By DAVID BAUDER
The ride probably shaved a few weeks off Mary Carillo‘s life, but the look of sheer terror on her face as James Bond’s Aston Martin briefly went airborne during a high-speed run through the English countryside is worth the agony. At least for viewers.
It was part of her immersion into all things Bond for a feature Sunday in NBC’s prime time. She visits a warehouse filled with props from years of Bond movies, sees a tailor to get the secrets of the Bond look and learns how to make a cocktail “shaken, not stirred.”
Sports purists may grumble, but the slice of life features about Olympic host countries provided by Carillo and Jimmy Roberts are usually a welcome diversion in NBC’s coverage. Between the events and the apparent need to showcase Ryan Seacrest, they’ve been mostly missing from London, although NBC promises that will change during the second week.
On the flip side of her Bond feature, Carillo also goes bog snorkeling in Wales. We’re not sure what that is, but it doesn’t sound as glamorous.
“It’s nice to have relief from all of the sports,” said Carillo, whose non-British specific feature on the old Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut aired Sunday morning. “You want to remind people of where you are and what the history and the culture are all about.”
Carillo, who also anchors NBC’s late-night coverage, said she’d prepared about 20 features for the London Games.
“My stories are landing in different incarnations at different lengths,” she said.
RATINGS: An average of 28 million people watched NBC’s Saturday prime-time coverage, a night where the highlight was Michael Phelps’ final gold medal swim, the Nielsen company said. It’s the first time during the London Olympics where a night of coverage fell behind the corresponding night in Beijing four years ago, when 31.6 million people watched.
LIVE TIME: NBC has its share of critics for an often formulaic, tape-delayed prime-time broadcast, but the weekend offered a chance for viewers to catch the fun smorgasbord of live material available during the daytime. Early risers Sunday could catch the women’s marathon on NBC, the Williams sisters winning the doubles gold in tennis on the NBC Sports cable network, then the Andy Murray-Roger Federer match for gold in singles on NBC.
MAC ATTACK: John McEnroe is a welcome addition to the NBC team, and you can see his role expanding in future Olympics. He’s refreshingly candid. Did you expect anything else? When Ted Robinson noted with a certain disdain the pop music played over the loudspeaker at Wimbledon, McEnroe was enthusiastic. “What a perfect opportunity to add more spice to the event,” he said, adding that the Wimbledon crowd is often too polite.
VAULT: Savvy use of technology comparing the height of Kohei Uchimura and McKayla Maroney performing the same vault, showing how Maroney jumps significantly higher. That said, the coverage of Maroney’s silver medal unfortunately dismissed the achievement of the gold medal winner, Sandra Izbasa of Romania, and ignored a reaction from Maroney that wavered between disappointment and poor sportsmanship.
BLADE RUNNER: Kudos to NBC for highlighting a moment of supreme sportsmanship, when 400-meter semifinal heat winner Kirani James of Grenada humbly asked to exchange name “bibs” with last-place finisher Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, the double amputee who ran with two artificial legs.
MISTY MINISERIES: Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings are stars of the best miniseries to appear on TV for two weeks every four years. They can’t retire, can they?
OUCH: Tim Hutchings’ comment about American marathon runner Shalane Flanagan, as she knelt on all fours in obvious pain after finishing her race, probably didn’t come out the way he intended. “That’s giving 100 percent,” Hutchings said. “Shalane Flanagan there, unable to stand. Isn’t that great?”
UPCOMING: The men’s 400 and 400 hurdles finals are on Monday’s docket, along with men’s gymnastics individual competitions.
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