Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ice Falls

Dancing With The Stars was bound to spawn imitators. Last summer we had So You Think You Can Dance which was the bastard child of Dancing With The Stars and American Idol and while I initially couldn't see it working it was relatively not bad. Now there's Skating With Celebrities which is the bastard child of Dancing With The Stars and the Olympics. This bastard child should have been stopped by the morning after pill. What an awful awful steaming pile of crap. Even Fox, the network that created it, calls it "Train Wreck On Ice!"

I didn't watch it live on either feed that I receive. I sampled a bit during commercials in Criminal Minds and Lost but frankly it was too horrible and I found other things more interesting and compelling - like Speed's coverage of the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction (they had a 1969 E-Type Jag last night that went for about $40,000 and a few minutes later a Mark II Saloon like the one Inspector Morris drove that went for about $30,000 - I'm not a car guy but I was lusting in my heart believe me) - but in the interest of journalistic integrity not to mention the the desire to see just how bad it was, I did tape it. Tape has a great effect on this show; you can skip through the boring and/or bad parts. Of course if you do that you're left with only the performances of Jillian Barberi (with John Zimmerman) and Dave Coulier (with Nancy Kerrigan). And I'm only 40% kidding - they're the only "celebrities" who seem to have any idea of what they're doing on ice skates.

Rather than bore you with the rather grisly details (it was tough to digest) let me try to explain why this show won't be anywhere near the hit that Dancing With The Stars has been.

1. Everyone can dance. More accurately everyone thinks they can dance, as Master P proves every week. Not everyone can skate - I can't (weak ankles) - and even people who can skate can't necessarily figure skate. Dave Coulier ground the toe picks off his figure skates because he kept digging them into the ice because figure skates work and feel different from hockey skates. That still puts him ahead of Todd Bridges (and hands up if you thought he'd turn out to be the most well-adjusted kid actor from the cast of Diff'rent Strokes) who only roller skates and had to wear a baggy costume to hide the elbow pads, wrist guards and knee pads he was wearing, and Debbie - sorry Deborah - Gibson who has never skated before. With the exception of Barberie and to a lesser extent Coulier, these people sucked (and that's not a word I normally use).

2. The choice of pros. Of the professional skaters two are over 40 (Tai Babilonia - 45 - and Lloyd Eisler) and two are over 35 (Nancy Kerrigan and Kurt Browning). Moreover Browning and Kerrigan were solo skaters and the mechanics of working as part of a pairs unit are significantly different from doing a solo. Add to that working with an inexperienced partner and you have an absolute recipe for disaster.

3. There's no viewer participation. In Dancing With The Stars the audience votes, even if they don't know a Tango from a Viennese Waltz. Oddly enough the viewers of Skating With Celebrities probably know more about Figure Skating and can judge it more critically than people who watch Dancing With The Stars. Over the past two or three decades, Figure Skating has been a staple on North American TV and not just at the Olympics or even the World Championships. Over the years we've seen amateur competitions, professional competitions, professional exhibitions, and in Canada hour long shows that a single skater (first Toller Cranston, then Brian Orser, and finally Kurt Browning). In short the general public knows Figure Skating a lot better than they know Ballroom Dancing (as is proven by the continued survival of Master P on Dancing With The Stars) and is capable of rendering competent judgement. Unfortunately they aren't given the chance. A judging panel made up of professional coach Sir John Nicks, fan favourite Dorothy Hamill, and journalist Todd Lund votes on the performances. The team with the lowest combined score after two weeks is sent home. Which is fine and probably wouldn't affect the results any but definitely biases the competition towards Coulier and Barberie who have far more skating experience than any of the other teams. Even then the scores seemed to have been skewed in such a way as to artificially create tension by keeping all of the teams close in terms of points. Here's my fearless prediction - it'll come down to Barberie vs. Coulier and I suspect the one of those two who works for Fox will probably win.

4. This takes off from 3 in that people know skating. This isn't even bad Figure Skating; most of these people would have to spend years working to achieve bad. The result though is that instead of being entertaining it becomes a rather distasteful farce - or worse a freak show - and why watch farce when in a month you can be watching the absolute best in the world doing what they're best at.

5. About the only people who look like they're actually having fun are Barberi and Coulier. Compare that to Dancing With The Stars where everyone (with the probable exception of Master P) looks like they're having a ball - pun very much intended.

To sum it up Skating With Celebrities isn't the worst show on TV, isn't the worst new show on TV (that double "honour" still goes to The War At Home) and in a world which gave us The Swan and Rebel Billionaire isn't the worst reality show ever. It isn't even the worst "celebrity reality" show - remember I'm A Celebrity - Get Me Out Of Here! (which coincidentally also featured Bruce Jenner). However it comes pretty low on the "suckiness meter" in each and every one of those categories. I've seen my first - and last - full episodes though I might continue to sample during commercials, but only because the Barrett-Jackson Auction ends this weekend. If you want to see Figure Skating wait for the Olympics, and if that's too long a wait, rent Ice Castles, Ice Princess and any Sonja Henie movie you can get your hands on. Whatever you do do not waste your time with this!!!

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