Picks and Pans Review: A 16 Days of Glory
PBS (Wed., July 20, 8 p.m. ET)
In these six hours of official documentaries from the 1984 L.A. Olympics, filmmaker Bud Greenspan makes sports look stale and stiff. He opens his miniseries with an Olympic tribute. "It will be to the everlasting glory of our time," he pontificates, "that there came forward at the turn of the last century some men with grand vision." Hark. Verily. Pluck out thine ears so thou shalt hear no more haughty talk. And don't forget the eyes, for as soon as Greenspan leaves the screen, we see images so pumped with pomp they would make Friedrich Nietzsche cry. Then, finally, the Games begin: Britain's Dave Moorcroft runs 5,000 meters in pain but with pride, Greg Louganis dives, Mary Lou Retton grins—all shown with lots of camera angles, loads of slo-mo, stirring background music and hyperserious Dragnet-style narration. After watching the first of these films, I dusted off some tapes of ABC's coverage of the same Games. What a difference. Greenspan tries to make athletes look like polished marble statues, cold and clean. Wrong. Athletes sweat, smell, grunt and groan. In ABC's coverage, we saw all the immediacy, suspense, risk and excitement that Greenspan bleaches out of the Games. So wait one month, until Sept. 16, and you can watch the real thing when NBC covers the 1988 Olympics from Seoul.
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