Ted Danson, Harry Connick Jr. and Other Celebs Recall Their Favorite Olympics Moments

From Nadia Comaneci to Mark Spitz

Every two years (and previously, every four years), viewers gathers around the TV to watch the Olympic Games, hoping to catch a glimpse of some of sports' most breathtaking moments. As the 2016 Summer Olympics is underway, TV actors attending the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in L.A. reflected on their favorite Olympics memories during a lifetime of watching them on TV. Here's what moments are most medal-worthy to them:

Milo Ventimiglia

"When I was a kid, I wrestled in high school. And the wrestling section of the Olympics was always at odd times, so I remember staying up really late or getting up really early to watch and see true sport. One on one, everything is supposedly equal. You just have two people for six minutes going after each other," said the actor.

Now, Ventimiglia might also see himself on screen, as NBC will be running promos for his new drama This Is Us, which debuts Sept. 20. "To be a part of that in a small way, where our show is being promoted within the Olympics, it's definitely exciting. I'm probably going to wake up really early in the morning, watch the wrestling segment, see a handful of hopefully gold medals, and then maybe catch the trailer and be like, 'Wow, this is meta.'"

Ana Gasteyer

The actress, who stars in the new TBS comedy People of Earth, which debuts Oct. 31, used the 1996 Summer Olympics as inspiration when prepping for her audition that year for Saturday Night Live. "I have always felt a natural kinship to athletes, especially with something like Saturday Night Live, which is so performance-oriented, and so precision-oriented. I would watch these divers, gymnasts and swimmers. I remember zeroing in, all this sports psych stuff: 'You've been preparing for years and years and years, and now it's time,'" she said. "Even though I was very young when I got Saturday Night Live, I'd been doing comedy since I was 17. I knew that one day I was probably going to audition for SNL."

Saturday Night Live "is the Olympics of comedy. I knew that I would be on the block. I knew that I would have to deliver and focus, and I meditated on those divers, gymnastics and runners. I remember thinking, 'They're going to say go, and you have to go.' I was auditioning in parallel: rehearsing, editing my monologues, putting them together and running them. I ran that audition 150 times," said Gasteyer. It worked: She got the job, and spent six seasons on Saturday Night Live.

Harry Connick Jr.

The singer, who will be hosting a syndicated daytime talk show, Harry, beginning Sept. 12, has a more personal Olympics memory than most. He performed during the closing ceremony of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. "It's just one of those things that you don't get to do everyday. It's a performance, but because it's the Olympics, it's just heightened," he said.

"But I like watching the Summer Games, and watching those amazing performances in gymnastics," said Connick Jr.  "I'm thinking back on Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton. That stuff was great."

Dennis Haysbert

The 24 actor, who stars in the upcoming Syfy thriller Incorporate (debuting Nov. 30), has several cherished Olympics moments: "Well, Cassius Clay. Watching him fight in the Olympics, I was just a kid and I was totally floored. I was always floored whenever I saw anybody black on television, especially back in those days. Track and field, and all the 4 x 100s. I like seeing old reels of Jesse Owens. And Mark Spitz, it was the first time I'd seen anybody with that kind of swimming prowess."

Martha Plimpton

"I remember being six years old and being completely enamored with Nadia Comaneci," said Plimpton, who will be back on ABC this season with Season 2 of The Real O'Neals. "And all the gymnastics. I'm a huge gymnastics fan, so I'm looking forward to that."

Jeff Garlin

"Mark Spitz, that's aging me! I was 10 years old, and that was a big deal to watch him win all the golds," said Garlin, who will be on The Goldbergs this fall for Season 4. "I love the Summer Olympics."

Ted Danson

Not all Olympic memories are happy ones for Danson. "Sadly, you probably start with Munich," said Danson, who returns to NBC this fall in the comedy The Good Place, which premieres Sept. 19.

On a more uplifting note, "ice skating is always a huge thing in our house. Downhill skiing. Gymnastics is always something I really love. What I love about the Olympics is you watch and especially nowadays, you watch and you go, 'Oh, human beings are OK! Look how magnificent we are! Look at that spirit of different countries getting together and competing and being magnificent,'" said Danson. "That's always one of my happiest TV-watching times, watching the Olympics. We always feel uplifted."

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