Mary Carillo is one of the best things about the Olympics

More than two weeks of Olympic coverage conclude tonight, and there’s a lot to criticize about the decisions NBC makes when covering the Olympics, and many people loathe the non-sports parts as unnecessary filler.

But I’d watch Mary Carillo’s work all day; her pieces have become one of the highlights of watching the Olympics for me.

Her Olympic reports are like tiny little documentaries that invite us to explore a fragment of history through the present. Nearly always, the pieces she and her NBC team construct are beautifully shot and interesting, and have fun characters. They’re not at all comprehensive investigative journalism–her story on Siberia didn’t even mention prison camps, for example–but for what they are, they’re terrific.

Frustratingly, NBC only has some of her pieces online, and only on its Olympics web site. But you can go there to watch her ride the Trans-Siberian Railway, learn how Russian vodka is made, explore the world’s deepest lake, or trace the history of curling. In these, Carillo invites you to see beauty and surprise in people and places, going beyond broad generalizations, although never going too deep.

Mary Carillo’s impressive resume includes working on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel and work on documentaries, including co-writing HBO’s Dare to Compete: The Struggle of Women in Sports, which won a Peabody.

Before the Winter Olympics conclude tonight, her documentary Nancy & Tonya premieres at 7 p.m. ET. Carillo’s interview with Nancy Kerrigan is perhaps the most notable difference from Nanette Burstein’s documentary The Price of Gold, which aired as part of EPSN’s 30 for 30 earlier this month and is also about the 1994 attack.

Carillo told TV Guide how she convinced Kerrigan to talk, and calls it “a fascinating character study.”

That could describe most of her pieces, as they’re character studies of people and places–but it could also describe Carillo herself, whose wit and authenticity are a significant part of why her segments are so engaging. Just watch her drink vodka with Bob Costas: she’s just a lot of fun to watch.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.