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October 22, 2014

'Battle of the Blades': I'm a Believer

by Stephanie Earp, posted Nov 16th 2009 11:45AM


A couple of weeks ago, I made a few minor complaints about 'Battle of the Blades.' I take it all back. Not only did the show address a few of my issues (getting more comments from the female competitors, booking judges from the world of figure skating, like Kristy Yamaguchi and Katarina Witt), but they invited me to come see the Sunday night finale.

I do like to get invited places.

But never has an invitation made me feel quite so lucky to do what I do for a living (namely make snide comments about people who are more talented and ambitious than I am). Walking up to Maple Leaf Gardens from the parking spot I found in another time zone, a huge line of people are waiting for the ticket that will become available when people like me fail to show.
A couple of weeks ago, I made a few minor complaints about 'Battle of the Blades.' I take it all back. Not only did the show address a few of my issues (getting more comments from the female competitors, booking judges from the world of figure skating, like Kristy Yamaguchi and Katarina Witt), but they invited me to come see the Sunday night finale.

I do like to get invited places.

But never has an invitation made me feel quite so lucky to do what I do for a living (namely make snide comments about people who are more talented and ambitious than I am). Walking up to Maple Leaf Gardens from the parking spot I found in another time zone, a huge line of people are waiting for the ticket that will become available when people like me fail to show.

I could wax nostalgic about the joy of seeing Maple Leaf Gardens ablaze with lights, once again a shrine to Canadian skating and sport. But the truth is, the last time I was at the Gardens was to see Cyndi Lauper in 1983 or something. The lighting and some of the outfits were actually remarkably similar.

As a live audience member, free ticket or no, you do have a couple of responsibilities. One of them is to be in your seat half an hour before the show starts. Readers, I am sorry to tell you that almost none of our countrymen are capable of following this simple instruction. Perhaps this is why the recession has caught us off guard, why unemployment numbers have been so alarming. Canadians cannot sit their asses in chairs at an appointed time, even if a free ticket to 'Battle of the Blades' depended on it. But that's just it - it didn't. I sat, they didn't, no one got thrown out.

The other important job you take on as an audience member is that of clapping. Clapping is the bare minimum required, but whooping, standing up in an ovation-like manner, clapping in time, and clapping above your head are all appreciated. I take my role as a clapper seriously, but as one of the locust-like creatures called media, I was sitting on the media, family and friends side of the ice. I am ashamed to tell you that if you detected a difference in the level of cheering from one side of the stadium last night, it was my side that was deficient.

Across the way, guests from skating clubs across the Greater Toronto Area were holding hand-made signs suggesting a marriage between Stephane Richer and themselves, and that 6.0 was the only score worth considering (a sign the judges decided to take quite seriously.) Over on my side, one Important Reporter refused to clap at all.

I know the reasoning - I've heard it from colleagues before. It's not their job to cheer, it implies an approval that's unbecoming to a journalist, or that they've been bought with free stuff. I have no problem with people accusing me of such low morals, so I clapped and whooped and gave so many standing ovations, I think I can skip the squats in my next workout.

But I guess I should get to the point and tell you about seeing the show up-close and in person. I think everyone saw a few fumbles last night, but as a former Simpson/Sale fan, the live show made it clear that Simpson just isn't skating at the same level at Richer and Lemieux. The winners will be either Dubreuil and Richer or Bourne and Lemieux, although who can say for sure when it's up to Canada - the same folks who chose Ryan Malcolm so many years ago.

Whoever wins this season, or the many seasons that are sure to follow, the real winner is the CBC, who have managed to create what many, including myself, thought was impossible - a truly Canadian hit show. In the line-up outside, older men with Quebequois accents talked about guest judge Doug Gilmour while young girls with sparkles in their hair talked about Shae-Lynn Bourne's latest choreography. English-speaking Canada may not have a star system when it comes to acting, but we sure have one when it comes to skating. In my job, I've met and interviewed countless stars, but seeing these champions skate will go down as one of my favourite experiences as a TV critic.

And as a TV critic, I suppose I'm not supposed to tell you who I'm voting for, but since I've already ruined my credibility by whooping and clapping, I may as well spill the beans. I'm rooting for Marie-France Dubreuil and Stephane Richer, who call each other '90-second lovers.' It makes me sad to think they probably won't skate together again, unless CBC calls them back up for next year's premiere or something. They are my favourite pair because they make me believe they're in love each time they skate. And 'Battle of the Blades' is officially my favourite new show of the season because it also makes me believe - in Canadian TV.

Watch the finale tonight live at 7 pm Atlantic time, 8 pm ET, on CBC and vote at cbc.ca/battle.

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