Archive for Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2010 Winter Games lack memorable villains

February 24, 2010

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If the schedule and weather hold up, tonight’s Winter Olympics coverage (7 p.m., NBC) will concentrate on the Women’s Giant Slalom skiing event.

As we’ve been told, this gives Lindsey Vonn another shot at gold, another chance to triumph over competitors and injuries.

All told, these Olympics games have put the emphasis on individual triumphs. They have been decidedly lacking in one ingredient that have made past games memorable: villains.

Now we all know the Olympics are about world peace and young people having the time of their lives. And who doesn’t feel bad about Lindsey’s shin?

But while the happy Olympics image works well in a 30-second Coke commercial, all competitive events are enhanced by the presence of someone or some team to root against.

For a brief moment, Russian skater Yevgeny Plushenko filled that bill. NBC announcer and Olympic champion Dick Button commented that if he were making the movie of the games, he would cast Plushenko as the face of “evil.”

But Button’s black hat got beat last week by Evan Lysacek. Fans in Plushenko’s corner claimed he was “robbed.” But perhaps we were robbed too, of the one guy we could all boo and hiss.

Nobody wants a return to the Cold War. But the Games took on an added edge when the United States and the old U.S.S.R. tangled. Why else are we still talking about the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” after all these years?

In 1994, in one of the first post-Cold War games, the media and the audience latched onto the good-versus-evil soap opera of Nancy Kerrigan versus Tonya Harding.

When they were both beaten by Oksana Baiul, nobody seemed to notice or much care that the Ukrainian skater had been part of the old Soviet skating machine. They weren’t the “bad guys” anymore. That role had been stolen by Jeff Gillooly.

There’s a reason the New York Yankees draw the largest crowds on the road — not because opposing fans love them.

Beating the Evil Empire means something. Do you think “American Idol” is so popular because Simon Cowell is nice?

Color me cranky, but I feel decidedly underwhelmed when I watch special segments on three sunny snowboard competitors who describe one another as “best buds.”

If one were to steal another’s boyfriend, or say something nasty about her “bud” on Twitter, then we might have something to get excited about.

• “Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates Jr.” (7 p.m., PBS) takes his subjects’ family histories back hundreds of years. Eva Longoria hears about events in Spanish history that forced her ancestors to leave for the New World in 1603.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Winter Olympic coverage (6 p.m., CNBC): men’s hockey.

• The top-12 guys compete on a two-hour helping of “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox).

• The kids adventure “Aaron Stone” (7 p.m., Disney) returns for a second season.

• A dirty download upsets Claire on “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC).

• Mac wakes up a month after a gun battle on “CSI: NY” (9 p.m., CBS).

• A tycoon faces a death plot on “Psych” (9 p.m., USA).

• Lies snare Erica in a painful web on “Being Erica” (9 p.m., Soapnet).

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