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The Battle of the Skating Shows

by Stephanie Earp, posted Nov 22nd 2010 7:10PM
Tonight at 8PM, the second season of 'Battle of the Blades' will conclude on CBC after naming a winner from among the three remaining teams. Mere seconds after Bryan Adams claims in song that there will never be another tonight, ABC and CTV will attempt to prove him wrong, debuting 'Skating with the Stars' at 9PM ET/PT. I have a number of problems with this -- so many in fact, that I'm going to resort to a bulleted list format.

1. Why not franchise 'Battle of the Blades' instead of 'Skating With the Stars'?

If the U.S. had come up with a successful skating competition show, you'd better believe we'd be watching some Canadianized version of it, the rights bought and paid for. Call this hypothetical show 'So You Think You Can Battle with Celebrity Blades of Canada' or whatever, but if the success had been developed south of the border, and if Canucks had decided to go ahead with our own version without buying the rights, there'd be a lawsuit.

Of course, the premise is certainly different -- the glaring lack of hockey players, for example (about which I'll expand upon in a moment). But would it have killed ABC to purchase the rights to 'Battle of the Blades,' tweaking as they saw fit, and sending a little bit of cash up here to the frozen north? I'm being naive, I know ... somewhat purposefully. And when the show tanks, they won't blame it on the bad premise, they'll say skating doesn't work for U.S. audiences. Well, gee, crap skating won't work for any audience -- which brings me to:

2. Skating is not dancing

I mean no disrespect to the contestants on 'Dancing with the Stars' who have made incredible leaps of athleticism over the course of the series, but dancing and skating are two very different beasts. Let's say, for argument's sake, that the skills involved in dance are based on an essential ability: walking. Skating is built on something else, namely skating. If you can't already skate, the chances of you accomplishing anything really lovely on blades, even with incredible coaching and a brilliant partner, are very small. This is why the format of 'Battle of the Blades' works so well -- the male contestants can already skate at a very high level. I realize that a cast full of hockey players might not go over as well in the U.S. as it does in Canada, but other reality shows have proven that celebrity status isn't necessarily needed to have a successful show. Look at 'Idol', 'Survivor' and 'The Biggest Loser.'

There is an ethos in the 'Skating With the Stars' franchise that the more of a beginner you are, the better. In a recent promo clip, contestant Jonny Mosely (a U.S. Olympic skier) complained that Rebecca Budig (a soap actress) had taken figure skating classes as a child and actually owned her own skates before joining the program. Imagine! Someone who is going to attempt spins, lifts and footwork on ice is adept enough to already own a fairly essential piece of equipment! Cheat! Cheat!

3. You call those 'stars'?

Speaking of celebrity status, am I the only one who finds this list pretty dubious? Rebecca Budig is best known for her role as Greenlee on 'All My Children' (ABC). Bethenny Frankel is a former Real Housewife of New York and has her own show on Bravo. Jonny Mosely is the aforementioned Olympic skier. Vince Neil used to front Motley Crue (a band so obscure to younger audiences that ABC didn't bother to mention it in the official release about the show). Brandon Mychal Smith is on a Disney Channel sitcom and Sean Young -- arguably the only true 'star' on this list -- is finishing up a career that includes 'Blade Runner' and 'No Way Out' by playing a crazy woman on 'The Young and the Restless.' Here's a list of their skating partners: Ethan Burgess, Keauna McLaughlin, Brooke Castile, Fred Palascak, Jennifer Wester and Denis Petukhov. Who, you say? Exactly. Most have U.S. national titles, some only U.S. national experience. Olympics and Worlds, not so much.

I'm not suggesting you need be of Olympic caliber skater to partner Sean Young or Vince Neil, but with such a weak cast of 'stars', viewers may have tuned in for the skaters ... if they were skaters we'd ever seen before.

4. It's failed before

Back in 2006, Fox tried its hand at competing with 'Dancing with the Stars' with something they called 'Skating with Celebrities.' It lasted one season. Like this new effort, it featured a mix of men and women with a wide range of skating experience, and was patently unfair as a result. At least it had some genuine star power though, with Kurt Browning, Nancy Kerrigan, Lloyd Eisler, Debbie Gibson, Bruce Jenner and Dave Coulier, for example. There was some genuinely good skating from Kristy Swanson (the original Buffy) and Jillian Barberie (a Canadian sportscaster and actress who's not that well known outside L.A.), and a genuinely delicious scandal when skating partners Eisler and Swanson admitted they had become romantically involved. They are now married with kids. (Shows like this can bring people together, it seems)

5. Why is CTV willing to look like such jerks?

I know CTV didn't scheme and plan to jump on the finale of CBC's successful skating show with one of their own -- at least I'm fairly sure they didn't do that -- but do they not have any sense of how things look? First they take the 'Hockey Night in Canada' theme, then the Olympics coverage, and now, adding insult to injury, they debut a skating show mere minutes after CBC closes theirs. It does console me that the new 'HNIC' theme is pretty awesome, the CTV coverage of the Olympics was roundly criticized and I have very little doubt that 'Skating with the Stars' is going to suck really hard.

All of which is to say that of course I'll be tuning in to watch it all go down.

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Call me stupid but if FOX did a similar show back in 2006 and Battle Of The Blades is in its second season, doesn't it stand to reason that ABC is copying the show that came first, i.e. Skating With Celebrities?

November 23 2010 at 12:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Stefangel's comment

It may be that ABC is doing what you say. Repeating such a flop would indeed be stupid if it is, is it seems to be, a "dumbed down" version of said flop.

But hey! Maybe they could get Bristol's hubby(?) to strap on a pair of toe-picks. He's likely to know which end you put your foot in and what ice looks like...

November 24 2010 at 3:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pierre-Luc Allie

Battle of the Blades made me a figure skating fan.

Those girls are as tough as any athletes out there.

And congrats to the canadian public. At the beginning of the show I was afraid that they would give the competion to Theo Fleury for sentimental reason. Giving the title to the only 100% not canadian pair was awsome. Valeri really transform himself into a figure skater.

November 23 2010 at 12:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So far, if I'm any example, they're not doing too well. I didn't even realize it was on last night - too glued to Battle of the Blades. Dumb premise, obvious - but lower quality - ripoff, boring "talent". I'll stick with Battle.

November 23 2010 at 11:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I watch skating religiously, every season not just worlds and olympics but other international events. I know 3 of those skaters, McLaughlin, Castille, and Petuhcov. I hear one of the skaters was the stunt double for blades of glory...come on!

November 23 2010 at 11:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
True Canuck

I agree with the comments about the Skating with the Stars attempt at coming anywhere near the show Battle of the Blades was - unknown pros and little known stars even with some previous skating talent do not make up a great show like Battle of the Blades. It was a great series and look forward to next year's presentations. Go CBC. The talent gets better and better and is a pleasure to watch each week.

November 23 2010 at 3:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

ABC's new slogan: If it's dumb we got it!

November 23 2010 at 1:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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