Wednesday, January 18, 2006

the good, the bad and the icy

While I don't care for macho sports like football or boxing, I have developed a fondness for the more elegant sports, notably figure skating. In the same week I saw the best and worst figure skating television broadcasts I have ever seen.

The worst was on ABC. It was just listed in the TV guide as "figure skating," and listed as a sports show, so one would expect your basic skating competition. But instead there was some bizarre artsy pseudo documentary whatsit. Rather than just showing the event, they tried to make it into some sort of story. They would show chopped up routines, sometimes most of a routine, sometimes just a few seconds, and often the skater would be shot in a closeup that prevented you from seeing what she was doing, or they would use some weird filter or make the screen glisten. This was intercut with backstage moments in which skaters and their coaches and families were talking (at one point you only see a routine on the TV another skater is watching), and then there's a narrator filling in the gaps and trying to make it dramatic (apparently ABC doesn't see a skating competition as inherently dramatic).

It was the sort of special someone would create in a sitcom. You know, some kooky character - Diane from Cheers, Kramer from Seinfeld, Jack from Will and Grace - in some fluke lands a job directing sports, and says, "people don't want to see the same old thing, they want it jazzed up and made into art." And then they make some crazy bit of nonsense and get fired.

A day later, I saw Hilton Skating And Gymnastics Spectacular. I missed the first half hour (I just tuned into it accidentally), but I see Bravo is reshowing it (it was originally broadcast on NBC).

A combination of the two best Olympic sports, this was an all-star lineup of Olympic medalists getting together for a flashy exhibition. For the most part gymnastics and figure skating alternated, but in some cases they would perform synchronized routines. The gymnastics was not so much Olympic routines as Ed Sullivan show routines, with all sorts of crazy leaps and spins and gymnasts tossing other gymnasts in the air. The most memorable figure skating routine involved a giant cube as a prop, and must be seen.

The only weird thing was the final number, sung by some American Idol loser (excuse me, runner-up). Even though it was an international collection of skaters, the final song was America the Beautiful, as though the Hilton's wanted to say; you foreigners are great, but we're still going to whip your ass in the next Olympics. But all in all this was everything I want in skating and gymnastics. And there wasn't a single weird filter or artsy edit in the whole thing.

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