Welcome back to Puck Daddy's enduring coverage of the face-meltingly bad CBC reality hit, Battle of the Blades (and not the good kind of face-melting, like a metal guitar solo; the bad kind, like prying open the Ark of the Covenant).
This show is getting worse. I've disliked BotB from the start, but, up until this week, I was able to at least enjoy it like one enjoys an Uwe Boll movie. There's a cheap thrill one gets from watching someone destroy an art form, and this program used to provide that thrill. Unfortunately, now that all the pairs have gotten a little better, I'm no longer watching the art of figure skating get murdered -- I'm merely watching people do it badly.
It's nowhere near as fun. Battle of the Blades is the only show that gets worse as its cast gets better.
After the worst cold open the show has ever done (see right for a taste, more on it later), Ron Maclean and Kurt Browning introduced this week's theme: the Canadian songbook, which, embarrassingly, features Avril Lavigne.
They also introduced this week's judges, a panel that was again without the perpetually aroused Jeremy Roenick. He was replaced this week by figure skating legend Brian Orser, and the guest judge was former NHL great Bryan Trottier.
These two were actually pretty amusing to watch. Trottier's comments were so irrelevant to the performances that preceded them that I suspect he was reading from a script. As for Orser, you could actually pinpoint the moment he realized he wasn't actually there to judge anything and shut off for the night. I'll make sure to point it out when we get there.
And finally, Ron introduced the six couples with this groaner: "It's a very deep six, and this is the week we deep-six one of them." Ugh. He was reaching to make "six" jokes all night. At one point, he called the pairs a "dirty half-dozen", which doesn't make any sense, especially since there actually are twelve of them.
So were any of the performances rapturous and moving? No, of course not, don't be ridiculous.
Marie-France & Bryan opened the evening by dancing to "Sk8er Boi" by Avril Lavigne, the song choice equivalent of a blind side hit to the head. Hoping to underscore the "Chris Jericho abducts Disney princess" vibe their pairing boasts, they put together a performance that took the song's lyrics literally:
It was weird, although Berard's skateboarder mimicry was actually a nice touch. Sandra loved every minute of it. "This couldn't have been more perfect," she said, a statement that proves she understands neither the word nor the concept of "perfect:" you can't modify it, and this wasn't it. She gave the skate an absurd 5.8. Brian Orser was so shocked that he had to pause and recompose himself before handing out a much more reasonable 5.5. Total score: 16.9.
It was the lowest mark Orser gave all night, which tells me that, between performances, somebody explained to him that the judges aren't traditionally so "judgmental."
Violetta & Cale: Last week, Violetta and Cale closed their performance by executing a throw in which Violetta flipped backwards over 6'5" Cale's head. Unsurprisingly, she bruised her heel coming down from such a great height, and the mini-doc before the performance underscored the pain she fought through all week.
Then, in my favourite musical irony of the competition so far, the pair skated to Tal Bachman's "She's So High." Was that intentional? I doubt it. This show's not that smart.
Sandra gushed again, handing out another 5.8. I waited for Orser to be more reasonable, but then he said, "The thing I'm most impressed with is the skating quality," and gave out a 5.8 as well. He took to that lobotomy like a champ. Total score: 17.2.
Tessa & David: Up until now, Tessa has resisted the traditional garb for female figure skaters, but this week, she finally said yes to the dress, and she was dreading both the exposed undercarriage and the potential impairment of sight that comes from being upside-down in something made to be worn right-side-up. "The only thing I'm worried about is my dress coming up to my face, and me just hanging out in my underwears," she said. Yes, underwears. Tessa sort of rules.
The best part about this performance was the use of the Tragically Hip's "Long Time Running", which is a sweet song. Everything else was cringe-worthy. Tessa looked about as uncomfortable in the dress as I would have been. Then Sandra patronized her by saying the chemistry was "coming." Total score: 17.1.
Elena & Curtis, who bore me to tears, danced to "Let's Go Higher" by Johnny Reed. They also elicited this gem from Ron Maclean: "He's hoisted the Stanley Cup and now Elena. You made it, Curtis." Yep, totally made it. You haven't reached the top of the mountain until you've hoisted Elena Berezhnaya.
The performance was noteworthy for two reasons. One, the couple executed the first throw of the competition. Two, Curtis sported the worst outfit of the night for the second week in a row. If you really care what the judges say at this point, Sandra claimed the footwork was really good. It was not. Total score: 17.1.
Annabelle & Brad danced to "Come Fly With Me" by Michael Buble, and while it was no better or worse than the programs that preceded it, Sandra randomly chose this one to pick on. "You've really focused on your lifts but you still need to work on the in-between part," she said, eliciting a chorus of boos. She was correct, but here's why she deserved to get booed: every couple has this problem. They're all strong and they all suck at skating. Why single out Brad and Annabelle?
The best comment came from Bryan Trottier, who trying to be complimentary but ended up brilliantly passive aggressive. When pressed to describe what he liked, he said, "I liked the fist pump at the end." Nicely done, Bryan; I too enjoyed when the program stopped. Total score: 16.9.
And finally, Tanith & Boyd closed the evening by dancing to "Black Velvet" by Alannah Myles, one of Canada's finest one-hit wonders.
While "Black Velvet" is all manner of awesome, the performance was far and away the blandest on the evening, a fact that Sandra basically acknowledged when she cooed, "Even though it may not be big and spectacular, it's still difficult." In other words, even though it was in no way impressive, I'm still gonna praise it, because I'm Sandra, and I declare war on common sense. Total score: 17.0.
Stray observations and things my wife said:
• I love when BotB cuts to the green room, because it never fails to provide the evening's most inconsequential shots. Once, as the program went to commercial, they showed Elena pretending to be in love with a digital camera the show was clearly paid to endorse.
• Do not attempt to adjust your aspect ratio: Maura Grierson's hat really is that massive.
• I genuinely enjoyed the mini-doc on the fixing scandal from the 2002 Olympics that involved two competitors from this season's BotB cast. I'd have much rather watched an hour on that fascinating moment in figure skating history than see it presented as a half-assed filler piece designed to stretch an even more half-assed reality program to an hour.
• Kurt Browning and Ron Maclean's opening bit was cloying and truly terrible. Let me take you through this: we open on a hockey net, shot from the back. Suddenly, Browning appears in the net like magic, dressed in goalie gear. Then, Maclean skates out, stickhandling a puck while narrating a scenario in which he dekes out Bobby Orr and Nicklas Lidstrom, only to be stopped by Browning in goal. I recognize they were paying tribute to childhood pond hockey fantasies, but what sort of kid dreams of one day being stoned on a breakaway by Kurt Browning?