Welcome to Week 2 of Puck Daddy's ongoing coverage of CBC's Battle of the Blades, the figure-skating-meets-hockey reality program that proves Canadians will watch just about anything, provided it takes place on ice (or at Degrassi High).
This week, unlike last week, a couple will be eliminated come Monday night, and if that didn't already have you amped, the program cold-opened with an intense introductory montage, just to seal the deal. Mind you, any likelihood of us taking said montage seriously disappeared when Brad May deadpanned, "I played in the NHL. I fought the biggest guys. Now I'm a figure skater. I'm addicted to that adrenaline." Sure you are, Mayday.
Immediately after the intro montage, Ron Maclean and Kurt Browning provided the usual awkward repartee, stepping on one another's lines and overstating the weight of the events, such as when Maclean said of the night's festivities, "It's like opening night of the Stanley Cup playoffs." Right, except for the fact that it's taking place in Toronto.
Maclean and Browning have no chemistry whatsoever, a fact that was especially underscored when Browning explained this week's theme -- passion -- while Maclean looked around like a cat in a bird sanctuary.
And finally, the judges were introduced. Joining Jeremy Roenick and Sandra Bezic was guest judge Theo Fleury, who was apparently a contestant on last year's show. I especially liked Maclean's weirdly provocative introduction of Roenick: "He's touched millions of hockey fans," he said, pausing just long enough for us to take that the wrong way, then adding "With his warrior spirit." What?
Anyway. Then figure skating happened.
Let me get out in front of this: all the performances are terrible, wooden, and uncomfortable. When I say something is "good", I mean that on the sliding scale of this program, where "good" simple equals "not as awful as the most awful thing I've ever seen." Moving on.
Violetta & Cale went first, dancing to "Love to Love" by Jill Scott. Like Cale's performance from last week, it was punctuated by stiffness and blank stares.
Then Sandra, who is perhaps the most disingenuous reality show judge I've ever seen in my life, absurdly claimed that Cale had grace. She followed this up by unhelpfully and cryptically suggesting that he "use his assets." I think that means she wants him to get naked. Theo followed that up by helpfully adding he loves to watch Violetta, and Roenick indicated he had also been watching Violetta closely, saying, "I still get uncomfortable with where you guys put your hands." Total score: 16.4.
Marcy & Todd went next, dancing to One Republic's "Apologize". I like Todd. Earlier in the program, he described himself as an "Ice- devouring love tornado", so he clearly rules. Still, it was hard to get behind his choice of attire -- the black tanktop tucked into black pants was a bit too Dirty Dancing for my liking.
Roenick gave the performance the comment of the night, saying, "You make a very good jungle gym." It pretty much summed up exactly what this show is: athletic women climbing around men that move just about as much as playground equipment. Total score: 16.6
Kim & Russ were third, dancing to "Buttons" by the Pussycat Dolls and giving us what was, in my mind, the single worst performance of the night.
At the end, Kim tore Russ's shirt open, and considering the purple tanktop he was sporting underneath, one wonders if she did it to embarrass him.
Someone needed to speak out on behalf of things that don't suck and make sure everyone knew this performance wasn't one of those things, and I was disappointed when the judges instead opted to prove their complete uselessness. Consider Sandra, who said, "You're just having a blast out there, you bring us in to the fun, it was great, loved it." Total score: 16.5
Elena & Curtis went next, and they danced to "The Crow and the Butterfly" by Shinedown. I don't even remember this performance. If I didn't have to type his stupid, complicated name seventy names a week, I would forget Curtis Leschyshyn is even on this program. He's forgettable. He's also hilariously stone-faced; he looks like Nelson Van Alden from Boardwalk Empire.
After the performance, Ron Maclean gave us our "what the crap" quote of the evening, saying, "They definitely had those butterflies. Taking wing. In formation." Huh? Then Fleury said, "I definitely loved the blue outfits, and there was nothing blue about that performance." Except for the fact that it blew. Total score: 16.5.
Tessa & David: I sort of love Tessa and David. They choose sweet songs (this week they danced to "Cold as Ice" by Foreigner), Tessa refuses to wear the skimpy outfits the other women wear, and David Pelletier makes up for Tessa's conservative clothing choices by sporting extremely nippletastic tops. His costume for tonight appeared to be on loan from the set of Batman Forever.
Just like last week, they were among the best pairs on the night. But, since this program is completely backwards, Sandra actually criticized this performance the hardest and gave it the lowest score (5.3). I think she might hate Tessa.
Thankfully, Roenick has a mad crush on Tessa, so he disagreed, balancing out Sandra's insanely low grade with a 5.7, the highest score of the night. Total score: 16.6.
Marie & Bryan danced to "Lost Together" by Blue Rodeo. and I was struck by the ease with which Bryan lifts his partner. I honestly keep expecting him to just toss her over his shoulder and climb the Empire State Building while batting at military jets with his free hand -- he's immense. He's also about as wooden as Cale, which made it particularly amusing when Sandra suggested he try to keep his upper body more still. How is it that the judge with the figure skating experience is also the most ridiculous? Total score: 16.6.
Tanith & Boyd had the standout skate of the evening, dancing to Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts" and giving a surprising moving performance. The judges gushed over it. Sandra said, "It was gorgeous." Theo called it the best performance of the night, and Roenick echoed that sentiment, claiming it gave him goosebumps. Mind you, considering Roenick has "touched millions", he might want to make absolutely sure those are goosebumps and not something else. Total score: 17.1
And finally, Annabelle and Brad closed out the evening with another strong performance, dancing to "Natural Born Lover", a routine that featured the boob-grabbingest boob grab this side of Janet Jackson's Rolling Stone cover.
"I didn't know you could skate that good. You didn't skate that good in hockey," Roenick said, just before remembering to hit on Annabelle. Total score: 16.9.
Stray observations and things my wife said:
• My wife: "This is killing me artistically and emotionally."
• Evidence of how bland this program is: last week's revelation that Todd Simpson occasionally makes amusing t-shirts made him far and away the most interesting member of the cast, and the show took steps to remind us of his wacky antics. Ron Maclean even went so far as to creatively call him "Mr. T-Shirt."
• At one point, just prior to cutting to commercial, they cut instead to the Mott's Clamato lounge. It was weird. What sort of lounge only serves Caesars and doesn't let you take off your coat? Most awkward product placement ever.
• My wife: you know who they should get as a judge? Elvis Costojko." I'm fairly certain this was some sort of accidental mishmash of Elvises Costello and Stojko, and I'm not sure which one she actually meant.
• It seems stupid to have a guest judge that knows nothing about figure skating. I understand why they choose a guy that's somewhat recognizable to hockey fans, but man, if two-thirds of my score was being determined by guys that know nothing about the sport, I'd be choked. Mind you, Sandra isn't much better.
• Another terrible Sandra line: "You really committed to looking in to your partner's eyes." Way to commit, guy.
Stay tuned tomorrow night for reactions to the first pair lucky enough to be eliminated from Battle of the Blades.