Nbc Video Previews The '88 Olympics

Posted: August 11, 1988

September, the traditional start of the fall TV season, won't be bursting with new shows this year because of the long Hollywood writers' strike that ended Monday. But of the three major networks, NBC has a trump card to attract dispirited viewers: the Summer Olympic Games in Seoul.

Starting with the opening ceremonies on Sept. 16, and continuing for 17 days, South Korea will be the center of the sporting and broadcasting

universe. The dry spell on the other networks would seem to give NBC an unobstructed shot at a record audience. The pregame publicity campaign is already in progress and for the first time even home video is a part of it.

Going for the Gold, a production of NBC Sports being distributed by Wood Knapp Video, is a 45-minute preview of the action to come. Hosts Bryant Gumbel and Dick Enberg share narration tasks with scene-setting glimpses of Seoul's Olympic facilities, summaries of the prospects of the top athletes in the most popular events and a few profiles of the most promising contenders.

Is Going for the Gold just a promotional package for NBC? That wouldn't be a difficult case to make, especially in view of the two 30-second Budweiser commercials that interrupt the program. (These are cleverly bracketed by Olympics trivia questions that promise the answer "when we come right back." Instead of bothering to zip through the commercial, you're apt to find yourself ruminating over the question as you watch the camera linger over beer labels.)

Yet the tape - slickly produced and rapidly paced - performs its basic function extremely well. The casual viewer will get a good sense of which events the United States may excel in and which athletes bear watching. Among the names expected to be making the headlines, according to the producers, are Jackie Joyner-Kersee in women's track and field, and Kenneth Gould, a welterweight boxer who shows a rapport with children that could qualify him as the year's favorite role model.

Whenever names are given, subtitles appear on the screen, and that's helpful with foreign names that challenge American tongues. One such name is that of Soviet gymnastics champion Dmitri Bilozerchev, identified as the man who could emerge as Seoul's most decorated athlete. The accumulation of ''shoulds" and "coulds" will have you looking forward to the showdowns in September.

The program also makes us aware of another happy circumstance for U.S. TV viewers. There's a 14-hour time difference between New York and Seoul; or, as Gumbel puts it, when it's 10 p.m. on the East Coast, it's noon the next day at the Games. This means that midday events can be seen here live in prime time instead of on delayed broadcast, when outcomes are already known. In fact, 75 percent of the Games' coverage will be live transmissions.

The greatest viewer service in Going for the Gold is the day-by-day schedule of NBC's planned coverage, which will add up to 179 1/2 hours of TV time. Enberg goes over the list while an on-screen graphic gives the date and day of broadcast. It's a lot of information, and we're invited to write it down - too bad the producers didn't go a step further and include a printed schedule.

Priced at $9.95 and certain to be discounted at chain stores, this tape is an entertaining way to get an early fix on the Olympics. It's a quality production, and if you're planning to buy the six event-oriented videos to be released after the Games, as well as the obligatory highlights tape, you'll want Going for the Gold to round out your collection.

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