Don’t go into sports withdrawl now that the Super Bowl is over–the lads of Top Gear have you covered. You may not watch the biathlon during the “real” Winter Olympics (shame on you–they’re amazing athletes), but how can you not want to watch the Top Gear biathlon, which uses cars and has as its stakes the eating of yellow snow? You heard me. There’s also speed skating (with cars), ice hockey (with cars), and ski jumping (with cars). It’s only a year until the Vancouver Winter Olympics–use this to help tide you over. Tonight at 8pm Eastern on BBC America.
I’m one of those grouches who generally doesn’t love New Year’s Eve, spending the evening grousing in a corner about another year slipping away into the ether. In a lot of ways, however, 2008 has been great enough to kick me out of that rut. This year, we saw whales in two different oceans and camped with alligators and saw David Tennant and Patrick Stewart in Hamlet (side note: truly excellent) and touched Paul Revere’s headstone and made awesome Brussels sprouts and actually did workout programs. Heck, one of us even survived a hurricane and a week without power by washing dishes in rainwater while one of us had a chunk of her head removed and lived to tell the tale (should we give out prizes if you guess which was which?). Good year.
A lot of times, it didn’t feel like TV kept up–although we did (and still do) support the WGA in their strike, the repercussions slammed down 2008 TV pretty hard. We can’t say there’s a new show from the fall docket we actually, you know, watch, and that probably has a lot to do with the munched-up development season. We lost a bunch of old TV friends this year, too (shut up, ABC). Upon further reflection, however, we found plenty to celebrate in TV 2008.
This is only our list, of course, made up of shows that we watched. If your top ten list is different, feel free to leave a comment letting us know what we’ve egregiously omitted (or criminally overrated). Fair warning–any video or links may have spoilers.
10. Tina Fey asks whether the vice presidential debate will include a talent portion on Saturday Night Live (October 4 on NBC): It’s probably stretching things to suggest that a comedy show decided the US presidential election, but it’s hard to deny that David Letterman’s jilted outrage and Fey’s spot-on impression of Sarah Palin put the McCain/Palin campaign in an unenviable position: they moved from being candidates to lead a superpower to being punchlines. Fey might have done more to revitalize late-night comedy in a couple of months than she did in years as SNL‘s head writer.
9. Amber shuffles off this mortal coil after trying to do House a solid (“Wilson’s Heart,” May 19 on Fox): House is essentially a procedural, just one set in a hospital and with a really tremendous lead. House will guess the Disease of the Week is vasculitis about ten minutes in and then manufacture a crash cart crisis right before every commercial break. It really stands out, then, when they break that pattern, and they’ve never broken it like they did when they broke Wilson’s heart. Watching doctors who deal with life and death every day shed their professional armor to say goodbye to the colleague they can’t save gave us emotion we rarely see from this crew, and the resulting break-up between Wilson and House drove the fall run of the show. Part of the reason Hugh Laurie is so great on this show is because Robert Sean Leonard raises his game, and Mr. Leonard has never been better than here.
8. Shawn asks his (appalled) father for a pair of his underwear in an auto shop classroom on Psych (Murder?…Anyone?…Anyone?…Bueller?,” July 25 on USA): Maybe Psych is more fun for those of us old enough to remember all the pop culture gags the show tosses out at lightning speed. No episode had more of those gags than the one centering around Shawn and Gus’ 13-year (yes, you read that right) high school reunion, which was a cornucopia of 80s teen movie jokes. Having a reference to Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago, or ending the show with the Breakfast Club fist in the air is nice, but what really put us over the edge was Shawn bonding with Henry in a dark auto shop classroom…and then asking for his underwear in a Sixteen Candles homage so funny it makes us want to break into a chorus of “If You Were Here.” We wonder if Shawn’s long-lost mother will claim that she paid a buck to see Henry’s underwear at the dance.
7. Desmond finally finds Penny–or is it the other way around?–on Lost (“The Constant,” February 28 on ABC): I’m neither the biggest Lost fan around nor the biggest romantic, and even I got all teary at the end of this one. After an episode of bouncing dangerously through time and space revisiting his own past and salting in potential clues about physics and relativity, Desmond faces the same fate as others who have messed with the island: death by nosebleed and seizure. How is he able to avoid such a sorry end? He has a constant in time and space. Penny’s looking for him, too. In one quick scene, Lost gains more emotional momentum and satisfaction from an oft-referenced but rarely seen character than it does from many of its regulars.
6. Jason Lezak’s come-from-behind relay leg keeps Michael Phelps’–and NBC’s–Olympic dreams alive (4X100m freestyle relay, August 11 on NBC): The Beijing Olympics left a big footprint on the television landscape this year, and no athlete was more of a Sasquatch than 8-time-gold medalist Michael Phelps. We were able to learn more about his diet, his mother, and his dog, however, because his 32-year-old teammate, Jason Lezak, hunted down recent world record holder Alain Bernard of France to keep Phelps’ record hopes alive. Lezak made up half a body length in 25 meters and merely swam the fastest relay split in history. It wasn’t an implausible comeback–it was an impossible comback. And it was almost more fun to watch Phelps scream his teammate to victory just like we were than it was to watch Phelps swim.
5. Crews and Reese find unhappy surprises in trunks scattered across LA in the season opener of Life (“Find Your Happy Place,” September 29 on NBC): Other detective shows focus on how ugly the world can be. Life is different because it focuses instead on how unsettling the world can be. A nearly dialogue-free opening with our heroes helplessly opening trunk after trunk containing dead bodies underscores why the conspiracy hiding who framed Charlie Crews is so important. In a world so unsettling, we need Charlie Crews (and Dani Reese) to find the bad guys and keep us safe…but Charlie isn’t even able to protect himself, not even with a Zen attitude and a lot of fruit. The typically brilliant musical choice accompanying the scene–Gram Rabbit’s “Devil’s Playground” –says it all: the mean streets aren’t so cheap as to just murder you. They’ll play with you first. Better hope Charlie is there to help.
4. Chuck hears her mother talk about giving birth to her on Pushing Daisies (“Oh Oh Oh…It’s Magic!,” October 29 on ABC): Lonely Tourist Charlotte Charles can occasionally be a little grating (did you see that? Did you see how I slipped that little cheese pun in there? Hello?) in her insistence that everyone be as fascinated by their origins as she is. Still, given that her boyfriend accidentally killed her father with his magic finger and she’s only recently discovered that the aunt who raised her is actually her mother, Chuck’s obsession with her family tree is understandable. The end of this episode, with ever-patient third-wheel Olive wearing a wire and asking Aunt/Mother Lily an eavesdropping Chuck’s questions, gave us a window into how much these bits of information mean. We can’t put too fine a point on it: Chuck, who was told her mother died giving birth to her, is able to hear her mother say she knew her baby was an angel. It would have softened us toward Chuck’s perspective, but we were too busy crying our little hearts out with her. (And did Olive retreating to fantasy love while singing “Eternal Flame” make us cry, too? Maybe. A little. Hush, you.)
3. The TARDIS tows the Earth home on Doctor Who (“Journey’s End,” July 5 on BBC One; August 1 on Sci Fi):Doctor Who‘s season finales can be…a bit messy, and this one was no exception. Several old buddies didn’t really do much plot-wise but get in the way (really, what were the odds Martha Jones was going to use the Osterhagen Key?), but they needed to be there for one purpose: they needed to be there so we could see the TARDIS fully staffed, flown the ways TARDISes are meant to be flown. For one glorious moment, the TARDIS is viewed in all of its potential, with all of its might–it’s towing a planet. And it can because it’s piloted by a family, restoring to the Doctor so much of what he’s lost. Yes, the end of Donna’s story minutes later is crushing, but it hurts so good because everything was singing so beautifully such a short time before. From this point forward, every time we see the Doctor running around the TARDIS’ console and hitting things with sledgehammers, we’ll miss this moment, and something so indelible in a show that is so much about how things change is special.
2. David Simon and Co. say goodbye to Baltimore to close the series finale of The Wire (“-30-,” March 9 on HBO): One of television’s greatest achievements, The Wire revisited over and over again the idea that unless institutions change, the same patterns of poverty and corruption will keep destroying people’s lives. Perhaps the most amazing thing, however, was that in the midst of that soul-deadening truth, both the show and the viewers found characters to love, the most notable of which was Baltimore itself. The series-closing montage showed us not only where each of our beloved characters ended up (sweet merciful crap, how did he become police commisioner?!? The circle really is unbroken), but also the beauty and pain of the city they loved in so many different ways. I’ll never love a dining room table as much as I did in this moment of watching television.
1. Barack Obama’s acceptance speech (November 4 on various networks): Regardless of your political leanings, the sight of as many as a quarter of a million people crowding into Grant Park to hear the newly elected US president was a spectacle made for television. At the same time, the sight of sheets of bulletproof glass separating said newly elected president from the people he will represent is the kind of thing politicians used to be able to hide before the advent of television. Can you imagine FDR keeping his health issues a secret if there had been 24-hour news channels in his day? The thing that makes television different from other medium is the shared nature of the experience–millions of people might see the same film, but they don’t do it all at the same time. Obama’s acceptance speech, so rousing that researchers are using it to try to study emotional elevation, would likely have affected people anyway, but the exponential expansion of that elevation that comes from sharing it with millions of other people comes thanks to television. And the inability to hide things less elevating, things that still need fixing, is in many ways thanks to the real-time, moving pictures television is able to provide. There’s some talk that web-based communication will supplant this function, but I’m not sure texts can ever create elevation the same way watching history unfold can. Even in a television year that may not have been historic itself, this kind of participatory history gives us something to celebrate about television.
Oh, NBC, you think you’re so tricky. How could we have possibly guessed who would win the men’s 10m platform diving when you showed us two teenage Americans low in the rankings, two Chinese divers striving to close out their country’s sweep, and a stray Australian? With a mysterious Russian popping up for the last two rounds? How could that possibly end? Kudos, though, for keeping the camera on the Japanese synchronized swimming team as they tried to help a stricken teammate out of the pool, because I swear there was a rescue diver in the water. In synchronized swimming. That’s more golden than the medals.
Sunday’s Blue Plate Special: NBC may have mentioned this once or twice, but the Closing Ceremony will be broadcast tonight. These always make me a touch melancholy–especially when the flame is extinguished; four years to wait!–but it’s a lot of fun to see the athletes let their hair down and mingle. It’s also fun to see what wackiness the next host city presents to introduce themselves to the world. The 2012 Games are in London, so I’m kind of hoping Boris Johnson steps aside and lets Eddie Izzard accept the Olympic flag while The Who play at the top of Big Ben with Harry Potter characters whizzing by Parliament. Or something. The closing spectacular was again designed by the wonderful director Zhang Yimou, and not, as I kept hearing as I wandered in and out of the living room during the Opening Ceremony, Johnnie Mo (“is he a Hong Kong action director? That doesn’t sound exactly right.”)
Sunday’s Chef’s Special: The euphoria following the Opening Ceremony was quickly deflated when a bizarre and random attack killed a tourist and seriously injured his wife and guide. What a strange coincidence when the victims turned out to be the in-laws of US men’s volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon, who has exhibited at least as much endurance as the marathon runners in seeing this Olympics through after such a tragedy. His team has responded, making an unlikely run to the gold medal game, which will be broadcast on NBC in primetime (before the Closing Ceremony; spoilers will abound). McCutcheon’s wife is 2004 US volleyball Olympian Elisabeth Bachman McCutcheon, and her former teammates rallied to an emotional and unexpected silver medal. McCutcheon’s own team is guaranteed at least the same, and whether they take home that or the gold, their perseverance is emblematic of the determination and spirit of all the athletes we’ve enjoyed through the last weeks. Those athletes will be banking all of that will for the next four years–and we’ll be back to watch them.
The “NBC giveth, and NBC taketh away” nature of US Olympic coverage continues, with a strangely piecemeal presentation of the decathlon. It’s pretty hard to build any sense of drama and suspense when you show only one competitor. And yet, showing the medal ceremony for the men’s 400m encapsulated the highs and lows of the Games in one well-framed shot, with stone-faced silver medalist Jeremy Wariner a stark contrast to glowing bronze medalist David Neville belting out the national anthem. Just when I write NBC off…
Saturday’s Blue Plate Special: The aforementoned Wariner and Neville are joined by gold medalist LaShawn Merritt in the finals of the men’s 4x400m relay (the women’s race is contested today, too). Since the baton passes in the longer relay aren’t blind passes, the drama comes from the running instead of the butterfingers (the heavily-favored Jamaican women were the latest to cough up the stick in the 4x100m; Usain Bolt, however, is made of gold and therefore magnetic, so the Jamaican men were okay). As is tradition, the 4×400 races are the last of the meet, so there should be a party atmosphere in the air (unless International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge is around, as he apparently hates parties).
Saturday’s Chef’s Special: Since I’m not very bright and can’t read a schedule, we missed mentioning whitewater kayak and canoe (which meant not only missing the neat event where people have to change direction while drowning to paddle upstream but also missing Togo’s first Olympic medal). We’re on top of the last medals awarded in the flatwater events, however. “Paddle” sounds kind of quaint and adorable, but the quad teams move so fast they could pull a water skiier behind them. That’s…possibly not human. The “sprints” (500m) in doubles and singles for both canoe and kayak will be broadcast today, and while the solo and partner boats don’t fly quite as fast as the quads, they undoubtedly feel the burn. Daytime on NBC; the Olympic coverage goes most of the day, so you may have to keep checking in.
(We’d mention the synchronized swimming finals, but it makes us miss the Darling Mermaid Darlings. We need new Pushing Daisies. Is the new fall season here yet? Because the Olympics can’t keep us happy much longer.)
NBC’s sideline interviews haven’t been outstanding–Andrea Kremer putting an awkward hand on weeping 15-year-old diver Haley Ishimatsu‘s shoulder after Ishimatsu didn’t qualify for the 10m platform finals was a low point–but the live interviews at the Bird’s Nest provided a couple of moments today that give a glimmer of hope. The interview immediately after the US women’s 4X100m relay team dropped the baton led to a still-panting Lauryn Williams claiming that someone must have a voodoo doll with “USA” on it, an amusing distraction from the unfortunate result. And while I am one who tends to roll my eyes when an athlete drags God into their victory (what, God hates your opponent? Leave God alone), the interview immediately after the 200m race allowed Allyson Felix, disappointed silver medalist and daughter of a preacher man, to direct some thanks heavenward after she lost. This refreshing change of pace makes us wonder if there might be a point to the sideline reporters after all.
Friday’s Blue Plate Special: A lot of superlatives get tossed around in sport (why is The World’s Fastest Man the guy who wins the 100m instead of the one who wins the 10,000m?); tonight you can see the guy they’ll call The World’s Greatest Athlete, the winner of the decathlon, crowned. What makes an athlete “the greatest” is open to debate, but the decathletes are pretty darned impressive, having to demonstrate remarkable speed (100m, 400m, 110m hurdles), hops (long jump and high jump), strength and technique (pole vault, javelin, discus, and shot put), and endurance (capping it all with a 1500m run). Reigning world indoor champion Bryan Clay is favored for gold but will have to hold off the only man ever to break 9,000 points in the decathlon, Athens silver medalist and defending Olympic champion Roman Sebrle. Sebrle also just happened to be skewered by a javelin during training last year. Can you imagine being the poor javelin thrower who pinned The World’s Greatest Athlete? See how Sebrle has recovered, and how he, Clay, and others battle it out, noon (EDT) and in primetime on NBC (spoilers could hit you in the shoulder).
Friday’s Chef’s Special: Turn the decathlon upside down with the modern pentathlon. The founder of the modern Olympics started the modern pentathlon to create the perfect athlete, balancing physical and moral superiority. Why this sport would be more moral than any of the others (take that, basketball rapscallions!) is unclear, but it does require a broad and impressive skill set. Rather than throwing or jumping over things, pentathletes shoot pistols, fence, swim 200m, show jump pretty horsies, and run 3K. You can see how the modern pentathlon nicely updates the ancient one, trading hand-to-hand combat skills for more tehcnologically based bloodletting. While it has a military history, it screams dueling to me, so I am dying to see if anyone slaps a rival with a glove. The women’s competition can be found on USA Network at noon EDT.
Thank goodness there weren’t any sports being contested at the Olympics today so NBC could show the “Champions’ Gala” gymnastics musicale revue in which absolutely no medals were awarded. In other news, Usain Bolt is awesome. In fairness, so were NBC and commentator Ato Boldon in untangling the disqualifications in the men’s 200m and capturing the moment when Walter Dix was told he had medaled. And, to be further fair, they did finally talk about Natalie du Toit and my favorite Olympic victor so far, super heavyweight weightlifter Matthias Steiner, so points added back.
Thursday’s Blue Plate Special: NBC will probably try to sell you on the idea that the compelling story in the women’s 10m platform diving competition is 30-year-old Sydney gold medalist Laura Wilkinson and whether she can reach the podium in her third Olympics. I’d argue the more compelling story is whether China can sweep the gold medals in the diving events. Only the individual platform events remain in their way, but a Chinese diver hasn’t won the women’s Olympic platform gold since the great Fu Mingxia repeated in Atlanta. The Chinese hopes this time are pinned on 15- and 16-year-old athletes who weigh less than 65 pounds each–will they come through, or overrotate buckle with the eyes of a nation on them? Primetime on NBC (spoilage is possible).
Thursday’s Chef’s Special: It’s easy to make fun of rhythmic gymnastics–see below, if you dare to think of Matt Lauer, Al Roker, and Brian Williams in spandex–and the waving a little ribbon around doesn’t help. But if you actually watch the sport for a few minutes, it becomes clear that rhythmic requires not only incredible flexibility (perhaps more than any other athletes here) but the kind of hand-eye coordination found in the great shooters, archers, and badminton and table tennis players who have competed here. Try shooting an arrow or hitting a birdie with your leg pulled so far up over your head your foot touches your nose. It’s hard work, and you can see it from 1-2pm on NBC.
I have accused Olympic coverage in the past–which has meant NBC recently–of spending too little time covering sports and too much time doing sob stories, with sun-dappled athletes who have overcome the heartbreak of hangnails staring pensively into the distance. There seems to be less of that in this year’s coverage (although possibly more on the athletes’ dogs), but I’m kind of astounded at the missed opportunities. I’ve been waiting for 10 days to bring up marathon swimming because of South Africa’s Natalie du Toit, who is the first amputee to compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics. If you’re up noodling around the second this is posted, you might catch the few minutes of latenight USA Network coverage of her event. Similary, I’d have thought NBC would be all over the story of Henry Cejudo, child of dirt-poor immigrants who never had his own bed before he moved to the Olympic Training Center and who just won a shocking gold in freestyle wrestling. Who would ever have dreamed I’d be begging NBC for more sun-dappled moments?
Wednesday’s Blue Plate Special: I’m a little torn on beach volleyball (although, given the amount of coverage they’ve given it, NBC clearly isn’t). On one hand, just the idea of only two athletes covering an entire court is astounding, and watching the “traditional” volleyball serves and spikes being performed by people slogging through sand is pretty impressive. On the other hand, the skimpy bikinis hurt me in my feminism (why aren’t the male players in Speedos?). It did help when one of the finalist teams had their country abbreviation at key places on their uniforms, though–thank you, Brazil. Coverage of the women’s gold-medal match on primetime on NBC (beware spoilers).
Wednesday’s Chef’s Special: NBC has been doing a lot of crowing about the high ratings they’ve gotten so far in these games (call it the Phelps Effect), and you have to think the IOC is happy to make the networks happy, since they get such a yooge percentage of their operating budget through TV. So perhaps it is no surprise they’ve taken a turn toward the X Games demographic, introducing BMX to the Olympic program this year. I have to admit I know next to nothing about BMX racing, but hearing it described as “a full-contact bike race with jumps” makes me want to know more. NBC covers both the men’s and the women’s finals in primetime (spoilers will be available).
I’m not sure what I think about his histrionics in terms of sport, but since NBC is a fourth-place network, I just don’t think they have anything to lose by putting Bela Karolyi in his own reality show. Possibly with subtitles.
Tuesday’s Chef’s Special: Weightlifting comes to a close today with the men’s super heavyweights (231+ pounds). These are big boys, and they sometimes get written off, I think, as just being behemoths who throw weights around with their giant, stump-like arms. They’re a lot more than that–the jumping ability necessary to execute the clean and jerk often translates into ridiculous vertical leaps. Vertical leaps of three to three-and-a-half feet kind of vertical leap, which puts the weightlifters in the same category as the NBA players competing in the basketball competition. No, seriously. Watch and be astounded, early morning EDT on MSNBC.
Wow, I wish I were in Jamaica this week–there might be a party or two celebrating sweeping the 100m races. Too bad we had to watch an extensive feature on Michael Phelps’ shoelaces and Mary Carillo’s search for acupuncture before seeing it. Expect this to be much worse in 2012, as I doubt NBC will get the Brits to move events around to accommodate the US (read: East Coast) market.
Monday’s Blue Plate Special: The gymnastics coverage is winding down, with finals in rings, uneven bars, women’s trampoline, and men’s vault. We admit to pulling for the 2nd-place rings qualifier, Bulgaria’s 35-year-old Jordan Jovtchev, who is competing in his fifth Olympics. While he’s won four Olympic medals, he’s still chasing that elusive gold (which some people thought he was robbed of in Athens). Jovtchev, however, has another fan base that may never have seen him in his specialty. He’s competed several times in the Japanese obstacle course show Sasuke (shown in the US on G4 almost daily under the alias Ninja Warrior), a competition that somehow manages to be both an amazing demonstration of athleticism and a little hilarious. That’s right–Jordan Jovtchev has faced not only the rings, but the Rumbling Dice, the Cliff Hanger, and the Jumping Spider. He’s never achieved “total victory” on the obstacle course, but we’re kind of hoping he will in the Olympic Games. Female gymnasts are in action, too, with all-around champion Nastia Liukin, reigning bars world champion Ksenia Semenova, and event specialists He Kexin and Yang Yilin in the running. Primetime on NBC (thar be spoilers).
Monday’s Chef’s Special: Table tennis might be the most universal sports contested at these games. It’s a nearly ubiquitous basement or backyard experience; it revolutionized the video game industry; and it changed geopolitics. And at the Olympic level, it’s played at the speed of light, with both tricky changes of pace that resemble knuckleballs and overhead smashes that, frankly, seem a little dangerous. Since it’s enormously popular in China (Chinese president Hu Jintao recently stated that if he could be in the Olympics, he’d choose to play table tennis), it’s a perfect opportunity to soak in the soaring support the heavily Chinese crowds have rained down in the Olympic venues. Morning hours on both MSNBC and USA.
Hooray for the old ladies! In addition to Dara Torres’s remarkable performance in the pool, 38-year-old Romanian runner Constantina Tomescu-Dita won the women’s marathon and 35-year-old Bulgarian rower Rumyana Neykova won the women’s single sculls yesterday. In their honor, I shall continue to sit on the couch and watch their exploits on TV. This sacrifice may mean I will actually go mad trying to figure out how the NBC family of networks can show only a handful of gymnasts but the entire men’s 20K walk. And then follow it up with Jimmy Roberts’s stand-out piece on 1970s ping-pong diplomacy. And then play Michael Phelps clip pieces over both “In Your Eyes” and “Knights of Cydonia”. You are indeed an enigma wrapped in a riddle, NBC.
Sunday’s Blue Plate Special: The Fastest Man on Earth may have been crowned yesterday (good criminy, Usain Bolt), but his sprinting sisters take the track for their 100m final today. There are several compelling stories among the potential finalists, including teeny big-race specialist Lauryn Williams (silver medalist in Athens and 2007 Worlds; gold at 2005 Worlds) and Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson, who will try to pull off the 100m/200m double for Jamaica after legendary Veronica Campbell-Brown shockingly missed out on the 100. They’ll be joined by Torri Edwards, returning after a suspension for testing positive for a drug no longer deemed illegal; Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie, representing the Bahamas in her fourth Olympics; and Belarussian Yuliya Nestsiarenka, the defending Olympic champion. NBC in primetime; the race is earlier, so watch out for spoilers.
Sunday’s Chef’s Special: Today is your last chance to catch rowing, starring athletes with the largest lung capacities ever recorded. All of the medals being contested today are team endeavors, so the rowing you’ll be seeing is kind of like sprinting a mile (more, actually; the course is 2000 meters) with the precision of synchronized divers–while pulling a boat with you. One of the bronze medalists yesterday, rowing through a stomach ailment, had to have a rescue boat sent after him following his race, collapsing on the deck afterwards and having to be carried to his own medal ceremony. These folks are tough. The sculling events have two oars per athlete; the sweeping events have one offset oar per participant, like in Ben Hur. You get the feeling watching these amazing athletes that if they were Ben Hur’s rowing galley slaves, we’d all be speaking Italian today (boat cavalry!). Coverage of as many as seven finals on NBC between 1 and 5pm EDT (be careful of spoilers).