Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
The cauldron will be lit in Beijing this Friday as the XXIV Olympic Winter Games begin. Athletes from all over the world will be competing in a variety of sports hoping to take home some gold, silver, or bronze. It's a sporting event that's tailor made for television, yet I just can't get excited about the Games.
I want to be a fan of the Olympics. I truly do. I'll never forget Lake Placid in 1980 when I was a 12-year-old screaming "USA!" with the rest of the country as I watched a hockey game I'll never forget. When Al Michaels asked if you believed in miracles, I responded with a rousing "Yes!" from my childhood bedroom.
That magical moment took place over 40 years ago, and it’s the pinnacle of my love for the Olympic Games which has rapidly plummeted over the years. I love sports, but not the Olympics. I'm trying to figure out exactly why that is.
Technology has brought the world much closer together. When I was growing up, ABC's Wide World of Sports was the only place to see sporting events that took place in other parts of the world. Now you can bet Chinese ping pong on your iPhone and watch it play out live. The globalization of sports ironically hurt the Olympics because the international gathering isn't as special as it once was.
Professional athletes should never have been allowed to compete in the Olympic Games. I realize that destroys the Dream Team and a lot of great hockey, but part of the magic of the Games is amateur athletes from around the globe getting their moment on the world stage. Unknowns become household names (albeit briefly) who appear on Wheaties boxes and inspire children everywhere. With all the coverage and prep today, these athletes have social media followings and deals waiting for them before they even compete.
Another cool aspect of the Olympics back in the day was the inability to see all the competition happening live. There's an overwhelming number of events you couldn't get to even if you were in the host city. The aforementioned USA/USSR hockey game from 1980 was broadcast in primetime but played hours earlier on the ice. Access was anything but abundant.
NBC paid a boatload of money to make every event available live on one of its many networks. I'm a sports junkie, but do I really need to see the qualifying round of the Giant Slalom at 4 in the morning? Early rounds of the Nordic Combined or Cross-Country Skiing? Having a buffet of everything makes it feel less special. It can't be Christmas every day (right, Elmo?).
And don't get me started on NBC's promotion of the Olympic Games. The network is determined to get its money's worth with constant reminders. The marketing department should have learned with the sitcom Whitney that too much promotion turns the audience off before the broadcast has even begun.
Let's not lose sight of the big picture here. The world's athletes are gathering in China while we can't even get Omicron under control. I'm all for the thrill of competition, but not at the expense of people from different countries coexisting in tight quarters during the wintertime. That's not a recipe for success… it's potential for disaster regardless how much testing is being done.
It's not all bad news for the Olympics. I do love the fanfare (great theme song) and the opening ceremony will have ridiculous over the top technology worth viewing. As a hockey fan, I'll tune in for a Sweden/Finland battle on the ice. And there's something about Curling that gets me… maybe I could compete with a broom.
In 1980, we all stayed up to watch a hockey game that had already been played. If that was today, you would need Peacock to tune in, and even though we're all connected it wouldn't feel as miraculous as it did in Lake Placid.
I respect every athlete competing and wish them well. I just won't be tuning in to watch them do their thing.
(Really Good Shows You May Not Have Seen)
This Week - Battlestar Galactica (PEACOCK)
You don't need to love sci-fi to appreciate the excellent writing and performances in this unique take on the future. Drama doesn't get much better than this. So say we all.
Last Week - The Split (AMAZON)
Week of January 17 - Bordertown (NETFLIX)
Week of January 10 - Halt and Catch Fire (AMC+)
The Tinder Swindler (NETFLIX) – Someone swiped wrong and swindled women around the world - three women decide to fight back. From the Don't F**k With Cats producers. Wednesday.
THIS WEEK’S STIHTGT!
(Shows That I Hope To Get To!)
Celebrating Betty White (NBC) – If the Golden Girl had only lived to see 100. Monday at 10pm.
Terry Bradshaw: Going Deep (HBO) – I will relive my Steelers fandom watching the life of #12. Tuesday at 9pm.
Murderville (NETFLIX) – Will Arnett investigates murders with a celebrity guest star who doesn't have the script. Wednesday.
The Tuck Rule (ESPN) – Tom Brady would not be Tom Brady without this pivotal play in the snow. Sunday at 8:30 PM ET.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Pam & Tommy (HULU)
Wednesday, February 2nd
The eight-part series brings us in via a carpenter (Seth Rogen) who gets hold of the now infamous sex tape after the Motley Crue drummer (Sebastian Stan) gives him a rough financial time. With the help of a porn king (Nick Offerman), the tape makes its way into the public to reveal the newlywed couple it all their glory. Pam Anderson (Lily James) never recovers professionally, and neither has our culture when it comes to privacy laws and what passes for entertainment these days.
As the series progresses, the excellent performances make Pam and Tommy into more than just caricatures. Jason Mantzoukas shines as the voice of Tommy's penis (you read that right) and a fun romp in the 90's shifts into the sharp look at modern day celebrity. Sex tapes launched the careers of some reality stars, but this couple was world famous when their flick which was intended to stay private ending being anything but that.
Friday, February 4th
Jack Reacher? Again? Really? Didn't Tom Cruise play this guy in two movies? Yup, that was him. But this is a much different Jack Reacher that rings true to the former MP in Lee Child's books. This eight-part series has plenty of source material that details the life of the 6' 5" military man turned civilian.
Alan Ritchson takes on the lead role, and his size and strength bring an entirely new dimension to the character. The first season is based on the first Reacher book and should pack the same intensity as we get to know what makes Jack tick. Watch trailer
Suspicion (APPLE TV+)
Friday, February 4th
An American media mogul's son is kidnapped in a New York hotel, and four British citizens staying there are accused of the crime. They all insist that they are innocent, but how do we know who is telling the truth?
The team behind Homeland and The Americans produced this eight-episode thriller based on the Israeli series False Flag. Uma Thurman leads a talented cast playing the media mogul whose son has been taken. Expect lots of twists and turns with a surprising reveal at the end as you never know who you can really trust.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe!
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.