February 22, 1998

Still Paying the Price

So, youíd think that after all this time, weíd eventually have stopped feeling the fallout from the most traumatic event ever to happen in the entire history of the planet.

Of course, Iím referring to the untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Every day, in every way, the death of the princess touches me. Take today, for example.

Itís the last day of the XVIII Winter Olympic Games. Iím going to be busy during the evening, but Iíd like to watch the closing ceremonies at a later date, say, tomorrow over breakfast. Like hundreds of Americans, I know how to program my VCR. In addition to the closing ceremonies, I decided to program the machine to just keep on rolling, through the late local news, to include the final installment of CBSís "Olympic Late Night" show.

As I may have mentioned before, this is my favorite broadcast from the Olympics. It has it all, from host Al Trautwig consistently sticking his head in co-host Michele Tafoyaís shot, to the Rock and Roll Highlights, to "Toppu Staa" (Star of the Day). This is the Olympics show I most worship. Itís got just the right "edge" to it Ė reverent when needed, but still willing to have a lot of fun.

So, anyhow, the final installment of "Olympic Late Night" is set to start at 11:35pm, PST, and run for one hour. Fine, just to account for a smidgen of overrun, I tell the VCR to stop recording at 12:40am.

Now, hereís where the whole Princess Diana thing comes in.

See, in the middle of the night, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan emerges from talks with the Iraqi leadership, and holds a joint news conference with Iraqís foreign minister, Tariq Aziz.

And during the initial coverage of the car crash that eventually killed Diana, CBS was the last network to get someone on the air with the information.

Since then, CBS has been hyper-sensitive, jumping in with "across-the-board" network live interrupts (where CBS in New York interrupts all programming on all CBS stations to show a special report) with little provocation or need. But theyíre never going to be accused of being slow on a story ever again! (The network news president had to apologize to affiliates in the wake of the Diana mess. CBS didnít go live to that story until after the other networks. The horror of being last!)

Well, itís very early Monday morning in New York City, and that means there are a couple of junior network staffers manning the anchor desk of CBSís all-night news program, "Up to the Minute." So, the network decides, hey, itís after midnight on the West Coast, itís three in the morning on the East Coast Ö but this (previously reported on the 11:00pm news) agreement between the United Nations and Iraq deserves a special report!

So CBS decides to stop the playback of "Olympic Late Night" on the West Coast, in effect pressing the "pause" button on the big network tape playback machine, until the end of their special report. That means that "Olympic Late Night" will now go past its scheduled off-time of 12:35am PST equal to the length of this not-so-special report.

Along about 12:43am, I walk out in to the living room, ready to rewind my tape, and watch the final installment of my favorite Olympic show.

But something is wrong. Itís still going on. Iím missing it! My tape has stopped. I immediately started recording again, and later, went back and watched to figure out just what happened. Hey, donít they know theyíre messing with "Mr. TV?" (More on that sometime soon.)

Well, at least I didnít check up on it at, say, 1:00am. As it was, I only missed a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, it came out of one of my favorite features; listening to the international broadcast teams call the Games back to their home country. (Youíve never heard Hermann Maierís wipe-out until youíve heard how the Austrian TV crew called it.)

Ah, nuts. Thanks again, CBS, for letting the whole Diana mess stain my final Olympic viewing experience. I look forward to your Olympic coverage in Ö oh, thatís right. NBC has the rights to the next five Summer and Winter Olympic games. Nyah.

Well, maybe NBC will hire Al Trautwig and Michele Tafoya to host a really cool, hip, happening, wacky late-night round up. And I know just the former TV news producer they need for that show Ö

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Colin Campbell - jenolen@earthlink.net
Last updated May 24, 1998