Welcome back to Puck Daddy's coverage of Battle of the Blades, the show that -- I can't believe I'm saying this -- is beginning to hold my interest.
I just threw up in my mouth a little.
Don't get me wrong. BotB remains terrible: the judging is ridiculous, the figure skating is poor, Ron Maclean is simply not suited to host a reality program, the filler pieces are bland at best and pure crap at worst -- pretty much everything about the show is bad. But damn it, after two months invested in this monstrosity, I care now.
All this in mind, it sucks to admit it, but I didn't hate tonight's episode.
The theme of the evening was duets, as each pair would be skating to a musical duet, and each performance would feature a brief moment where the hockey player had to break away and do 30 seconds of solo skating.
I know what you're thinking: leave a successful group for some uninspiring solo work? Yes, it was very Geri Halliwell.
As usual, Sandra and Jeremy acted as the boatmen to Nonsense River as our two head judges. They were joined this week by Olympic ice dancing champion Christopher Dean, who was far and away the best guest judge to appear on the show this season. Granted, nothing he said was even remotely engaging, but it sure seemed like it was, because he had a British accent. I submit that a reality show without a British judge is not a reality show at all (except for The Sing Off, which rocks).
This is probably the least grumbly intro I've ever done, so let me take a moment to highlight the most ridiculous moment of the program: the weird and terrible duet by Ron and Kurt that precluded the performances.
Why did this have to happen? I have less than zero interest in watching Ron Maclean figure skate.
On the bright side, the figure skating could only get better.
Tessa & David went first, skating to "It's Only Love", by Bryan Adams and Tina Turner, which is a shame, because when I heard Bryan Adams was one half of the duet, I was really hoping for "When You're Gone," with Sporty Spice. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.
It was perhaps the weakest performance of the night, as the pair had a fall on an attempted throw, along with a handful of other wobbly moments. Tessa's solo skate was downright uncomfortable too. Still, there were some bright spots, like the terrifying spin the couple did to close out the skate.
As usual, the judges comments were glowing, completely ignoring the fall in favour of glowing praise about carrying on. "The hardest thing to do is come back after a fall, but you came back so hard," Sandra said. Seriously, who the crap has ever quit in the middle of a routine because they fell down? Everyone comes back.
I liked Christopher's contribution: "You shone and you sparkled." But that seems more in praise of her outfit. Jeremy upped the useless factor to its highest peak, saying, "I'm not even gonna look at the fall," and adding, "They couldn't have picked a better woman to come on the show than you." Then the judges awarded two 5.9s and a 5.8. Absurd. Total score: 17.6.
Elena & Curtis were next, dancing to a cover of "Don't let the sun go down on me" from two of the contestants on that show The Voice. Did that strike anyone else as a really strange choice? There are hundreds of famous duets out there, and you choose something from another reality show? Weird.
As for the skate, it was solid, featuring a nice throw, some decent chemistry, and zero falls. Additionally, I liked Curtis's strategy of getting the solo element out of the way immediately. That was genius.
"I thought that was your best skate of the show," Jeremy said, before Sandra went for the full-fledged simile fail, praising Curtis's smoothness by saying, "You're like a cat on the ice." Cats on ice, huh? Anyway, then the judges gave this performance a lower score than David and Tessa, perhaps in an attempt to correct the absurdly high curve they'd set for themselves. Total score: 17.4.
Tanith & Boyd danced to "Falling Slowly" from the movie Once, which, unlike the last song, is a real song, which was nice. It was a perfect choice and, insofar as what the contestants on this competition are capable of, it was also a near-perfect performance, from Boyd's solo foray to one incredible lift midway through the skate. I say near-perfect because there were a couple minor slips but, to my mind, these were the sorts of stumbles that could be forgiven.
Sandra raved, "You are a musical being. You've got knees, you understand music," I guess because having knees is integral to understanding music. I would hate to be the poor bastard with no knees that therefore doesn't understand of music. Sounds like a nightmare.
Later, Sandra tried to interrupt Jeremy with an actual figure skating observation, but Jeremy started gesticulating wildly until the attention was back on him and we never quite got to hear what it was. Total score: 17.7.
This is when the absurd score given to Tessa & David really bugged me. Tanith & Boyd's performance was more than one tenth of a point better, but the judges were loath to give perfect scores when there were small mistakes, meaning the performances wound up with pretty much identical scores. Tell me why, exactly, the judges were unwilling to overlook mistakes this time? Is it because they're pulling scores out of their asses?
Marie-France & Bryan closed out the show, dancing to "If I Can't Have You" by Harvey Fuqua and Etta James. Again, within the context of the show, it was fantastic. Bryan's footwork was solid, the couple seemed completely in sync, and his solo bit was excellent. I'm biased, because I actually like this couple a lot, but I thought this was the best performance of the night.
But the judges thought so too. After joining in the crowd's standing ovation, they praised it from top to bottom. "It was fun, it was sexy, it was soulful, it was great skating," Sandra said, "It was everything this event should be, it was fantastic." Then -- and you knew this was coming, especially since they gave themselves nowhere to go after that first performance -- the pair were given the first perfect score of the competition. Total score: 18.0.
Stay tuned next week for the show's big finale. Oh, what a glorious day that will be, becaue this program will be over, and I can finally spend my Sunday nights watching Dexter and The Walking Dead like I used to before I picked up this stupid assignment.
Stray observations and things my wife said:
• A word on those garbage fluff pieces where two people drive around in a Ford: they're stupid. This week, it was two of the choreographers in the car, heating one another's seats, receiving e-mails on the touch screen, and completely failing to convince me they ride to work together announcing what nifty new Ford add-ons they're using now.
• I don't mention Maura Grierson often, primarily because I find her completely superfluous, but her ensemble tonight — a black turtleneck and space pants — was strange.
• In a shocking twist, the best pun of the evening went to Kurt Browning, not Ron Maclean, when he described the evening as "a very sixy night". Boo.
• My wife: "Duets week seems like a missed opportunity for Marie-France and Bryan to dance to 'Tale as Old as Time.' And why didn't anyone dance to 'A Whole New World'? And why is that in my head now? A whole new world..."