Swimmers Stay Up Late: Grading Late Night TV Appearances by Nathan Adrian and Ryan Lochte

Commentary by Jeff Commings

PHOENIX, Arizona, August 25. AMERICAN Olympic swimmers showed up on late-night television again in the past 48 hours, with Ryan Lochte getting another shot at impressing the public and Nathan Adrian getting some face time as a judge on Jay Leno's show.

As we did last week when Lochte, Dana Vollmer and Missy Franklin appeared on late-night talk shows, we're going to grade Lochte's and Adrian's time on the tube, using the same four judging categories while giving an overall grade.

Let's start with Adrian, who made his late-night debut on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on Thursday night. Instead of sitting on the couch and talking about his Olympic experience, Adrian was a guest judge on a regular Leno segment called “Meal or No Meal.” Adrian sat between Australian variety show host Rove McManus and regular “Tonight Show” contributor Ross Matthews and determined if three studio audience members' talents were good enough to get a free meal at a nice Los Angeles restaurant.

Fashion: Adrian walked out in a simple purple button-down shirt and jeans. The shirt accented the ribbons on the two Olympic gold medals he pulled out of his pockets, like they were six-shot revolvers in a Western movie. He didn't need to dress to the nines for this segment. Grade: B+

Stranger Factor: As I did last time, I asked my neighbor Dan to watch the segment with me for some outsider perspective. He didn't get to watch the 100 freestyle at the Olympics, so he did not know why Adrian was famous enough to warrant an appearance on the show. After seeing the clip from the 100 free, he was supremely impressed. He also thought Adrian “could be a really good model when he's done with swimming.” Grade: B+

Non-stranger factor: After watching the segment, I wondered if the three judges knew what each audience members' talents were before they walked onstage. The quips from the judges seemed to be too polished, but Adrian still handled himself well next to two established performers. He didn't look out of place, nor did he seem too nervous. Obviously, since he didn't do an interview with Leno, there wasn't anything new to learn from this segment, but it was great to see him handle himself in what could have been an awkward time. Grade: B+

Crowd appeal: Whenever an Olympian shows off his gold medals, the crowd goes wild. While Adrian's comments on the audience members' talents weren't as comedic as McManus and Matthews, he got a few laughs. Grade: B

Overall grade: B+ As I mentioned earlier, it could have been an awkward situation for Adrian, but he made the most of his time on the stage.

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On Friday night, Lochte appeared on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” eight days after talking to Jay Leno. Would he rise above the gold standard put forth by Missy Franklin last week?

Fashion: As he did on Leno's show, Lochte showed up in a simple black suit. He made his entrance wearing his London Olympic medals and once again, quickly took them off. The only additions to his wardrobe was a diamond ring on his right hand and a diamond-crusted watch on his left arm. Grade: B+

Stranger Factor: Since my neighbor Dan already knew Lochte from his Leno stint last week, I brought over my friend Lisa, who doesn't own a television and therefore only knew the basics about what happened at the Olympics. Upon seeing Lochte on TV, she was starstruck. “Do all the Olympians look like him?” Umm, yes, Lisa, they do. When asked what she liked most about Lochte, she said: “He's so laid back. He doesn't seem cocky.” Grade: A

Non-stranger factor: Obviously, some of the talk was about Lochte's time in Las Vegas, particularly with Prince Harry, and Lochte's Strongman training. But the interview started with a fascinating story about Lochte's first time in the pool when he was 10 years old, which I had never heard. I had never known the origin story of the grills he wears on award podiums, and I suppose we should thank Cullen Jones for creating another Lochte signature moment. And then Fallon revealed Lochte's upcoming workout DVD, called “Hard-Core,” available for presale. Lochte came back after the commercial break to play a game with Fallon, shooting plastic arrows at Fallon. Grade: B+

Audience appeal: More catcalls from the audience this time, especially when Fallon called Lochte “The Sexiest Man Alive.” I think Lochte's more loved in New York City, where Fallon's show is filmed, than in Los Angeles, where Leno tapes his show. Lochte said he had plans to move to Los Angeles, but maybe he should consider New York City. Grade: A+

Overall grade: Consider Leno's appearance a “morning swim” for Lochte. After watching the video of his time on “The Tonight Show,” Lochte had a talk with his coaches (read:agents) and knew how to get better for Fallon. He was looser, funnier and, according to the ladies the crowd, much sexier this time around. Not as fun as Franklin was, but very close. Grade: A

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