Tuesday, 14 August 2012

In which I bitch about TV commentators being shit

Which is rather like complaining that water is wet, I know. But Christ on a bike, did you see the Olympics’ closing ceremony on NHK? Just fucking useless. Take a fucking bow.

Now, I realize I’m not the target audience here. NHK and the other Japanese channels showing the Olympics have been using Japanese producers and Japanese commentators and focusing on Japanese athletes. That’s completely natural and as it should be. But, apart from the odd exterior shot of St. Paul’s during the marathons and ‘London 2012’ scrawled everywhere in a frankly alarming typeface, these games could have been held in any city on the planet to judge from the Japanese TV coverage.

Is it this bad in every country? Maybe it’s like this everywhere every time and I’m only noticing it now because of my specific circumstances. Just nothing beyond the Japanese athletes and Usain Bolt. I had hoped though that the home team might merit at least a passing mention. Apparently 80,000 people screaming for hours at a time is quite impressive. As are double golds, four in a row, six in total and all that jazz.

I say apparently because the IOC seems to have locked up the copyright so fucking tight that finding reliable footage online has been a fairly taxing task. Wonky cameraphone shots might be the most authentic way of ‘being there’, but this is the 21st Century and I’m looking for slightly higher production values, y’know?

So we’re left with NHK in the wee small hours. I dragged my arse out of bed at five o’clock on Monday morning to watch the closing ceremony, figuring that even they couldn’t manage to ignore the British aspects of that particular party. They gave it their best shot though.

See the Japanese flag there? Just to the left of that
funny shaped stage?

Early on the male co-commentator explained that it was ‘A symphony of British music.’ And clearly they thought that the best way to appreciate that music was by talking all over the fucking top of it. Even that might have been almost tolerable if what they were saying was relevant or insightful in the slightest. Clearly I wasn’t expecting a full exploration of the national character (though, actually, why shouldn’t I have been? Expats with decent Japanese are ten-a-penny in Tokyo; it surely wouldn’t have been impossible to find someone capable of offering some kind of cultural insight. Fuck it, my self-intro lesson would have been more informative), but this was very much from the Catchphrase school of commentary.

A yellow car (this yellow car) appears and explodes.

“A yellow car exploded!”

A poster of Naomi Campbell the size of a truck is wheeled into view.

“That’s Naomi Campbell, isn’t it?”

A man with ‘UKRAINE’ written across his tracksuit in six inch high letters gurns into the camera.

“That’s the Ukraine.”

A man in with a brush comes on to the stage.

“There’s a man with a brush on the stage.”

Eyes like a hawk.

To be fair, they had limited material to work with in terms of interesting stuff to comment on, because the producer clearly thought that the best way to use up approximately two thirds of the screen time was with badly lit images of confused looking people in blue tracksuits. Not much you can do with yet more shots of the volleyball team taking pictures of themselves with digital cameras.

‘Look! There’s a 69-year-old man being shot out of a cannon!’

‘Bugger that. What the public want is another shot of Genki Dean looking nonplussed.’

And when we do get back to the old guy pratfalling on the stage, he’s introduced as “Eric Idle. Artist.” Which is true, but perhaps not the most resonant description of what he’s best known for. Likewise, describing Beady Eye as, “A band formed in London in 2009” is perhaps also missing some salient details, like how every single person in the stadium knows every single word of the song they’re singing.

I could have dealt with all this, though, had they not completely fucked up the single biggest reason I had for watching. I’m a massive Muse fan, and frankly the main reason I crawled out of bed at that ungodly hour was because I knew they were performing a specially composed track. And the commentators blethered all over it. I mean completely – couldn’t hear anything of the music because the guy was prattling on about previous Japanese showings in the archery. Cultural Embargo-buster Brian May gets a reverential silence for his masturbatory guitar solo, and the balletic interpretation of a fucking flame – a primarily visual endeavour – gets similar respect, but the best live band on the planet? Nah, not for us.

It’s a bit of an in-joke between my wife and I that she apologies for all annoying things in Japan, what with her being Japanese and thus everything bad here being entirely her fault. This time though, she was apologizing and meaning it. Doubly so when they pulled the same trick with Take That, though this time she was the one getting pissed off. Gary Barlow’s kid died less than a week ago; you’d think the fact he showed up at all would count for something.

Anyhow, whinge over. And for the second time in as many days, I get to close with The Who. Even NHK couldn’t fuck up Baba O’Riley.


  1. The BBC coverage has been 95% awesome.

    Full media notes were distributed before the closing ceremony, allowing the Australians to tweet live commentary, so I am afraid that any failure of NHK was a failure of NHK.

    If it is of any comfort, the coverage in the USA has been execrable.

    1. I really, really ought to look into one of those proxy IP addresses. God I miss the Beeb.

  2. Just to rub it in, you could watch every event live on the BBC. Literally every event.

    1. As I've mentioned before, my brother was working in the athletes' village, so I thought my Games Envy couldn't get any worse.

      This is worse though, somehow.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting (I think ;)

  3. Japan: Watching with the curiosity of a child, the fishbowl that is the rest of the world

    1. That's beautiful, right there.

      So I have to spoil it by pointing out that, in fairness, it wasn't just me who thought it was terrible -


  4. I got A.D.H.D and throwing imagery like Jesus on a bicycle is gonna jam me up for a few minutes......

    I honestly stopped watching when the announcers were going nuts for a ping pong match. Watching the Ping pongers (I don't know what the fuck to call em'??) toweling off between a ...um...hard set? It's fucking ping pong.

    1. Pongers is good. I like the sound of Pongers.

      "Four of the best Pongers in the world are gathered here today to determine who will take home the Ponger crown and be able to call themselves 'King Pong.'"

      That'd work.

  5. Did you really expect more out of the NHK coverage? Isn't it like lets just say everything completely obvious with no value at all.

    I was watching a baseball game over here the other day and the announcer said it was the beginning of the inning and there is nobody on base. The first batter hadn't even walked to home plate so it was like no shit, sir.

    My story had nothing to do with yours, just thought I would share regardless.

    1. And thank you for doing so.

      No, I didn't really expect much more. But then I wouldn't have expected much more from the BBC and they apparently managed to avoid being totally shit (see comments above).

      I'll link again to that Irish sailing clip. That's meant to be a parody, remember, but it was scarily similar to the stuff on Monday.

  6. Your commentary on the commentary was very entertaining, thank you. Now I no longer feel the need to catch up on this on NHK On Demand when we get back to Japan, (so thanks again, for sparing me that ordeal), and am extra happy we haven't paid good money for a TV.
    From memory, Australian Olympic coverage used to be pretty parochial - always focusing on the swimming. I didn't watch it this time round because it was on a commercial station, and the internet's re-programmed me to have no tolerance for ads anymore.

    1. You're welcome, glad you liked it. NHK-G is actually great for the kid, but I doubt you'd really be into that so you're not missing anything. And the rest of Japanese TV is truly abysmal.

      The impression given by the UK press was that a lot of Aussie coverage was borderline suicidal, given the dearth of medals. Good to know you're all hanging in there ;)

      I agree about the ads. Can't stomach them now. Or at least ones you can't skip after the first 5 seconds.

    2. Ha ha! Yes, not that I was following it much, but I did see some suggestion that more money be spent on elite athletes, so they could win more gold medals... I suspect there might be better ways of putting that money to good use.

      My son likes watching Okaasan to Isshou on the net, which is not bad. Even though the title pisses me off.

    3. "I suspect there might be better ways of putting that money to good use."

      Like, say, libraries and theatres?

  7. Wow, change "Australians" to "Australian" and that title describes me perfectly. And that's satirical, so... I'm a joke. :(

    1. Not a joke. Satire. That's a far classier affair ;)