Monday, August 31, 2009

The Kerrs are "Everywhere"... and Rudy Still Knows the Way to San Jose

If you haven’t cruised by in recent weeks, you might want to consider it… between updates on what programs the Olympic-eligible are cooking up this summer on their home ice, and catch-up pieces on the no-longer-eligible, there’s usually something interesting to discover. Even in the depths of summer.

Such as
John and Sinead Kerr’s choices for the OD and FD this year, which are—wait for it—“I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash (for the former) and Linkin Park's "Krwlng” (for the latter). Go read the article; the explanations of both pieces of music are pretty interesting… one dance storyline will center around a truck driver picking up a hitchhiker; the other will demonstrate one person “in turmoil” while an unseen force pulls them through the darkness. I’ll let you figure out which song goes with which storyline.

Rudy Galindo’s unforgettable grin graces a new article as he details life after the Champions on Ice tour… and double hip replacement surgery. He’s coaching now, has returned home to San Jose after several years away, and sounds pretty happy.

But it’s admittedly hard to ever be as jubilantly happy as he was
here at 1996 Nationals. (Clip of the day, by the way)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

NBC Skates On... At Least a Little Longer

Looks like America’s remaining little window on non-Olympic figure skating is set to stay open for a while. This press release announced today that U.S. Figure Skating has reached an agreement with NBC to extend its multi-year partnership through the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. What does this mean to you, the eager-to-watch viewer? I can only speak in terms of the coming season, as that is all that was mentioned in the release:

+ It means you’ll get to watch 2 hours of Skate America, live (ladies final only), from 2-4PM ET on November 15.

+ It (unofficially) means for the rest of the ISU events of the Grand Prix season, you’ll have to subscribe to Ice Network or pray you can catch a program or two on You Tube before it gets yanked by The Powers That Be.

+ It means you’ll get 8 hours of competitive Nationals coverage (and 2 hours of exhibition stuff) come next January.

+ It means they’ve structured Nationals so that two finals (Pairs and Men’s) air live one weekend, while the other two (Dance and Ladies) air live a whole weekend later. (I can’t recall if they did that this past season or not).

+ It means the 10 total hours of Nationals coverage will be “the most network coverage of this event since 1998”, according to the release.

+ It means NBC is happy to boast that Nationals’ ratings in “the first year of the agreement” (which was 2008 I believe) were up 164 percent over the previous year’s coverage on ABC/ESPN2.

+ It means we even got a bit of interesting trivia: Those 2008 Nationals (or U.S. Championships, as they’re officially called) were “the most-watched U.S. Championships since 2003, when the event benefited from the lift that figure skating received from the 2002 Salt Lake Games.” I found this a little amusing because the first thing that came to my mind with the 2003 Nationals was the “Disaster in Dallas”, AKA the senior men’s final. Remember that?

+ Oh… and it also means that no deal seems to be struck yet with regards to coverage for 2010 Worlds. Sigh.

Anyway, go check out the press release for more details and quotes from executives all around… as well as more information that you ever wanted to know about USFS, Ice Network, NBC, etc. (all have at least a paragraph mention at the end).

Then bow your head in thanks for the fact that skating is still getting ANY TV coverage in America.

But as you’re doing that, you might want to add a quick prayer that IceNetwork finds a way to share all their coverage with a broadcast network—NBC or otherwise. Like I say in the top left corner of the blog… Let’s keep the skating where everyone can see it!

(Maybe a pipe dream at this point…yes, I know. But it still needs to be said.)

For anyone not sure of what the “Disaster in Dallas” was all about, check out this Clip of the Day. Johnny Weir wasn’t the only one having problems that night, to be certain, but they were certainly noteworthy. Pay attention to the story Button tells about “falling on his face” once in a performance, then being so angry he couldn’t see straight, yet still finishing his routine… just as Weir finishes his performance prematurely.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Scores Are In... Boitano (and his cooking) Are In the Lead Again

Well I had a post all ready to go last Friday before I vanished for the weekend, but then in my rush to get out of town I promptly neglected to publish it! Sorry about that.

And now it will have to wait a few more days, because by now everyone from Entertainment Weekly (they gave it a “B+”; pretty good, as they can be a tough crowd) on down has published a review of What Would Brian Boitano Make?... and since I taped it exclusively for this purpose while I was gone, I guess I might as well too.

Except that mine will be in SP (short program) style, with eight required elements that I’m making up as I go along… okay, maybe just four:

1) Hosting skills—5.8. I’m not kidding when I say that Boitano is a natural… cute, fun, informative, and goofy; he clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously when it comes to this show, and that’s a very good thing. He’s a hoot!

2) Cooking skills—5.7. In interviews, Boitano nipped the “he’s not a trained chef” issue in the bud by explaining himself as a self-taught cook like so much of the Food Network’s audience. But he handles himself like a pro in the kitchen, and his hors-d’oeuvres (all original creations, I’ve read) look quite yummy. I want one of those polenta sausage thingies RIGHT NOW.

3) Production values—5.7. This part doesn’t have much to do with Brian per se, but it’s the overall tone/framing of the show… which was rather cheesy but still clever, with plenty of little asides to keep the show rolling. Maybe a little TOO busy with the asides in this pilot episode; here’s hoping they dial it down a little. I don’t think Boitano needs the help…

4) Overall tone—5.7. Hey, I’m just “leaving some room” so the show can get even better!

In lieu of a Clip of the Day, I’m giving you a
link of the day … to the rather sunny review offered by my beloved Television Without Pity website. Note that (at least as I post this) all the accompanying comments were very positive too! The only thing people seem to be complaining about is the awkward, mid-day Sunday time slot where they seem to put all the newbies (he is surrounded by recent Next Food Network Star winners).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Now Boitano's Cookin'... (Sunday Afternoons, to be More Specific)

It’s not that I’ve been ignoring Brian Boitano’s soon-to-premiere Food Network opus (which, in case you haven’t heard, is called What Would Brian Boitano Make? as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the South Park classic ditty What Would Brian Boitano Do?). Far from it, in fact. I’ve been to his corner of the Food Network website, read the online bio, seen the videos. (Very clever stuff, most of those.)

But every time I decide I’d better write something about his show, something seems to happen: another skater comes out of retirement, another skater shuffles coaches, another skater announces they’ll be choreographing this year to music from the band Linkin Park…(what? Oh yes. But I’m not going to let this divert me… gotta get my Boitano article written before the dang show premieres… and because I may not get another posting in before I go out of town for the weekend. The Linkin Park story will have to wait.)

What Would BB Make? premieres this Sunday at 1PM/12 Central Time. Since I’m not privy to an advance copy of the show, I’ve come up instead with…

The Top Five Things I Hope We Never, Ever See on Boitano’s New Show

#5: Skates cutting steaks. It sounds cute, but just… no.

#4: Low-cut tops on Brian (unless it’s for his hilarious promo where he’s prancing around San Francisco in a red pleather jumpsuit). The low-cut market on Food Network is clearly cornered by Giada De Laurentiis. ‘Nuff said.

#3. Any and all use of the word “Yummo”.

#2. Any attempts to upgrade the food at 98% of all skating rink concession stands in America. If it hasn’t improved by now, it’s JUST NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

And the #1 Thing I Hope We Never, Ever See on Boitano’s New Show:
An Orser/Boitano Rematch, Iron-Chef Style. I was going to say that I couldn’t bear to see Orser lose again, even in a cookoff… but now I’m starting to wonder if such a “rematch” might, instead, be outstanding no matter what the outcome. Hmmm. Maybe Season 2?

Just because it’s there and it’s a lovely antidote to a hot summer day… the
Clip of the Day has nothing to do with Boitano’s new show but, instead, features his glorious skating in the beautifully produced 1988 special Canvas of Ice.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Scotty’s Return is No Cheap Trick! (But They’ll Be There Anyway)

News of a couple of intriguing events is making the rounds… one features hitmakers from the 1990s; the other features the same from the 1970s and 80s.

On THIS side of the spectrum: Improv-Ice, currently being promoted at by way of
this press release, which, as often happens, is a trifle confusing:

The Good: An interesting premise that I think has been done at least once before—skaters are selected pieces of music unknown to them prior to the competition, and they are voted on (by the audience at the rink) for their creativity with their improvised routine.

Also Good: The roster of skaters, which is said to include everyone from Kurt Browning to Evan Lysacek (for the men), and everyone from Nancy Kerrigan to Sasha Cohen (for the women).

The “Bad”: The featured band of this show—the one said to be playing live, and whose music will contribute to one routine for each skater—is the Goo Goo Dolls. Ummmm… let’s just say they wouldn’t be my first choice. I could see someone whipping up a dandy program for their hit “Iris”, but beyond that…

What a sweet show this could be if the featured band was, say, cuts from Radiohead’s In Rainbows. Oh well… guess they were busy.

The “Ugly”: In this case, the ugly equates with the unknown: the release tells when tickets go on sale (TODAY), but doesn’t tell when or where the show will take place… and while a “television special” is alluded to, no network, date, etc. follows yet. Big Hmmmm…

Then, on THAT side of the spectrum:
This article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer tells of Scott Hamilton’s return to professional skating after a five year hiatus that was brought on by a little thing they call a BRAIN TUMOR.

Tumor, schmoomer. He’ll be skating November 7th (accompanied by Cheap Trick and the Cleveland Pops Orchestra) in “An Evening with Scott Hamilton and Friends”, a fundraiser for the Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative at the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute.

Not a whole lot more to report on the details of the show itself, but… Scotty’s going to skate. Do you really need to know more?

For the
Clip of the Day I put “Skating” and “Goo Goo Dolls” into the YouTube browser to see what happened, and lo and behold, it appears Katia Gordeeva already skated to “Iris” back in 1999. Again I say... hmmmm.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Emily Hughes' Long and Winding Road

I’m still tickled a bit when I think about the deep concern my dad had—for a day or two, at least—for Emily Hughes.

Remember how she ended up making her Olympic debut in 2006… how Kwan gave her final Olympic press conference, and then Hughes came on the scene in very short order to take her place? Around that same time, I got a note from Dad (who I think I’ve explained in previous posts as the pre-eminent hunting-and-fishing-type) inquiring about Kwan’s injury, whether she should have been in Torino in the first place, and “What chance does Hughes have coming in this late?” as if he’d been tracking her career from afar.

I think I got on the phone with him sometime shortly thereafter. “I wouldn’t worry about Hughes,” I assured him. “She’s young, there’s no pressure on her. She’ll be fine.”

“It just doesn’t seem fair,” he grumbled. “She barely has time to absorb this, get there, get acclimated… when do the ladies start (their short program) again?”

“It’s okay—no one expects her to skate like her sister did, especially at this point. All eyes are going to be on Cohen, anyway. SHE’LL… BE… FINE.”

And, considering all those “unfair” circumstances, the barely-17-at-the-time Hughes came away with a highly respectable 7th place…which, for that event at least, bested the likes of Miki Ando, Joannie Rochette, and Carolina Kostner, among others.

Like 5th place finisher Kimmie Meissner, Hughes appeared to have a bright future ahead. And considering her multiple medals and life as a Harvard co-ed, all seemed to be going according to—

Then AACK! Hip injury in 2008. No Nationals. No Worlds.

And UGH! Ankle injury in 2009. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Nowadays, just like Meissner, Hughes seems to be quite the longshot for another Olympic chance. But, like Meissner, that’s not stopping her from rolling the dice.
This new article from details Hughes’ recent appearance at the Ice Theatre of New York’s Summer Youth Concert Series, as well as more information about her decision to put Harvard on hold for a year and hunker down on her training instead.

Could she get another chance to skate among the Olympic Rings? Or might she—GASP—possibly find herself in the “alternate” position yet again?

Here’s a reminder of how she did in that
Olympic outing that almost didn’t happen.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Carriere: Better Late Than Never to the Coach-Shuffling Party?

You know what we should have done right after Worlds? We should have made a big scorecard of skaters (especially U.S. ones), charting where they’d finished in ’08 Nationals (or Worlds in some cases) vs. ’09 of the same, and placed our bets then and there about which skaters would be “feeling the need for a change in the coming Olympic season” and, consequently, changing coaches. Seems like the farther you fell this year, for whatever the reason, the more likely a “change” was in order.

Well, except for JeremEEE, who had the unique situation of capping a brilliant breakthrough year with a disappointing Worlds… but then again, there you go. One major falter, and a re-evaluation was in order immediately.

Speaking of American men in the sport—the one in the coaches’ shuffle spotlight this time is Stephen Carriere. He won bronze at Nationals in 2008, silver at Cup of China last season… and then finished way down in ninth at 2009 Nationals. Aye, there’s the rub.

Carriere trained in Boston with Peter Johansson and Mark Mitchell since age 11, but according to the Associate Press and, his new digs will be a bit further south: he’s headed to Delaware to train with Priscilla Hill and Karl Kurtz. Hill, of course, spent many years working with Johnny Weir and is currently coaching Ashley Wagner.

Carriere says he “needed a change that would give him an edge…” Will Hill be sharp enough for him? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

For the
Clip of the Day I’m going back to 2007 Nationals with Carriere’s jazzy FS that was, for many of us, our first real introduction to him and his work.

Monday, August 3, 2009

More on Musademba (from the Need-To-Know Files)

Before I get started—if anyone out there has heard of “elite”(read: somewhat recognized) skaters this coming season who plan to use music from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack in some competitive capacity, would you be so kind as to post a note and let me know? I’ve been listening to it a lot of late, and it strikes me as the kind of thing that would be especially good as either a short program (think Peter Gabriel’s “The Feeling Begins”), or an ice dance in the way that “Riverdance” trickled over in the late 90s. Will this be the Bollywood-esque “it” program of the Olympic season? Just a thought.

Anyway… I’m back to the Need-To-Know Files, and this time we’re in the “M”s… for 17 year-old Kristine Musademba. Eleventh in U.S. Senior Ladies Nationals this past January, she won the Madrid Cup and Courchevel in 2008… and just a couple weeks ago, she won her group in both the SP and FS categories at the Liberty Open. What’s to know? Well…

1) She is half Filipino and half Zimabawean, a unique heritage that bears some similarity to Tai Babilonia (who is Filipino, African-American, and Native American if I’m not mistaken)…

2) She is using “Claire de Lune” for her SP this season, a classic Debussey piece that seems to have found new life since Mao Asada used it as her SP last season (and Douglas Razanno just used the same music to win the mens division at the Liberty Open). All I know is that listening to/watching a “Claire” program is infinitely better than trying to practice that piece on the piano. I have nightmares…

3) She is listed as the choreographer of some of her routines, and apparently has also served as the choreographer of several school dance productions. Perhaps she will go the way of Lea Ann Miller or Renee Roca? Not a bad way to make a living.

Musademba’s free skate from last season’s Junior Grand Prix Final (where she finished 6th) is the
Clip of the Day. Not a bad outing, except for maybe the very end of the program. Hope we can keep an eye on her for many moons yet!