Monday, August 13, 2012

London Closing: British Music, A Missing Queen and, Sadly, Ryan Seacrest

The London Olympics wrapped up last night in much the same way as they began, with a quirky, sometimes cheeky salute to all things British, particularly British music.

The London organizers largely dispensed with the interpretive pieces that typically mark these Olympic events. An opening number themed around London traffic largely served to introduce the eight-ramped stage in the shape of the Union Jack that dominated what, less than 24 hours before, had been the track and field area on the floor of the stadium. From then, the night quickly segued into an hour and a half long salute to England's contributions to modern pop music.

 The show got off to a rolling start, literally, when the iconic 80's ska group Madness performed their signature hit “Our House” from the back of a tractor trailer that circled the stadium floor. They were followed by another iconic 80's Brit pop act, The Pet Shop Boys, who performed “West End Girls” an apropo choice given the song's references to the East End, the site of the Olympic stadium, from the back of bicycle rickshaws. Contemporary acts also played a large role in the show; the Kasier Chiefs covered The Who's “Tommy”, while singer Jesse J also performed both as a solo act and with the surviving members of Queen on “We Will Rock You”, since what sporting event is complete without this song?

The Beatles didn't appear in person, though a rendition of John Lennon's “Imagine” was likely the emotional highlight of the night, and Russell Brand's rendition of “I Am The Walrus” might have been the quirkiest, had it not been for Monty Python's Eric Idle performing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”; complete with Victoria's Secret-style angels and a Bollywood dance troupe.  The highlight of the show though was likely the long-rumored reunion of the Spice Girls who took to the top of Austin Minis for their performance – Spice Girls standing on Minis, how more British can you get?

The Spice Girls after the show (London Telegraph pic).

Of course, the closing ceremonies provided one last opportunity for NBC to screw up the coverage. After promising a performance by The Who all evening, in the prime-time show's closing moments, viewers were told that The Who would actually be featured in their late-night coverage, which started at 12:30 EDT. This delay seemed mostly so that NBC could provide a preview of one of their craptacular fall “comedies”. Great move guys.  And coverage of the musical portion of the evening was turned over to Ryan Seacrest, likely due to NBC's baffling continued belief that Seacrest actually knows something about entertainment and is entertaining himself. Seacrest's few vacant contributions though could have easily been read by the real hosts, Al Michaels and Bob Costas, off of a TelePrompTer.  The only imprint Seacrest left on the coverage was to unwantedly speak over the performances on several occasions. My suggestion to NBC: leave Seacrest out of the coverage of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, or better yet, drop him in the ocean while en route to Sochi.

One final question from the Closing Ceremonies though is where were the Royals? Queen Elizabeth II was expected to be on hand to close the Games, yet the Queen was nowhere to be found; she did not even appear in video form (as did former Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury).  The whole Royal family attended the opening ceremonies, yet at the close they were represented only by Prince Harry, introduced formally as Prince Henry of Wales. He was accompanied by Duchess Catherine of Cambridge, better known as Kate, wife of Prince William.  The lack of Royal attendance seemed to be unexpected since several of the speakers, including outgoing IOC head Jacques Rogge, addressed their comments to the “Royals”, plural, making you think that they expected a larger attendance on the part of the Royal family.

Along with why NBC continues to employ Ryan Seacrest, the Royal presence is a lingering question from last night's otherwise brilliant Closing Ceremony.  
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