The 2010 Winter Olympics (6:30 p.m., NBC) have arrived. With them, NBC hopes to hit the reset button on a season of discontent. Make that a century. The network and its cable and online partners promise an unprecedented 835 total hours of coverage. That’s spread out across NBC, USA, MSNBC, CNBC and Universal HD. NBCOlympics.com will provide more than 400 hours of that total. Don’t miss a single luge event.
This winter has seen the audience for sporting events rise dramatically. Last Sunday’s Super Bowl had a viewership in excess of 100 million, making it the most watched American TV event ever, breaking the long-standing record of the “MASH” series finale.
Some have speculated that the snowstorms of the past weekend may have been responsible for the Super Bowl’s massive numbers. The recession may have contributed to stay-at-home viewership, as well. While it has snowed in many locales, the host city, Vancouver, B.C., has experienced a flake deficit, forcing folks to import snow.
Snow or no snow, NBC will have winter on its side. A startling number of the most-watched TV events of all time have taken place during January and February. And they’re not all Super Bowls. Several of the old Bob Hope Christmas specials from Vietnam sit near the top of the list. The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan in February 1964. The famous “MASH” finale took place not in May, but on Feb. 23, 1983. “Roots” aired in January 1977. Two “events” that appear in the top-50 list were just episodes of “The Beverly Hillbillies” that aired in January 1964 and captured more than 60 percent of the TV audience. The most-watched non-Super Bowl sporting event of all time was the skating showdown between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding on Feb. 25, 1994. There’s a good reason “American Idol” kicks off in January.
While the games may be an introduction to Vancouver for many viewers, the city has received a great deal of TV exposure. In fact, Vancouver has been the location for so many movies and TV series that it has gained the nickname Hollywood North. Both “Battlestar Galactica” and its spinoff prequel, “Caprica,” have used Vancouver locations. The ABC fantasy “V” was shot there, as was “21 Jump Street” of Johnny Depp fame.
But the series most closely associated with the moody light and bleak atmosphere of the British Columbian sky was “The X-Files.” Vancouver’s visual vibe was as essential to that show as Scully and Mulder.