“Can we admit that Beijing pretty much ruined opening ceremonies for everyone else?” FiveThirtyEight blogger Nate Silver Tweeted during Friday night’s dizzying spectacular from London.
Sorry, the blame starts a whole lot earlier than Beijing.
David L. Wolper is largely credited with helping usher in the gigantism that has become a hallmark of modern opening ceremonies, with each Olympic host city seeking to up the ante thereafter. As the Los Angeles Times noted in its obit of the producer, “The lavish production that Wolper staged for the Los Angeles Olympics is credited with setting new standards for host cities. Opening flourishes included an “astronaut” powered by a jet-pack who soared into the Coliseum and a card stunt involving the entire arena that displayed flags of every competing nation.”
Perhaps because we’re so familiar with England, a tribute covering a couple of centuries of its history felt a trifle overwhelming. And while director Danny Boyle conjured some beautiful moments — especially the imagery of the five Olympic rings interlocking over the stadium, or the Queen parachuting in (not really) with James Bond, a.k.a. Daniel Craig — too much of the show felt like sheer chaos, an especially large stage production of “Oliver!” A tribute to British music, for example — which should have been a blast — dragged on for too long.
Admittedly, the idea of making the opening ceremonies a bloated tourism video for the host country is no fault of the London organizers, but a bit more focus (it’s hard to make the Industrial Revolution terribly entertaining) would have surely helped. Either that, or just let Kenneth Branagh do more monologues out of “The Tempest.” Even a solid finishing kick — including an awe-inspiring fireworks display and Paul McCartney-led “Hey Jude” sing-along — could save the day.
As for NBC, the network sought to showcase its newest toy, Ryan Seacrest, whose knowledge of sports appears limited to what he can read off note cards. The network also excised a tribute to victims of the 2007 terror attack in London — a bit of a downer, admittedly, but somewhat boorish nevertheless — to feature a pretty empty Seacrest interview with swimmer Michael Phelps.
The network’s made-for-the-Olympics promos also fell mostly flat, providing little incentive to watch new series like “Revolution” and “Guys With Kids.” The network is banking heavily on the Games to give its lineup a boost, even if such plans have seldom paid off historically.
So all in all, did a night orchestrated by the Oscar-winning director of “Slumdog Millionaire” deliver on expectations?
There were highlights, to be sure. But for the most part? Jai no.