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Say what? NBC idiotically dumps The Who from prime-time Closing Ceremonies

Brian May of Queen revs up for "We Will Rock You." Photo: Ed Bark

Last impressions count, too. And NBC re-inflamed its Olympics antagonist, #NBCFail, with a stupendously bad programming decision during its Sunday night telecast of the Closing Ceremonies from London.

It was bad enough to not include performances by Kate Bush, Ray Davies of The Kinks and Muse, which performed the official song of the XXX Olympiad. A second song by George Michael also got edited out of NBC's two-and-a-half hour tape-delayed presentation after the full ceremony was streamed live earlier Sunday on NBCOlympics.com.

But then came an inexplicable bungle. Principal host Bob Costas had noted earlier that the ceremony's pop/rock music theme would "pick up a bit later with The Who" after dignitaries went about the business of solemnly extinguishing the Olympic flame.

He should have said "a whole lot later." Because just before 10 p.m. (central), Costas copped a plea and said that The Who's Olympics-capping performance would air one hour later as part of NBC's late night wrapup. Huh? A commercial-free showing of the new
fall sitcom Animal Practice and various late night local newscasts then filled the gap.

Let's look closer at the incredible idiocy involved here.

Number one: The Who's surviving members, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, played for a grand total of seven minutes, ending with "My Generation." But NBC couldn't fit this in? The Peacock instead opted for a redundant, padded 90-minute highlight package of what most viewers had seen over and over during the past two weeks. It ran from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and easily could have been trimmed if the network didn't want Animal Practice to get too late a start.

Number two: A majority of viewers had to return to work the following morning. But screw them. Those who wanted to see the grand finale instead were forced to stay up an extra hour for what turned out to be The Who (and their new backup members) followed by a Costas benediction. None of the other spliced performers were re-admitted during NBC's late night tack-on.

Number three: Talk about a buzz-kill. The Brits put on a terrifically entertaining closer, filled to the brim with music, splendorous visuals and a little light comedy from Eric Idle of Monty Python fame. His "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life" turned out to be a bigger sing-along than Paul McCartney's "Hey Jude" curtain-closer at the July 27th Opening Ceremonies. All in all it was a thoroughly joyous occasion -- until NBC crapped all over it with one of the dumbest editorial decisions in broadcast TV history.

NBC had been rolling along with prime-time ratings that exceeded their fondest expectations and turned what seemed to be a certain money-losing Olympics into a break-even proposition. An average of 31.1 million viewers had watched the Peacock's previous 16 nights of the Summer Games, up 12 percent from the 2008 Beijing Games (27.7 million). In short, NBC was getting the last laugh at the expense of many of its detractors.

Then they went and did this. And now NBC is getting hammered anew. It couldn't happen to a nicer last-place network.