the biggest act, the most legendary band there. Quite simply, short of The Beatles and maybe The Rolling Stones, The Who are one of the greatest rock bands of all time. They have a string of hit singles and albums going back to the Sixties. They wrote some of the greatest songs in rock history. While they did not invent the rock opera, they certainly were pioneers in the form. Short of Sir Paul McCartney or The Rolling Stones, one cannot get a bigger rock act than The Who. If NBC had wanted to keep the goodwill of their viewers, then, they should have aired Animal Practice after The Who.

Now in NBC's defence I must point out that they did have an option to watch the closing ceremonies live online. And I must also point out that, unlike the opening ceremonies, the presenters kept their talk to an absolute minimum. That having been said, I was only aware that NBC had made a streaming, live broadcast online available after the fact. I rather suspect they announced it during their Olympics coverage and perhaps on their website and Twitter as well, but that they did not otherwise publicise it. While it was nice, then, that NBC did have a live stream available this time around, I would have appreciated knowing about it. And while I also appreciate their presenters being quiet for much of the ceremonies, that does little to ease my anger at the network for cutting acts I really wanted to see.

Here I feel I must apologise if I sound overly angry, however, the plain truth is that I was looking forward to the London 2012 closing ceremonies. I have been an Anglophile all my life and most of my favourite bands are from the United Kingdom. I wanted to watch the closing ceremonies to see Madness, Kate Bush, Ray Davies, Queen, Kaiser Chiefs, Annie Lennox, Beady Eye, Muse, and The Who. And then yesterday I learn that I won't be seeing Kate Bush, Ray Davies, or Muse. Kate Bush is one of my favourite solo artists of all time and possibly my favourite female singer. She recorded one of my favourite songs of all time, "Wuthering Heights." Ray Davies is the founder and leader of my third favourite British rock band of all time, The Kinks, and "Waterloo Sunset" is one of my favourite songs. Muse is my favourite current British band, along with Kaiser Chiefs. NBC was willing to let me see acts I did not like (and which I fast forwarded through on my DVR) such as One Direction and Fatboy Slim, but I could not see some of the acts that I (and I am sure many other Americans) love the most.

Regardless, from Twitter and Google+ I was obviously not alone in my anger at NBC for cutting Ray Davies, Kate Bush, and Muse, and delaying The Who. And this was not the first time during the London 2012 Olympics that they angered viewers. NBC angered viewers with their handling of the opening ceremonies, which they aired as a delayed broadcast, one that was edited at that, and through which the presenters insisted on talking (even over The Arctic Monkeys). Those who watched the Olympics themselves were unhappy that events were not aired live and, in fact, NBC spoiled Missy Franklin's victory in the 100-metre backstroke with a promo for Today that aired before they even broadcast the Olympic event! For many viewers I suspect NBC's handling of the closing ceremonies may well be the final straw. I myself tweeted last night, "As they fired Ann Curry, talked over The Arctic Monkeys, cut Muse from the closing ceremonies, I'm wondering why I should watch @nbc at all." I was not alone in my sentiments. I saw one tweet where the individual pledged never to watch Animal Practice because they say The Who. I saw other tweets in which individuals said they would never watch NBC again.

Sadly, I do not know if NBC can repair the damage done by their mishandling of the London 2012 closing ceremonies. I suppose if they apologised profusely and aired a special featuring the performances of Ray Davies, Kate Bush, Muse, and The Who, viewers might be willing to forgive them, but I rather doubt it. As it is I really feel sorry for the cast and crew of Animal Practice. The poor show was the target of many people's wrath and I suspect hard feelings for the show pre-empting The Who will guarantee low ratings and an early death for it this autumn. Indeed, I am thinking NBC's handling of the Olympics could affect their coming fall season. I know I plan to watch only Community, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation and nothing else on NBC (here I should note I will still watch my local news--it's not their fault NBC dropped the ball). I have to wonder that other viewers won't watch NBC at all. As much as NBC may have hoped the Olympics would help them in the next television season's ratings, I suspect their mishandling of it will guarantee that they will gain be the fourth rated major broadcast network.

1 comment:

Toby O'B said...

I feel sorry for the cast of "Animal Practice" as well, some of whom I actually enjoy watching. But this fiasco did sour me on the show in general and it didn't look like it had any saving graces in the first place.

I'd never totally swear off NBC - like you, I'll still watch 'P&R', 'Community' and '30 Rock', but also 'Grimm'. Otherwise it has nothing to offer me......