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Tim Arsenault: Cleansing the Olympic palate

TV overload!
TV overload! - 123RF Stock Photo

Sometimes even diehard fans need a change from the heartwarming

If you’ve been overdoing it in front of the TV since Friday, staying up late only to be shaken more by the fact that Shaun White is 31 than by his snowboarding prowess, you might need to slow things down right about now.

Even the most dedicated Olympics fan is susceptible to overdoing it on heartwarming human interest stories about overcoming adversity in order to achieve that childhood dream of one day standing on the podium.

To be fair, the broadcast rights holders are very good enablers. In Canada, CBC comes very close to filling all 24 hours of a day during the Games with coverage. Add the feeds provided by the partners at the sports channels, and it can sometimes seem like there isn’t anything else going on.

This is where counterprogramming comes in.

Tim Arsenault
Tim Arsenault

One popular strategy for competitors is to present something that retains an element of rivalry, in case you find that appealing. For example, earlier this week the Westminster Kennel Club dog show took over Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The World’s Most Famous Arena, as its owners like to brand it, has been the site of eight Muhammad Ali fights and Mark Messier’s goal to win the first Stanley Cup for the Rangers in 54 years. Tuesday night, a full house saw Flynn, a fluffy bichon frise, take the title of best in show.

It was broadcast in the United States on FS1, Fox’s national sports channel, and used on-air talent familiar from NFL and NASCAR telecasts. They didn’t even blink when guests referred to the event as a sport, which must have warmed the hearts of competitive hair stylists and darts players.

Elsewhere on the schedule, CBS is going all in with “reality” programming like "Big Brother: Omarosa Edition" and "The Amazing Race", while ABC cheekily counters with "The Bachelor Winter Games".

The other big broadcasting scheme is to pretend that the Olympics aren’t even taking place. PBS is trusting that enough of its core viewership at least knows how to operate a DVR that "Victoria", the U.S. public broadcaster’s latest costume drama hit, is remaining in its regular Sunday night time slot. CBS, on the other hand, is keeping new episodes of scripted hits like "The Big Bang Theory" on the bench for the duration of the Games.

The bottom line is that it’s OK to take a pass on another figure skating performance set to Hallelujah if that’s what it takes for you to get to the finish line.

Enjoy all the Armchair athleticism, follow the Games here.

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