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Storytelling at best for NBC

NBC's "storytelling" philosophy is best for those who do not have a sense of urgency about results.

This is not an annoyance for those willing to ride NBC's drama train. The network is basically taking the day's events and blending them into the latest episode of the Olympic miniseries. If you have been at the beach all day and missed reports, you can watch the news unfold at NBC's pace and probably not even realize certain events are long since finished.

Men's gymnastics results were stretched throughout the prime-time broadcast Saturday even though the compulsory exercises concluded in the early evening. Shortly before 9:30 p.m., John Tesh proclaimed that after two rounds the U.S. men were in second place and "shouting back" at those pundits who said they would not do well.

He then noted more gymnastics was coming up.

Truth was, the third rotation had ended and the U.S. men had dropped to fifth. The Tesh proclamation was a bit misleading.

There is no acting involved, however. Events are recorded live and replayed. Tesh's excitement was genuine, but if you already know the U.S. men are fifth and you hear the thrill in his voice, it makes you scratch your head in bewilderment.

More bewilderment came from NBC's decision to cut away from the Dream Team to show the third round of men's gymnastics. With a little work, the men's third round _ which involved some of the world's best but no Americans _ could have been reduced into a highlights package. Instead, we saw compulsories while the Dream Team was struggling to a two-point halftime lead against Argentina.

It is easy to second guess such moves after events are over, but NBC's assumption that Dream Team games are blowouts of little interest may be wrong. Given a choice between basketball and the men's gymnastics, my pick would have been hoops.

Making the right choice involves more than selecting one event over another. Some viewers may prefer the drama of live television over taped events that merely appear to be live.

The network could spend, say a few minutes, detailing the day's events and telling viewers to turn their head if they wanted to be surprised later, but NBC is adamantly opposed to such stunts.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy the broadcasts is to ignore news reports and schedules, and let the action develop.

YOU DID STAY UP: The Opening Ceremonies were four hours and 45 minutes, but it apparently wasn't long enough to prompt viewers to tune out. The overnight rating for the event was 27.2, 65 percent higher than the 16.5 for Barcelona.

It's believed more than 90-million watched all or part of Friday night's telecast.

_ Material from Times wires was used in this report.