NBC made perhaps its most criticized programming decision of the Vancouver Olympics last night when the network cut away from Lindsey Vonn's gold medal run in the women's downhill to air the 1968 TV movie "Heidi", starring Maximilian Schell, Jean Simmons, Jennifer Edwards and Michael Redgrave.
"It's the decision we made," said NBC spokesman Christopher McCloskey. "We had already shown 20 minutes of downhill, and 'Heidi' is a TV classic with an incredible cast. I mean, Michael Redgrave! I guess you can't please everybody."
The network has been stocking its primetime schedule with tape delayed events in an era of the Internet, iPhones and Twitter, while refusing to show many events live during the day, thereby ruining the Olympic viewing experience for a large portion of NBC's audience.
Olympic host Bob Costas said he supported the decision to leave Vonn's tape delayed run.
"Have you seen 'Heidi'? The little girl is adorable. Plus, there are mountains in it and snow," he said. "It's the kind of human interest story we prefer airing during the Olympics to actual live sports. What's really unfortunate is that there isn't a sequel. Too bad NBC doesn't do scripted shows anymore, or we could make 'Heidi 2'!"
While NBC has received millions of complaints from viewers across the country, its ratings for the Olympics remain high even for tape delayed events, and saw a huge spike during the broadcast of "Heidi".
"We aren't trying to woo sports fans," said McCloskey. "We want mainstream America, housewives, people who aren't really sports fans, but watch the Olympics for the drama and the wholesome personal stories. And they have loved our coverage of the Olympics. In fact, their only complaint has been that we haven't incorporated enough Jay Leno."