Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Skating-Related News For the End of 2010

Three little bits of “roundup” news as we close out the year:

1) An engagement! U.S. pairs skaters (and 2010 Olympians) Amanda Evora (she of Evora/Ladwig) and Jeremy Barrett (he of Denney/Barrett) became finacee/fiance as of Christmas Eve. For the whole adorable story,
read more here.

2) A baby! Former World Silver Medalists Marie-France Dubreil and Patrice Lauzon got a slightly different kind of gift on Christmas Eve—the arrival of their daughter, Billie-Rose.
This link will give you all the exciting needs-to-know.

3) A Pre-order! I thought I’d take this opportunity to let you know that Skating on Air: The Broadcast History of an Olympic Marquee Sport – the book whose cover you see showcased over on the left of your screen—is now available for pre-order. Check for the title at the websites for Amazon or Barnes & Noble—or, even better,
click this publisher link! An actual release date is still not set yet, but presumably it will fall somewhere between the date listed at B&N (January 4) and the one listed at Amazon (April 30).

More info still to come on item #3. :-)

Happy New Year Worldwide!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Russian Nationals 2011: The Recap


One interesting set of showdowns concludes, and another interesting set opens up in another part of the globe. Actually it’s over already-- Russian Nationals wrapped up yesterday. Here’s what got my attention:

MEN—OK, to be honest… I didn’t watch ‘em, and I might not bother. Two-time champion Sergei Voronov apparently had a disaster of an SP (10th) but rallied on the FS (3rd) to finish 4th overall. Perhaps the most interesting name on the roster—Artur Dmitriev Jr., the 18 year-old son of pairs legend Artur Dmitriev Sr. (yes, THAT much time has gone by)—was looking very good after the SP (2nd), but took enough lumps in the FS (9th) to finish down in 7th. Former medalist Artem Borodulin… does anyone know what’s up with him? He’s been AWOL all season.

In other words, it’s a new batch of fellows in the top 3: Konstantin Menshov (4th last year) took gold, Artur Gachinski (13th last year) took silver, and Zhan Bush (17th last year) claimed bronze. I read that it was basically a quad contest. We’ll have to see how everyone fares at Europeans in late January.

LADIES: I DID watch these top 5 finishers…

Ksenia Makarova, the defending champ, had a clean SP with 3/3toe and 3loop… but in the FS she seemed tight from the start; had a flip out of her 3flip and caught an edge on a 3salchow, resulting in a complete splat. Finished in 5th.

Alena Leonova had a nice 3/3toe but fell out of 3flip in SP. Her FS was cleaner than I’ve seen her skate all season; maybe just one fall out I think? She skated with much more fire, and was visibly delighted afterwards with how she did. For once this year!

Julia Lipnitskaya, all of 12 years old (I have jeans in my closet that are older than she is!) is one of the three “baby ballerina”-class skaters that made the top five this time, with two seemingly clean free skates that added up to a 4th place finish. Remember her for her insane flexibility if nothing else (though she has plenty more to offer). Who knows if she can keep that up by the time she’s a grizzled veteran at age 15? For now, she’s Gumby of the ice.
Here’s her SP; see for yourself.

Adelina Sotlekova, age 14, has a triple lutz/triple loop that makes all the triple toe/triple toe combos look like chump change. Actually she had a little trouble with it in the SP, but she’s young and fearless enough to keep it in her FS—and succeed. She won the event.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva just turned 14 a couple weeks ago, and swooped in for bronze after a 7th place SP. Like Julia and Adelina, Elizaveta (“Liza”) is bit of a jumping machine at this early point who seems to rush through her music w/o feeling. As we’ve been doing in the U.S. w/Caroline (Zhang) & Mirai (Nagasu) & Rachael (Flatt), we’ll have to see how Darwinism works on these youngsters.

DANCE: The big question here was how the new dance team of Jana Khoklova and Fedor Andreev (former Canadian mens’ bronze medalist, and Marina Zueva’s son) would do…
here’s their FD to an Abbey Road medley (Beatles); my relatively untrained eye thought they worked pretty well together! It was good enough for 4th overall. Ilinykh/Katsalapov hung in for bronze with their Don Quixote program (he nearly toppled over during the twizzles); their overall lead on Khoklova/Andreev was only about 4 points. Riazanova/Tkachenko were 2nd overall with their Mexican-themed FD, leaving Bobrova/Soloviev with their first Nationals win.

PAIRS: Ah, here was the real story as far as I’m concerned.

Remember Mukhortova/Trankov, or as I not so affectionately called them, Muk/Trank? Remember how they split up after last season? Neither new team had proven itself to compete in the GP series this fall, so each had its major-event debut at Nationals… and to watch Maxim Trankov with his new partner Tatiana Volosohzar (formerly with Stanislav Morozov, representing the Ukraine) is to have a revelation as to what two people are capable of once they find the right partner. Daaang. Back-to-back great, great performances. Who knew the Germans and the Chinese will need to watch their backs for THIS team? They defeated faves Kavaguti/Smirnov, who weren’t quite as solid as they’d been at their GP appearance earlier in the season but were still good enough for silver. Bazarova/Larionov claimed bronze.

As for Maria Mukhortova (who continues to be coached by Oleg Vasiliev, I believe)… her FS with new partner Jerome Blanchard (formerly representing France) was a hot mess-- trouble on both SBS jump passes (especially on his part), a fall on a throw jump, an SBS spin that went completely out of sync, a weak pairs spin, a lift with a rough exit, and an overall rushed feeling… possibly because they were trying to catch up after all those mistakes. (Ironically, it looked like they ended up finishing the program about 5 seconds early.) Even the music, the can’t-go-wrong Pas de Deux from Nutcracker, DID go wrong because they opted to throw in a little bit of the Act 1 finale from the ballet. Yuck. They finished seventh. Wonder if they’ll continue as a team?

According to my dance card, the next big Nationals on the radar is for Canada—approx. 3 weeks from now.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Results Are in: Japan Figure Skating Championships 2010-11

There’s nothing like watching a handful of performances from this past weekend’s Japan Nationals to remind you just how freakin’ deep their pool of talent goes right now when it comes to singles skating.

And as you start to think that maybe there’s a loophole that will open up this year and allow the top 4 or 5 to come to worlds – they are that good—you sigh with the knowledge that 3 is the max for any country, even the best ones.

With regards to the men, Takahiko Kozuka proved that his outscore of Daisuke Takahashi at the GP Final was no fluke. While his FS was way off his season best—he fell on both the 4T and a 3sal near the end, to name the biggest flaws—Kozuka built up a strong enough lead in the SP to hold on for gold. Nobunari Oda was 0-for-2 on quad attempts at this event, taking falls in both the SP and FS (plus a splat during his footwork in the SP), but he was 2nd overall. It was a very slim margin between Oda and Dice-K, though, with component scores likely saving the latter when he flipped out of the back end of his 3/3 jump in the SP, had a weird delayed flip out of the 3axel, and flipped out of yet another jump in the FS. Dice-K took the bronze over Yuzuru Hanyu, Takahito Mura, Tatsuki Machida, and Daisuke Murakami—all of whom competed the GP circuit this season, but are just going to have to wait another year (or until one of these 3 outstanding men blinks) to make it into the top 3.

The ladies event was a bittersweet one for me to watch. Miki Ando was back to her consistent-yet-dull self; she attempted no 3/3’s but perhaps that was for the best as she ended up winning for the first time in a number of years. Kanako Murakami continued her breakout season with two clean and admittedly pretty good skates, and won another bronze medal—this time the kind of bronze that gets you a ticket to Worlds. (She just won one at the GP Final too.)

These ladies weren’t the wild cards though… that role was left to Mao Asada, who lately has looked like she might not even land a waltz jump properly anymore, let alone a triple axel. But Asada has once again proven to thrive on pressure. When a world team slot was on the line, she skated cleaner than we’ve seen all season; a clean triple axel in the SP, another attempt in the FS (underrotated), with all the other triples appeared clean and complete. It was good enough for second, and that appeared good enough for both a relieved Asada and the wildly supportive crowd. (
Here it is as the Clip of the Day in case you’re interested.)

Unfortunately, Asada’s gain (or re-gain) to podium-quality skating was Akiko Suzuki’s loss. Not that she skated her best by any stretch—she had a cross-footed landing on her triple lutz in the SP, a flip out of the back end of her double axel/triple toe loop, and another cross-foot mess on a triple flip. Both cross-foots were uncharacteristic and looked like concentration breaks, but whatever they were, they were mistakes she could ill afford amidst so much talent. She finished the championships in 4th place, which means Four Continents (to which she’ll surely be assigned) might be her last hurrah… unless she can be convinced to stick around another year. But as long as she’s been at this, who could blame her if she decides to let the youngsters—the Kanako Murakamis and Risa Shojis of Japan—duke it out?

Russian Nationals are in progress now, so I’ll share those results as the week progresses.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays from State of the Skate

Whatever holiday you may celebrate this month... the merriest of them to you from State of the Skate! I celebrate Chrsitmas, so I'm a little backlogged with yuletide tasks to get a full post up tonight-- but with Nationals activity kicking up around the world (including the always-interesting Japanese Championships this weekend), rest assured I'll be back with some updates, speculation and the like very soon.

SPREAD JOY

:-)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Skating with the Stars" Week 5: It's a Wrap... Forever?

Sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly to do with the enthusiasm you see.

Tanith Belbin possessed said enthusiasm. So did Johnny Weir, Melissa Gregory, and Jennifer Wester, to name a few others.

They’ve all posted countless excited Tweets over the past 6 weeks surrounding Skating with the Stars (or, as some put it, “Skating” with the “Stars”), and Weir in particular has gushed endlessly from his judge’s perch about what he’s witnessed from the likes of Rebecca Budig and Jonny Mosely. Maybe it was a contract requirement of all those named above. I mean, they could have been just that thrilled about being a part of the experiment that was SWTS… I suppose it’s possible…

But as with just about every other TV program to skim the airwaves, I suspect the ratings will dictate SWTS’ future—which is to say it doesn’t likely have one. The Monday overnights this week had SWTS at 4.8 million viewers, but we can’t hold those as accurate because both Chicago and Minnesota’s ABC affiliates chose to air the ESPN coverage of the Bears/Vikings game. The 3.4 million listed as watching the Tuesday finale—that’s the better number to go with.

Do you know how the last two eps played out? That Bethenny Frankel snared more votes than Jonny Mosely, forcing him from the event and prompting the promos to quickly shift from “The Natural vs. The Athlete” to “The Natural vs. the Underdog”? Or that the rest of the original cast, save for Brandon Mychal Smith (who sat in the front row and watched instead), came to help pad out the final episode by strapping on their skates one more time? Or that Frankel pulled down her first “10” (although no one told her it didn’t really count because it came from Laurieanne)? And that, in one of those endings that surprises no one, Budig emerged victorious? (By the way, her wrist hurts. Not sure if everyone got that message.)

Whether you knew how they went or not… it didn’t really matter. And that’s the problem with a show like this, which some Facebook friends of mine likened to an SNL sketch rather than a valid viewing choice. I myself deemed SWTS “relatively harmless” last month—and I’ll stick with that description, though I’d like to make a few suggestions should it miraculously get picked up for another mini-run the way The Sing-Off did:

+ Stop taking it all so seriously. Budig got it right when she said something upon winning about “knowing it’s only TV, but it’s still fun” (paraphrasing). Part of the reason Dancing with the Stars works is because its found its own kind of silly, irreverent groove amidst the over-the-top costumes and predictably dramatic editing on the fluff pieces. Maybe that’s more to ask than SWTS could’ve delivered in just 5 weeks, but hey, the prototype was literally right across the lot… and it was produced by the same folks…

+ Less focus on the injuries, please. Without a doubt, part of the attraction of figure skating is the danger involved within its maneuvers. But when we watch a real skater miss a quad, or a pair blow the timing on a lift, we subconsciously take comfort in the thought that they are trained athletes who most likely have prevented themselves from serious injury. The same cannot be said of celebrities who have only been at this for a mittenful of weeks—whether they sustain the injury themselves (Buddig’s wrist) or prompt it on another (Mosely’s slicing of Brooke Castile’s hand), it falls something considerably short of entertainment.

+ Make it a more appealing program for known skaters to be involved in. SWTS was lucky indeed to get Dick Button, Weir, and Belbin this time around… but whether the reasons were money-motivated or otherwise, the show gleaned either negative comments (put Brian Boitano’s name into Google along with the show title, and see what you get), or no comments whatsoever from the master class of the sport. I think they need to find a way to get them involved—I’d rather see a footwork, spins, or “how many axels in a row” contest anytime over Frankel’s prattling about her crazy life. Wouldn’t you?

Oh, and one more: replace Vernon Kay. ABC gave him a show; I gave him a shot. We both did our part. Now it's time for him to move on. :-)

Up north of here, Battle of the Blades just wrapped up its second season and, Lord willing, will get renewed for 2011. Why is it, with a format pretty similar to DWTS, so much better received? The quickest thing that comes to mind is this: in Canada, where hockey is king, figure skating found a sort of TV reality-show soulmate.

Maybe the U.S.—with no “soulmate” equivalent—simply isn’t going to find success with this sort of programming. No matter what network it’s on.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What's So Great About Figure Skating...? (Aside from cool online contests, that is)

So what’s so great about figure skating, anyway?

Whatever your answer—the chills, the spills, the grace, the excitement, the costumes, the opportunity to rag on your least favorite commentator—don’t tell me! Tell Ryan Jahnke about it instead.

You might have heard about Jahnke’s terrific website
myskatingmall.com, an online marketplace for “gently used”, skating-related merchandise. Turns out that MySkatingMall.com is putting together a video designed to encourage potential new skaters about this decidedly unique sport… and your help is requested. Especially if you have a great answer to that “What’s so great…” question!

You might even win a $100 gift certificate for any item on the website (or from one of its Partner Stores), so what’s not to like about that? Time is running out, though—videos are only being accepted through the end of the year—so here’s what to do if you’re so inclined:

1) Shoot a short video.

2) Visit
http://www.myskatingmall.com/skating.

3) Follow the directions for uploading videos to the MySkatingMall.com YouTube channel.

4) Be sure to jump around a lot if you win!

Coming soon: A Skating with the Stars update!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ten Things the 2010 ISU Grand Prix Final Taught Me

I'm late on this post, so let's get right to it! NUMBER TEN...

10) What a difference 8 weeks makes. Carolina Kostner won NHK at the season’s start with a score of 164.61, in one of the weakest fields of elite ladies I’ve seen in quite a while. As it turns out, Kostner’s score would’ve only been good enough for last place at this event… where the highest ladies score (Czisny) was 180.75, and only seven points separated the top five competitors.

9) On the other hand… the more things change, the more they stay the same. Kostner and her junior-level jumps still managed a silver medal at the senior final, a medal that—as far as I’m concerned—should’ve gone to Kanako Murakami or Akiko Suzuki. Kostner, like Canada’s Patrick Chan, has been saved by outrageously high component scores more times than I care to count. It’s not that I don’t appreciate their efforts… it’s just that there are so many others whose “efforts” aren’t appreciated nearly enough. Kostner and Chan simply aren’t THAT much better at choreography, interpretation, etc. than their peers.

8) The GP Final is a crappy time to skate up—or maybe it’s down—to your namesake (if your name happens to be Flatt). Good grief, what else do you call it when the girl trails the rest of her competitors by some 45 points?!

7) The Final is also a crappy time to test out a new short program (if you’re Miki Ando). Was this new attempt—using “The Mission”, of all things-- intended to tap deeper into her artistic potential? It soooo did not.

6) Expect the unexpected. Suzuki outscoring Ando? I’d hoped for it all season long, and it never happened… but I finally got my wish with the help of clean skates by Suzuki, and Ando’s aforementioned SP mess.

5) Expect the unexpected twice over. I believe my exact words last week regarding Takahiko Kozuka were I don’t think he can defeat Dice-K… at least, not yet. So I was wrong on that one too… though I’m still left to wonder what might have been if they hadn’t had that crazy collision in practice. I think Dice-K seemed more out of breath than usual after that free skate because it (his breath) was knocked out of him so thoroughly a couple of days earlier!

4) Alicia Keys ain’t gettin’ it done for Crone/Poirier. If I didn’t know any better (and it’s ice dancing, so I really DON’T know any better), I’d suggest that Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier spend their Christmas holiday working up a whole new Short Dance. Seems to pale in comparison to what is widely received as a wonderful Eleanor Rigby free dance.

3) Just because ABC doesn’t cover this event anymore doesn’t mean they can’t get a Disney shout-out. On the Universal Sports coverage of the Pairs Free Skate, Peter Carruthers watched the Sui/Han attempt at a throw quad salchow in slow motion… and felt compelled to reference the scene in Bambi where the title character spins and splays across a frozen pond. (Well, he had a point…)

2) There’s nothing like watching a World Feed from China to remind me of how much I miss those folks at ABC. Simply stated… I will never forgive the director of last weekend’s feed for cutting away from Alissa Czisny’s relieved, modestly satisfied face at the end of her program just so they could get their standard, unnecessary audience shot. Never, never, never. (And likewise, I’ll never stop chuckling over the way they went to that audience shot too early on the Pechalat/Bourzat free dance, with its false ending and all. Ha-ha-ha-ha-PSYCH!)

And the #1 thing the GP Final taught me is… I might not be the best blogging medal predictor out there, but at least I was in the hunt! Kudos to Tony at Flutzing Around; I believe he had the most accurate predictions among the 6 of us that tried. I’m on your tail, though, mister… :-)


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Skating with the Stars Week 4: Oh What a Night, Indeed

If you look at the headlines today at Zap2It.com (where I pull the overnight ratings for stuff like Skating with the Stars), you might find one saying “Skating with the Stars: Still Happening”.

Ouch—and yet it says it all. The good news is that 2 of the 6 original “stars” are doing a decent job, and it might even prove interesting to see who wins this thing. The bad news is that between withering ratings, an increasingly catty Judge Johnny Weir, and more press about Brandon Mychal Smith’s stomach flu than any other aspect of the show… not many WILL see who wins this thing.

But for those still watching, or wanted to but felt compelled to watch The Sing-Off last night… here’s a recap:

First 15 minutes explains the risky required elements of the night, which include an overhead spin, and/or a throw jump, and/or a death spiral (you’re supposed to choose 2, like a soup/salad combo at Panera). We then get the complete drama about Brandon’s continued illness, attempt to come back and compete, and sad decision to drop out—which is all sort of a rerun for those who have followed Keauna McLaughlin’s Tweets this week. Thankfully we don’t have the judges input on his decision—just the standard shiny recap of his handful of weeks on the show, and a chance to thank Keauna. And… buh-bye.

The other 3 couples, or maybe I should say Bethenny Frenkel, are in luck—no one’s leaving this week since Brandon’s already gone. Time to skate, y’all… oh, and by the way John Zimmerman’s dropping by to help out all the remaining teams this week. So the show just got a whole lot better!

Bethenny & Ethan—skating to “Superstition,” they manage a little tiny death spiral (just one revolution, maybe not even a full circle)… then a Detroiter (overhead spin where she’s on her side). Vernon gets a dig about Johnny’s wardrobe before the judges speak. Dick calls himself the Betty White of figure skating and tosses in a “rusty hoot” reference (awesome!) before reminding her for the 24th time to bend zee knees… Laurie Ann gushes, calls her fearless, and apparently doesn’t like getting cut off… Johnny gets his snark on once again by declaring (and this is paraphrased) “if you don’t care what we think, then I don’t care about you!” Meanwhile on the other side of town, the Irony Police see that phone ringing once again. (“Huh? Didn’t we just get back from that show??” they wonder…)
Scores: 6-6-6 technical; 7-6-7 artistic. 38.

Jonny & Brooke: apparently had a rough week (oh, who didn’t and are skating to “Take on Me” The first lift is OK… she does some sort of twist into his arms that’s pretty good… he successfully gets her into a throw double salchow. Lots of laughing at the end, apparently in disbelief that she landed it. As for the judges, Laurie loves it but wants a little more finesse… so does Johnny… Here is a clip if you want to judge for yourself.
Scores: 9-9-9 tech; 9-9-9 artistic. 54!

Rebecca and Fred:
I see she’s ditched the tummy-baring tops for practice… good move, especially when you’re practicing moves that could have you skidding across the ice on your belly in a heartbeat. They skate to “Oh What a Night”… they do overhead spin w/her facing ceiling… much longer (by MUCH I mean maybe 3 rotations) death spiral… and another spinning lift at the end? Stop, you’re killing me!

Johnny wants her to rely a little less on Fred… Dick breaks out the terms spiffy and life spiral (oh, fine, confuse her)… and says Rebecca has the “nicest bottom in this competition”. Laurie, meanwhile, wants her to stick her boobs out. Vernon wants her (Laurie) to shut up.
Scores: 9-8-9 tech; 9-9-9 artistic. 53; one point behind Jonny.

Very Special performance: oh, Denis Petukhov has been called back to skate the performance w/Keauna… that’s a nice way to fill the time. It was to “Stronger” (Kanye West). Thought it would be John Zim though…oh well, can’t have everything!

RATINGS UPDATE: more bad news… 3.8 million, which means they lost another million… despite the fact that “House” was a rerun! I don’t think we’ll see this on the ABC sched next season. Next week is the “finale”… following Monday’s show, that is. I guess ABC is gifting us by making sure this is done and served up before everyone else vanishes for the holiday.

Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 GP Final Results Summary (Oh, Czisny won... what else do you need to know?!)


As usual, I’m going to post more details and thoughts on the GP Final in a couple of days… but if you’re looking for what the Television Without Pity folks call a recaplet, I’m your girl!

The best headline, as far as I’m concerned, is that Alissa Czisny won the Ladies GP title. She freakin’ WON! And not so much on the errors of others (Miki Ando’s notwithstanding) as on the strength of not one, but TWO relatively clean programs! No, I didn’t pick her to win, or even medal. But I’m so glad to be wrong on that. (I kind of wish I was wrong on my other two podium guesses— based on their performances this weekend, Carolina Kostner over Akiko Suzuki is a crime. But I digress…)

As for the men… was it the pre-event body slam with Takahiko Kozuka that kept Daisuke Takahashi from skating his best? (I'd re-post a link to that, but they appear to have cleared it from You Tube...)Or even a reasonable facsimile of his best? As he slid off the podium, Patrick Chan finally rose a lot closer to all the potential we hear about and skated off with the title. Nobunari Oda once again proved his strength is the short program, but he still managed his third consecutive silver medal this season. The aforementioned Kozuka wasn’t perfect, but mighty close! Bronze for him.

The pairs showdown wasn’t nearly as close as I’d hoped it would be. Pang/Tong were better than their previous GP efforts this season, but nonetheless looked slow and kind of fragile compared to Savchenko/Szolkowy. Gold and silver went accordingly; bronze went to the young whippersnappers of the pack (that would be Sui/Han of China).

Over in ice dance—you might have noticed that all 6 bloggers on that table I posted last time had the exact same predictions with regards to this discipline. As luck would have it, all 6 of us got that one right… Davis/White won gold, Pechalat/Bourzat won silver, and Crone/Poirier won bronze.


AND... I think I promised that I'd include the Junior GP results too? Here you go:

JUNIOR GP MEDALISTS

Ladies—
GOLD Adelina Sotnikova, RUS
SILVER Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, RUS
BRONZE Li Zijun, CHI (defeating Japan’s Risa Shoji in a tiebreaker)

U.S. finishes: Christina Gao—6th, Yasmin Siraj—7th, Kristiene Gong—8th (there are 8 competitors in the Junior GP Finals)

Men—
GOLD Richard Dornbush, USA
SILVER Yan Han, CHI
BRONZE Andrei Rogozine, CAN

U.S. finishes: Max Aaron—4th, Keegan Messing—5th, Joshua Farris—6th

Pairs—
GOLD Takahashi/Tran, JPN
SILVER Stolbova/Klimov, RUS
BRONZE Yu/Jin, CHI

U.S. finishes: Ashley Cain/Joshua Reagan—5th

Dance—
GOLD Monko/Khaliavin, RUS
SILVER Sinitsina/Zhiganshin, RUS
BRONZE Stepanova/Bukin, RUS

U.S. finishes: Charlotte Lichtman/Dean Copely, 5th


A Skating with the Stars update will come tomorrow, and more about the GPF will follow that. Until then, I’ve gotta make Czisny’s free skate the
Clip of the Day. I just never get tired of this program… especially when it’s skated like that.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The 2010 ISU Grand Prix Final: Airdates and Predictions


… make that SIX sets of bloggers’ predictions! You see, Tony Wheeler over at Flutzing Around corralled the opinions of six different skating bloggers (including Yours Truly), and arranged them into a lovely chart that (hopefully) will post nicely for y’all to see. (Double click to see it bigger...)
P.S. Takahashi and Kozuka had a nasty crash on practice ice this week; if Dice-K skates without pain this weekend (particularly back pain), it will be a holiday miracle.
UPDATE: Here's a clip of that collision that's now on You Tube.

The IceNetwork streaming times are…

Friday, Dec. 10
4:15 a.m.: Short dance
5:25 a.m.: Men's short program
6:30 a.m.: Ladies short program
7:35 a.m.: Pairs short program

Saturday, Dec. 11
3:55 a.m.: Men's free skate
5:10 a.m.: Ladies free skate
6:20 a.m.: Free dance
7:40 a.m.: Pairs free skate

The Universal Sports schedule is as follows…

Friday, Dec. 10
4:30-5:30 p.m.: Ladies Short and Short Dance (repeats at 10:30 p.m.; second airing is slated for 90 minutes )
8-9:30 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs Short Program (repeats at 1a.m. Saturday)

Saturday, Dec. 11
7-9 p.m.: Men’s Free Skate and Free Dance (repeats at 1 a.m. Sunday.)
10-11 p.m.: Pairs Free Skate

Sunday, Dec. 12
4-6 p.m.: Ladies Free Skate (which can first be seen from NOON-2PM on NBC)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Skating w/The Stars Week 3: Blood, Sweat, and (Keauna's) Tears

For all the ABC execs who were hoping the “danger factor” would play a substantial role in Skating with the Stars… week three was the week they’d been waiting for. Slashed hands, swollen wrists—even vomiting! (But since the show's still losing viewers, I'm not sure it was worth the ABC execs' wait.) Here’s the quick recap, if you can stomach it:

FIVE couples are left. The performance this week is supposed to tell “a romantic story”, and has to include a jump of some kind on the part of the “star” (single revolutions of course).

Rebecca & Fred— skate to Katy Perry’s Hot & Cold… in the package they show that she’s injured her wrist to the point she’s supposed to be icing it and “taking it easy”, but we all know what that means… work harder!!! They still do a decent job. Her solo jump is a flip (my own fave).

Bethenny & Ethan—they skate to Halo…she remains pissed about the judging and how last week she was scored lower than those who fell down. She rants a lot and appears to be trying hard, but personally, I don’t see much improvement. Her jump is a toe loop—it’s OK. Laurie Ann (the clueless one) gives her a “7” at judgment time, and we never. Hear. The. End. Of. It.

Vince & Jennifer—In their fluff piece, Jennifer takes Vince to “basic training” with a pack of kids she teaches. They pretend to adore his tattoos… it’s very sweet. They skate to You’re Beautiful… ah, and as the song says, he indeed will never be with her. He manages a waltz jump. Laurie Ann gushes about his showmanship…and I notice Vernon Kay (the trying-hard-but-is-no-Tom-Bergeron-host) is starting to look like he’s passing a kidney stone when he’s dealing with Johnny. Vince’s back is apparently injured this week… but ah, no worries, he’s out of the running anyway. (They were voted out at the end of show.)

Brooke & Jonny—He’s taken 3 hard falls in the past couple days, and she got her hand sliced to ribbons via one of his blades earlier yesterday. Can they get this done? Well, sure they can. I’ve no idea what the music was, but they do well. I think their jump sequence was a flip/toe loop combo? Little rough (2-ft landings) but the ambition was clear. Last lift a little shaky but oh well… they’re in first anyway!

Keauna & Brandon—
my daughter had to go to bed and watched just long enough to see the lovely footage of Brandon yakking en route to the hospital, and was dying to know… whatever was wrong with Brandon and would it keep him from doing more Sonny w/a Chance episodes?? They didn’t go into much detail, so we’ll say “severe flu symptoms” and leave it at that. The show has to play a rehearsal tape of the K & B performance (as they’ve done under similar circumstances at Dancing w/the Stars), and Keauna has to sniffle on the sidelines, glittery headband and all, and hope everyone got a sense of just how hard they worked this week. (The tape was fine; I don’t remember what Brandon’s jump was though.) Johnny got a jab in during his evaluation to basically call out Brandon for not having a “show must go on” mentality— in other words, calling him a wuss. Vernon jumped in with the friendly reminder that “Puke doesn’t look good on ice”, to which Johnny chirped “Been there, Vernon!” Nice.

So do we remind ourselves of the Disaster in Dallas ’03 where Johnny’s “show must go on” mentality was a little underdeveloped… as he gave up relatively early in his free skate and withdrew due to injury?

Or is that too dated a reference at this point?

Nah, of course it’s not. Here’s a peek at it for those who need (or maybe just want) a reminder. Sorry if that seems snarky, but of all people to come down on a performer for giving up too soon or for an illegitimate reason… let’s just say the pot was definitely calling the kettle—or perhaps the kettle’s “aura”—black. ;-)

And by the way, they also filled some time with an ensemble performance featuring co-host/commentator Tanith Belbin, who talked Ben Agosto into braving this show as well.

RATINGS NOTE: Unfortunately, all the other first-run programming of the night took its toll. The first 60 minutes appear to have brought in just under 5 million viewers; the last 30 kept only 4.5 million of them. We’ll have to see if the numbers keep dropping next week (when House might return with a new episode?), or if they can hold steady from here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Are We There Yet? Questions on the Road to GP Finals and Beyond 2010

It’s so strange to have a little lull in the action, I hardly know what to post. How ‘bout if I post some fake, yet completely believable, Frequently Asked Questions of the week…

Is it GP Finals time yet? No; that’s next weekend. Come back later this week for airdates and predictions… and if you’ve got a prediction of your own, why not add a “Comment” and commit to it in writing? C’mon… heaven knows you’ll probably do much better with your guesses than I have thus far.

(And incidentally, the U.S. has NINE competitors in the Junior GP Final, also to be held in Beijing this coming weekend. It won’t be streaming live on IceNetwork, but I’ll try to get the word out as I hear it anyway.)

Has anyone withdrawn from GP Finals yet? Not that I’ve heard, but I suppose there’s still time for that to happen Monday or Tuesday? (If so, that means half the U.S. GP competitors are continuing to wonder if they’ll get “the call”)

Is Skating with the Stars cancelled yet? No, but this week it’ll face some still competition in the form of a) the regular CBS lineup, and b) the season premiere of The Sing Off, which NBC would probably call Real Live GLEE if it could do so without paying the folks at FOX. Anyway, if SWTS can get through Monday night with between 5 ½- 6 million viewers intact, it should probably be considered a serious victory. Check back on Tuesday for an update on all of this.

Have any of the “on a break” skaters announced their plans yet? Funny you should ask… Joannie Rochette, for one, officially opted out of Canadian Nationals several days ago. You can read more about it
here, if you haven’t already. While we’re on the subject… anyone want to hedge their bets as to when Evan Lysacek will officially do the same with this season’s U.S. Nationals? Or is that just a bygone conclusion at this point?

Is this update done yet? As soon as I post this
clip of the day from Dice-K’s 2009 GPF Gala performance. Will he run off with the title this year?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dear 2010 Trophee Eric Bompard TV Production Staff...


...I write this at the risk of sounding ungrateful—though that is hardly the case. As with every home country of a Grand Prix event, you were responsible for producing the “World Feed” that was sent out to Universal, NBC, Canadian TV, Japanese TV, etc… and it was quite apparent that you folks were determined to go above and beyond what’s been done by all the 2010 GP countries ahead of you. Nothing wrong with that; some of them seemed quite challenged to bring us even the basics (show the skater, show the skating, show the scores) and it was refreshing to know you aimed higher. To that end, I’m sending a little Do’s and Don’ts list to help you plan for next year. Consider it my bouche de Noel to you this holiday season. You’re ever so welcome.

+ DO keep the guy that does artist’s renderings of skaters on the fly. I’ve seen him several times before; it’s a very nice touch, the way you work him into the action every now and again. (And livens up an event with very few standouts—such as this year’s ice dancing!)

+ DON’T feature aerial shots so high in the rafters you cannot tell what’s being done, let alone who’s doing it. Just because some poor soul has to watch it from that high up doesn’t mean we all want to suffering nosebleeds right alongside her.

+ DO continue to stay on the skater after they’ve finished, allowing us enough time to gauge their reaction to their own skating. It was a treat to see, for instance, Takahiko Kozuka’s charming and triumphant (but still characteristically subtle) double-fist pump at the completion of his winning free skate.

+ DON’T show shots of other people while a skater’s program is in progress. Why were we looking at a two-shot in the crowd when Kevin Reynolds’ free skate was just getting underway? And why, for the love of God, were we forced to watch Nikolai Morozov boogie along vicariously from the boards for what seemed like an eternity while his student (Florent Amodio) was in the thick of his fun-loving footwork? Show that stuff after the skate, s’il vous plait!! (Big thanks to Tracy Wilson for complaining about this particular shot on-air!)

+ DO get creative with the kiss-n-cry shots. As entertaining as it is to hear Frank Carroll’s random comments to Mirai Nagasu (this time I picked up “Good job out there; you weren’t chicken at all!”), it’s nice to see a little tilt-down from the TEB sign here, a slow pan from the left there…

+But DON’T give us tight shots of a skater’s feet while spinning. When Alissa Czisny is executing the hands-down most reliable, beautiful part of her skating talent, I want to see the positions she’s hitting... the lovely lines… I already KNOW her spin is perfectly centered.

+DO get even more artsy-fartsy, and put little sweeper girls in the foreground of those K&C shots (having them move out on cue, etc.). That, plus the piled-up stuffed toys obscuring Brian Joubert’s face after his SP scores went up, made his mediocre (and as it turned out, only) 2010 TEB appearance palatable.

+And finally… DON’T show us coach/skater split screens unless it’s in the warm-up. No offense, but that sort of “experimentation” is SO 1980s.

Don’t believe me? Check out
this clip of the day from 1986 Worlds, about 1 minute in… while it’s not a split-screen, it’s a directing decision that ultimately got voted down for future use. Easy reason: it took away from the performance at hand. Attentionez, TEB producers! And never forget that sometimes the basics-- the skater, the skating, the scores-- are all you really need.

Merci beaucoup,
Kelli @ √Čtat de la raie

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Good, Bad, and "Spiffy": Skating with the Stars, Week 2

So now that Jennifer Grey is finally out of Baby’s “corner” and into the limelight that is Dancing with the Stars’ mirror-ball trophy glare… and DWTS has, subsequently, faded for now into winter hiatusland… it’s time for its pesky new kid sister, Skating with the Stars, to start flying solo. How’d it do? Well, there’s good news and bad news…

The Good News: So far, the numbers on Skating with the Stars are actually better than the numbers earned on the last prime-time, non-Olympic skating event (March’s 2-day show Thin Ice, also on ABC). That show averaged about 4.2 million viewers; SWTS pulled in around 6 million Monday night (about the same amount reported to have stuck with the show through its second hour last week). Incidentally, those numbers also put ABC in second place during those hours… not bad, except…

The Bad News: DWTS traditionally pulls down at least 24 million viewers… or 4 times more than SWTS has done thus far. Also, it must be noted that both CBS and FOX had some reruns happening… we’ll have to wait and see if the show is able to keep (and build?) on the 6 million, or if that number erodes when more first-run series return in December.

While I’m ill-prepared to give you the full-blown review that I gave last week, here are some of the SWTS needs-to-know as I see it (for Episode #2):

+ It’s still not DWTS, but that’s not for lack of trying. From the hyper-elaborate hair, makeup and costumes, to the presentation of the scores, to the dramatic, can’t-go-on fluff pieces (did everyone get that Bethenny is s-t-r-u-g-g-l-i-n-g?), to Tanith now hanging backstage in the “Brooke” role (Vernon did this in week 1), the show is terrified of doing anything that might have the nonchalant viewer rubbing their eyes, saying “Wait a minute… when did Brooke become a blonde?”)


+ But one look at the judges as the camera panned the studio en route back to Vernon told the story: the three sat very poised, not speaking, staring straight ahead. Maybe Carrie Ann, Len and Bruno used to do the exact same thing… I didn’t watch DWTS in its first couple seasons… but I hope everyone gets a chance to loosen up as this series progresses. The chemistry between Tom Bergeron and the other DWTS talents feels very genuine, and (I think) has as much to do with that show’s success as the dancing.

+ Also like DWTS, the competitors were assigned one of two “dances”… this time they either had the jive (Jonny/Brooke, Bethenny/Ethan, and Sean/Denis), or the tango (Vince/Jennifer, Brandon Mychal/Keauna, and Rebecca/Fred).

+ The apparently all-important FALLS that they like to show so much in the promos? Finally started happening here. Vince Neil went down once; Sean Young went down twice.

+ Ben Agosto and John Baldwin were among the recognizable faces in the crowd this week. (Recognizable to skating fans, anyway.)

+ The Johnny Weir Gushfest continued this week… is he genuinely surprised at how well some of these folks are picking up the moves, or just selling it all like crazy because that’s his job? Hard to tell. What do you think?

+ I had to wince when Vernon made a ham-handed comment about one of Dick Button’s use of “spiffy” dating back to the original ice age. Good Lord. If viewers can’t allow Dick his “spiffy” comments now and then, who needs ‘em? (Don’t answer that, ABC.)

+ As for the performances, some were better than others of course. The leaderboard had Rebecca/Fred in 1st, and Vince/Jennifer in last—just like last week.

+ Nonetheless, Sean Young was the one with the lowest combined total of judges’ scores and audience vote, so she was sent home. And was rather relieved, I think.

I’m including the Jonny/Brooke jive—which wasn’t terrible—as the
Clip of the Day.

A closer look at last week’s Trophee Eric Bompard coming soon…

Monday, November 29, 2010

TEB and GPF 2010-11 Updates At-A-Glance

Here’s the thumbnail of TEB developments, and the Grand Prix Final assignments that were clarified as a result… my full report (complete with references to the oh-so-fancy directing that was taking place throughout the World Feed!) will likely come on Wednesday..

MEN
After Brian Joubert withdrew (“flu-like symptoms”) and French newcomer Chafik Besseghier suffered a case of RSO (rookie spaz-out), the stage was set for the top 3 to easily hold on to their podium places. Brandon Mroz laid down another solid, if not stellar, free skate to earn bronze… Florent Amodio easily supplanted Joubert as the home-country fave with another entertaining free skate that made up for the fact that it was quad-free… he took silver. Takahiko Kozuka hit another high point in his career by coming out right after Amodio brought the house down…and rebuilt it, and brought it down all over again with a technically packed, quietly brilliant free skate of his own. (I was 2 for 3 on the predictions.)

LADIES

It was a good weekend for the U.S. ladies, though not as good as it should have been. Alissa Czisny botched her triple lutz in the SP, then resorted to meltdown mode after making her initial mistake in the FS (a stepout on her triple loop)… still, she hung on to bronze when Haruka Imai tumbled out of 3rd place with a pretty sorry-looking free skate. Mirai Nagasu fared much better from 2nd place than she’s done from 1st, happily accepting the silver medal (her first medal in the GP). She lost gold—by less than 2 points—to Kiira Korpi, who I wouldn’t have put in first in either the SP or FS… but the judges were ready to hand it over after Nagasu under-rotated 2 of her jumps AND made mincemeat out of her own gorgeous layback spin. Sigh. (I had the people right in my podium predictions, but not the order.)

PAIRS

In what was essentially a 2-pair event as promised, Savchenko/Szolkowy built on their previous Pink Panther free skate to create another great, if not flawless, GP performance. It put them well enough ahead of Bazarova/Larionov, who came up very close in the SP and, I suspect, will be a team making a major move at this year’s Worlds (they were 8th this past year). My prediction for 3rd, Canada’s Brodeur/Mattatall, had consistent difficulties with side-by-side jumps and throws and settled for 4th behind the surprisingly strong Maylin Hausch/Daniel Wende of Germany. (I was 2 for 3 here.)

DANCE

Pechalat/Bourzat took gold with a pair of programs that topped their previous gold medal-winning work, looking very much like a team that could make a successful run for the Worlds podium this year. The U.S. team-on-a-roll Chock/Zuerlein managed a second bronze medal with their infectious Cabaret number (despite a fall on Chock’s part), leaving silver to Russian newcomers Ekaterina Riazanova/Ilia Tkachenko. (Meaning 1-for-3 for me)

With these results, the GP Finalists were able to be determined:

Men: Kozuka, Takahashi, Chan, Verner, Oda, Amodio (ALT: Abbott, Mroz, Rippon)
P.S. It’s worth noting, I think, that 2 of these top 6 (Verner and Amodio) made it this far without having a quad in their repertoire so far this season.

Ladies: Ando, Czisny, Kostner, Murakami, Suzuki, Flatt (ALT: Korpi, Nagasu, Wagner)

Pairs: Savchenko/Szolkowy, Pang/Tong, Bazarova/Larionov, Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, Iliushechkina/Maisuadze, Wenjing/Cong (ALT: Takahashi/Tran, Yankowskas/Coughlin, Lawrence/Sweigers)

Dance: Davis/White, Pechalat/Bourzat, Crone/Poirier, Bobrova/Soloviev, Weaver/Poje, Hoffman/Zavozin
(ALT: Shibutanis, Chock/Zuerlein, Riazanova/Tkachenko)

As it currently stands, only 3 slots of the Final are occupied by U.S. skaters… oddly enough, 8 of the 12 “alternate” slots are occupied by them.

Look for a Skating with the Stars update tomorrow…

Thursday, November 25, 2010

2010 Trophee Eric Bompard: Airdates and Predictions

Quick Skating with the Stars ratings update: in a word, they were mediocre. One report I saw had the show with less than 11 million viewers by 9:30 Eastern (compared to 23 million for the Dancing with the Stars which preceded it)… and less than 6 million one hour later. I want to check those numbers against a few others and try to put things more into perspective next week.

Hope my fellow Americans had a wonderful Thanksgiving… without further adieu, on we go with the streaming/air schedule for Trophee Eric Bompard!

On IceNetwork:

Friday, Nov. 26
9:25 a.m.: Pairs short program
10:50 a.m.: Men's short program
12:45 p.m.: Ladies short program
2:40 p.m.: Short dance

Saturday, Nov. 27
7:40 a.m.: Pairs free skate
9:25 a.m.: Men's free skate
12:25 p.m.: Ladies free skate
2:40 p.m.: Free dance

And as for Universal Sports:

Friday, Nov. 26
7-8:30 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs Short Program
9-10:30 p.m.: Ladies Short Program and Short Dance
11 p.m.-12:30 a.m.: Men’s and Pairs SP (rebroadcast)
1-2:30 a.m.: Ladies Short Program and Short Dance (rebroadcast)

Saturday, Nov. 27
4-6 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs Free Skate
8-9 p.m.: Free Dance
11 p.m. - 1 a.m.: Men’s and Pairs Free Skate (rebroadcast)

Sunday, Nov. 28
4-6 p.m.: Ladies Free Skate
8-10 p.m..: Ladies Free skate (rebroadcast)

And remember the Ladies Free Skate will first air on NBC from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, followed by Holiday Celebration on Ice from 4-6 p.m..

Let’s see if I can better my 6-for-12 from last week’s predictions…

For MEN:

Gold: Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
Silver: Brian Joubert (FRA)
Bronze: Brandon Mroz (USA)

I don’t think Florent Amodio is a sure bet for this event, especially since he’s still hot/cold from event to event… plus doesn’t have a quad in a field where at least 5 other guys are sure bets to at least attempt one or two. Having said that, I’m not sure Kevin Reynolds can pull off his other elements well enough to make his numerous quads worth his while. And Joubert never seems to turn in a great TEB outing, so the silver position might be generous… but I’m not confident enough in Mroz’s back-to-back abilities to bring home another 2nd place, so there you go. Kozuka’s won once this season already, so I’m guessing that given the competition, he could pull it off again.

For PAIRS:

Gold: Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER)
Silver: Bazarova/Larionov (RUS)
Bronze: Brodeur/Mattatall (CAN)


Gold was easy for this one… so was silver… then came multiple reviews of the list of skaters (since Zhang/Zhang aren’t competing the GP this season) and thoughts of these are my choices?? So Brodeur/Mattatall ended up being my guess. Sorry…it’s about as un-scientific as that.


For LADIES:

Gold: Alissa Czisny (USA)
Silver: Kiira Korpi (FIN)
Bronze: Mirai Nagasu (USA)

So over here we have the likes of Nagasu and Cynthia Phaneuf, both of whom turned in top-flight SPs earlier in the season only to fall apart in the free skate. I’m thinking this time, both of them will have flawed SPs and Nagasu will be the one who skates well enough in the FS to bounce back and medal. Meanwhile…over here is Mao Asada, who is presumably still “re-learning” her jumps and, sorry to say, is no longer reliable for a medal (though I don’t rule it out). Barring a surprisingly strong debut from last season’s up-and-comer Sarah Hecken (Germany), that leaves Czisny and Korpi for 1 and 2—and while neither is a sure bet for great technicality (Czisny tends to implode; Korpi tends to dumb down her jumps), Czisny’s got the much better goods when it comes to all the other things that make skating beautiful.


For DANCE:

Gold: Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA)
Silver: Chock/Zuerlein (USA)
Bronze: Riazanova/Tkachenko(RUS)

Pechalat and Bourzat—no contest. Then…? Um… I’ll go with Chock/Zuerlein because a) it’s a pretty thin field, and b) they won bronze a few weeks ago, so it’s not an outrageous notion they could win silver. For the bronze, I’ll pick the Russians over the remaining French team (Carron/Jones), if only because I wasn’t crazy about the latter’s Rolling Stones-inspired dance when I saw it earlier in the season.

For a reminder of Riazanova/Tkanchenko’s skating, check out this
Clip of the Day. Back with observations soon…

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rostelecom Cup 2010 Results: Any Questions? (Um, yeah, I have just a few...)

Everything’s a rush this week—another GP event in the books; then Skating with the Semi-Stars, then Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), then another GP event which happens to be the final qualifier. So when it comes to posting something cohesive about last weekend’s Rostelecom Cup (of Russia)… I simply found myself with a list of questions (even though most of them are rhetorical in nature):

MEN
(Quick summary: currently quad-less Tomas Verner picked up his first-ever GP victory with 2 relatively clean performances, while the favorite (and judges’ darling) Patrick Chan struggled, especially with his free skate, and settled for silver. Jeremy Abbott also suffered a sub-par free skate, but his short program score kept him in it for bronze. I had the podium names right in my predictions, but not the order.)

My questions:

+ With all the Plushenko, Yagudin, and Weir posters I saw flanking the stands, I had to wonder… what year is this, again??

+ Will Samuel Contesti ever skate a short program that doesn’t take him out of the medal hunt?
+ Will Alban Preaubert ever rise above the 4th-5th-6th placements in which he now seems mired? (Answering self here: probably not with this year’s free skate.)
+ How many more times in one event can Chan fall to the ice and still finish first or second? Won’t someone please take away the Kool-Aid that all the judges seem to be drinking when he’s in an event??

LADIES
(Quick summary: though she was down in 5th after the SP, Miki Ando once again proved to be the best of the field on FS day and rose to another overall victory. Akiko Suzuki skated better here than she did at Cup of China, but it was close-but-no-cigar event for her as she took silver again. And while home country faves Ksenia Makarova and Alena Leonova both struggled throughout the event, Ashley Wagner found what she needed to improve significantly on her NHK performance, winning bronze in the process. I was 2-for-3 on the predictions.)

My questions:

+ Will Agnes Zawadzki (who started this event in 2nd, but finished 4th after another troubled free skate) be able to take what she’s learned from the GP circuit this fall and turn it into a more successful outing at U.S. Nationals?
+ Will Wagner realize now that one fall in an otherwise clean program is often better than having 4 insecure, two-footed landings? (Um, SP at last year’s Nationals notwithstanding…)
+ Will Leonova ever give a sincere smile on the ice again? The way her face plummets after every disappointing skate these days is bumming me out.


PAIRS
(Quick summary: Yavaguti and Smirnov are back, and won here easily with a lovely, understated take on Claire de Lune. Japanese newbies Takahashi/Tran skated to silver, while Evora/Ladwig relocated their Olympic groove and earned their first trip to the GP podium—a bronze. I was 2-for-3 on this prediction too.)

My questions:

+ As much improved as Yavaguti/Smirnov are with this year’s program… will Ms.Yavaguti ever look anything less than terrified at the end of a routine? (It makes me wonder what sort of fear of God Tatiana Moskvina has instilled in her, especially since missing the podium in Vancouver.)
+ Why do I like the Lawrence/Stiegers free skate to the Van Helsing soundtrack better than most of the programs I’m seeing this year? (They took bronze with it at Skate Canada, but only finished 5th here.)
+ Can Evora/Ladwig be as good at every event as they were at this one? Pretty please? It would make those gorgeous lifts so much more satisfying… and their side-by-side flying sit spins are always a treat too.

DANCE
(Quick summary: it all started like a normal competitive event, but by the time it was over nearly half the competitors had dropped out due to injury. Of those that remained, home faves Bobrova/Soloviev easily took gold, while Hoffmann/Zavozin of Hungary claimed their first podium finish (a silver) and Russians Ilinykh/Katsalapov took bronze. I somehow ended up 2-for-3 on this pick too.)

My questions:

+ All right, who threw thumbtacks all over the Rostelecom practice ice so three of the eight competing couples had to get injured and scratch the event?? (Road Runner, I’m looking at you… did you think Massimo Scali was Will E. Coyote?)
+ How can I possibly ask any questions about an event that barely took place?
+ Oh, wait, here’s one more: I said it earlier in the week, but it bears repeating… isn’t Tanith Belbin a great addition to the Universal broadcast team? I’m quite fond of Susie Wynne (and she gave me a lovely interview for the Skating on Air book), but the one thing she wasn’t able to do was speak from experience about the IJS system as it applies to ice dance. Belbin can, and does… plus is starting to offer some spirited opinions about the different teams. Go girl!

And one more general question about Rostelecom in general… was it me, or did the crowd here seem unusually quiet (except for when Russian skaters took the ice)? I tend to think it was the Russian version of the World Feed that was the culprit—and that they kept the crowd mic at an overall lower level than other places. (They’re also responsible for using dissolves between the cameras where I would’ve preferred takes, and takes where I’d have preferred dissolves… but that’s just the director in me talking.)

Anyway, I hope they re-think that for the future if that was indeed what happened. Very strange to hear next to NO crowd reaction when someone successfully completes the toughest jump in their arsenal, after all!

Since I already posted his free skate a few weeks ago, I’ll put up Verner’s “Singin’ in the Rain” SP from Rostelecom as the
Clip of the Day.

And despite tomorrow’s U.S. holiday, I still plan to get Trophee Eric Bompard predictions posted before Friday morning… watch this space!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

“Skating With The Stars” in a Nutshell: 5.3 Technical; 5.7 Artistic


Here’s the very, very short version of my SWTS review: it’s about what I expected it to be. The scores above have more to do with the production values of the show itself rather than the skating, which is very Skating-with-Celebrities-ish (What else could it have been? The sport is at least as hard to master now as it was when that show aired in early 2006.)

No dramatic falls last night; no controversial scores (despite host Vernon Kay’s efforts to drum up a feeling that “star” Bethenny Frenkel wuz robbed). I’m not sure everything worked— Tanith Belbin could have been used more effectively, to name just one possibly change I’d make—but with just 6 weeks on the whole series, I don’t know if they’ll bother tinkering with it much unless it gets picked up for another season. Is it Dancing With The Stars On Ice? Nope. Battle of the Blades, U.S. style? Afraid not. But as a stop-gap measure (filling the time between the end of DWTS and the start of whatever premieres in this time slot in January), I think it’s relatively harmless.

For the full-length version of what I saw last night (I wrote as the show unfolded, segment by segment), read on… and of course, feel free to add your own two cents!

Skating With The Stars Premiere… As it Happened

Vernon Kay literally walks us from the Dancing With the Stars set over to the SWTS set (silently pleading don’t turn away, DWTS audience… please… please stay!!!!) and it goes very well… until he throws his arms wide and forgets he has the mic in one of them, cutting off his own intro… “Welcome to Skating with the St---!”

Oh well.

The so far un-id’d pro skaters do a group number to “Dynamite”—the one I’ve heard via Radio Disney all summer and fall. Halter tops, booty shorts, hip music—yep, it’s pro skating time… and we’re in Sweeps.

Introductions. OK, Sean Young already looks terrified she’s going to break an ankle. Early guess… she’ll be the first out. Let’s see if I agree with me in 2 hours.

Judges intro… Johnny first, then Laurie, then Dick. They’re trying very hard to make this part interesting. The judges’ table is shown… you’d think they’d put Dick in the “Len” position (center) if they were going to keep up the DWTS similarities… after all, Johnny makes a pretty decent “Bruno”, sans accent.

Tanith is here to brief us on the rules. Oops, I was too busy typing and missed ‘em. We’ll figure it out.

Brandon Mychal Smith is up first. His current claim to fame is the Disney show Sunny with a Chance (getting all the Disney connections yet?!) Which means my 7 year old daughter loooves him. He’s paired with Keauna McLaughlin… they show zero footage of her pairs victories (C’mon, doesn’t ABC/ESPN have the rights to at least one of those?!) They show their getting-to-know-you montage, then leave us hanging with…

Commercials. I have to mute it when one comes on with a variation of “Jingle Bells”. Still too early.

OK, time to skate. Smith and McLaughlin. Song is American Boy I think. Sorry, my age is showing… OK I think I saw one “element” (1-foot spin)… not bad. Not bad all around… wow, they’re using Tanith for color commentary but will we ever see her again?

Judges: Dick says pretty good things but nails Smith on the spiral. Laurie calls the performance “magical fantastical”. Have I mentioned she’s not a skating expert? Weir calls it a solid first effort.

Now Tanith runs the elements in slo-mo… oh, there she is in the corner. Scores: 6-5-5 for technical, 7-7-6 for artistic. 36 out of 60.

Commercials. I love the Target 2-day Sale lady. She reminds me of the cousin GLEE’s Sue Sylvester never knew she had. Not sure why.

Sean Young is up next. Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about self-esteem issues with her (heh). She’s paired with Denis Petukhov… poor guy. Tanith calls her the least experienced, and cites a fall in rehearsal that sounds like Faiella/Scali’s entire Cup of China performance. They skate to “Bubbly”… seems an odd choice for a 51 y.o. woman. But… she didn’t fall. I’ll give her that.

Judges. Johnny says something about a bunny running through a meadow. What? Laurie drools all over her as if Sean is Julia Roberts. Dick claims he fell in love with her in “that movie”… I thought he forgot the name of the movie, but then he worked in some puns about “No Way Out” and “Bladerunner”. Heh. Told her to be less tentative.

Vernon Kay (the host) tossed to break, but it looks like something was goofed up there. Especially when he reminds us we’re LIVE. Yep, copy that.

Commercials. Somebody tell me why Winter Wipeout is full of pratfalling Santas but we won’t see it “premiere” until January 6??

We’re back. Tanith with the slo-mo (never heard “beautiful” and “shoot-the-duck” in the same sentence before) and scores: 6-5-5 for technical; 7-5-6 for artistic. 34 out of 60.

Next comes Jonny Mosely—1998 Olympic gold medalist (skiing). Brooke Castile is his partner. She refers to skating as “like dancing, but way cooler.” Um, DWTS crew, pretend she didn’t say that…

Vernon teases that Johnny Weir will be skating later. Oh, so THAT’s why he’s been back on the ice lately…(one of the reasons, anyway)

Commercials. OK, I love the Target lady, but not when she’s on FOUR times in one break.

We’re back. Jonny & Brooke skate to the Chili Peppers’ version of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”… well I wouldn’t call it going at “electric speed” as Tanith did, but pretty good. I must say Mr. Mosely has some rockin’ hair. Castile looks like she had more fun in that routine than in all her Nationals performances put together. (Except for maybe the one where she won.)

Judges: Laurie loves it, but wants more “funk in your trunk”. Dick goes on a bit about the transfer of his ski skills to skating… Johnny says it was like a bull in a China shop and he loved it. Complete with a hand clap when he said “loved it”! My goodness. Scores: 7-7-7 for technical; 6-6-7 artistic for 40 out of 60.

In the toss to break they show the remaining skaters (including Vince Neil) practicing back crossovers… I have to giggle because they all look like center ice at every public skate anywhere where they let the kids with the moves skate in the middle. And then the kids either have very few moves, or no room in which to do the moves. (The “stars”, so far, are of the very-few-moves camp.)

Commercials. The Mastercard ad reminds me I should be working on Christmas shopping plans instead of blogging around this show.

We’re back, and Johnny’s slapped on his makeup (a modified version I’m sure) and is doing his “Poker Face” routine—also a modified version. Was this done in advance? Probably… Ooh, and Vernon follows it with a mention of the USFS’s basic skills program. Good plug.

Rebecca Budig is next; she’s been obsessed with this sport since she was a kid and used to pretend to do pairs with her sister. Let’s see if her love translates to the ice… Fred Palascak is her partner. He’s athletic and super serious, and no, he can’t claim any national titles or medals… so there. I don’t know this song. You can tell she’s got a little more experience, she does a decent spiral and they manage some nice lifts. “It was often difficult to tell who was the pro and who was the star…” Tanith gushes. Um, that’s pushing it.

Judges: Dick calls it absolutely elegant… you can tell she’s thinking I can’t believe I’m getting tips from DICK BUTTON! Johnny says something about her being like a real skater, and something about his weave…? Missed it. Laurie said something I didn’t catch, and don’t really care about.

Scores: 7-7-7 technical; 8-8-8 for 45 out of 60.

Vince Neil’s turn. He allegedly won a skating competition as a kid—he has photographic evidence! But it doesn’t translate to an easier time here. He’s with Jennifer Wester, who describes herself as a “professional ice skater for 14 years”… which doesn’t make much sense to those of us who know she was competing not that long ago, but whatever.

Commercials. I got nuthin’.

We’re back. Vince and Jennifer are skating to something that’s supposed to rock “I Like the Way You Move”. Hey, his spin isn’t god-awful! But the rest of it seems like he didn’t have much to do.

Judges: Weir tagged him on following his partner around too much; not enough rock star. Laurie disagrees. Um, did I hear that right? Did she just tell him to SPOT when he’s spinning like dancers do? Not with skating!! Shut up Laurie. Dick tells him “any man afraid to make mistakes will never make anything.” Allrighty, then.

6-4-4 Technical. Vernon is flabbergasted and calls the judges “harsh”. Heh. 6-4-4 artistic; 28 out of 60. Aw come on rockers… vote him through anyway!

Next is—wait; did I get trapped in the middle of an extended trailer for “The Bachelor”?? Note to The Bachelor himself: the only way you’re truly going to fall in love… is if you stop trying to do it on national TV.

Commercials again. How are they going to fill the last 20 minutes of this show with just one remaining skating team? Will there be a “Bachelorette” trailer too? At least I can now tell my husband that “V” is returning… he won’t watch this show (SWTS), but he’ll probably catch that.

We’re back… they’ve burned 3 more minutes. It’s time for Bethenny Frenkel OK, she’s one of the “real housewives”, right? Never saw her before this. But she gets a good line in (to partner Ethan Burgess): “OK, the fact you’re not gay is going to alarm my husband, so we might have to pretend that you are.”

They’re skating to some variation on “You Spin Me Round”… cause she gets dizzy easily. GET IT? She appears to be in good shape, but looks only slightly less tentative than Sean Young. Oh, I finally see someone I recognize in the crowd—Len is over here, slumming from DWTS. He must’ve missed his ride home.

Judges. Laurie tells her to relax her shoulders more. Dick calls her “one skinny babe” and wants her to put more flow in skating. Johnny also praises her shape (Oh, forgot to mention she had a baby a handful of weeks ago. Another reason to loathe her.)

Vernon tosses to break—we have about 8 minutes left to fill. Damn, I just realized I missed Hoarders. (I sense a joke about SWTS also being a show about crap might be imminent.) This show is seriously torching my schedule. I definitely won’t be doing this much detail in the future…

Commercials. Good Lord, another Bachelor promo. Someone kill me.

Scores! 5-5-5 technical; 5-4-5 artistic for 29 out of 60. Vernon tries to milk the crowd into “saying” her marks were too low. Eh, not so much.

They show the leaderboard… explain next week’s score will be incorporated into this week’s score (no results show this week). Then the recap, then… buh-bye!

We’ll get back to business (aka Rostelecom observations) tomorrow…

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Time to "Kick Some Serious Ice"... and Hold Your Breath: Here Comes "Skating With the Stars"


Before I hit you with some Rostelecom observations… I bet you’re foaming at the mouth with anticipation over tomorrow night’s premiere of Skating with the Stars, which is set to hit the airwaves at—no, I’m not kidding—9:11 (that’s nine-eleven) PM. Because that’s apparently how long Dancing with the Stars is scheduled to run over its 8-9 PM time slot.

Sorry I’ve been lax in getting this out; it slipped through the cracks over the past couple of weeks. Here’s what else you need—and I use the term loosely—to know:

Who’s Hosting: Tanith Belbin (who’s doing a bang-up job calling ice dancing on Universal Sports, so good for ABC in getting her)… and Vernon Kay (who??), a UK guy who appears to be newly under contract to the Alphabet Network. I’ve no clue, so let’s cross fingers on that one.

Who’s Judging: Dick Button (natch; would he miss this??)… Johnny Weir (as previously mentioned)… and Laurie Ann Gibson (apparently a successful choreographer for, um, everything but skating). I guess 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

Who Are The “Pros”: OK let’s see if I can get this right:

Actress Rebecca Budig is paired with Fred Palascak… and before you wonder “who??” again like I did… Palascak is a U.S. ice dancer who has participated in several seasons of the U.K. series on which this is based (Dancing on Ice) along with his wife (and dance partner) Melanie Lambert.

“Reality Star” Bethenny Frenkel is paired with Ethan Burgess… a former U.S. pairs skater who had some minor-league success with partners Laura Lepzinski and Keauna McLaughlin (the latter before she paired with Rockne Brubaker).

Olympic Skiier Jonny Mosely is paired with Brooke Castile… who as you might know was a U.S. Pairs Champ in 2007 with Benjamin Okolski.

Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil is paired with Jennifer Wester… you might recall her as half of the U.S. ice dance team Wester/Barantsev; their best Nationals finish was 5th in 2008.

Disney Channel star Brandon Mychal Smith is paired with Keauna McLaughlin—yep, the same McLaughlin mentioned earlier. A-ha…

And actress Sean Young is paired with 2006 Olympian Denis Petukhov, who continues to ice dance professionally with wife Melissa Gregory.

Speaking of which—Gregory is offering up a behind-the-scenes vlog for the show… I can’t find her introductory one at the moment, but will post it if I locate it in time for my SWTS review.

In the meantime, you can check out more about the show by clicking here.

Pray that this show doesn’t suck, everyone… ‘tis been a long time since non-Olympic skating was seen consistently in prime time. As I said, I'll post a review later in the week, plus ratings info if I can find it...



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rostelecom Cup 2010: Airtimes and Predictions

Let’s cut right to it—here are your IceNetwork streaming times for the Rostelecom Cup:


Friday, Nov. 19

7:00 a.m.: Men's short program

8:50 a.m.: Pairs short program

11:00 a.m.: Ladies short program

12:50 p.m.: Short dance

Saturday, Nov. 20

6:45 a.m.: Men's free skate

9:00 a.m.: Pairs free skate

10:40 a.m.: Ladies free skate

12:40 p.m.: Free dance

And as for Universal Sports:

Friday, Nov. 19

6-7 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs Short Program

8-9 p.m.: Ladies Short Program and Short Dance

10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs SP (rebroadcast)

12:30-2 a.m.: Ladies Short Program and Short Dance (rebroadcast)

Saturday, Nov. 20

5-7 p.m.: Men’s and Pairs Free Skate

8-9 p.m.: Free Dance

11 p.m.- 1 a.m.: Men’s and Pairs Free Skate

Sunday, Nov. 21

5-7 p.m.: Ladies Free Skate

11 p.m.- 1 a.m.: Ladies Free skate

This Ladies Free Skate will first air on NBC Sunday from 2-4 PM. (The Disson Special Improv-Ice will follow from 4-6 PM.)

I bettered my predictions to 5-out-of-12 last week, so let’s see if I can finally bat .500 this time:

For MEN:

Gold: Patrick Chan (CAN)

Silver: Jeremy Abbott (USA)

Bronze: Tomas Verner (CZE)

By this event-- #5 of the 6—I’d be remiss if I didn’t factor previous finishes into my predictions. So Chan, with his often inexplicably high component scores that we’ve already seen can make up for just about ANY technical deficit, is my pick for gold here. Who I’d really like to see in that spot is Abbott. But while he reportedly will bring the quad back into his repertoire, I’m going to guess he’ll miss it this first time out (sorry)-- and with his wider-ranging components, I just don’t see it.

If Verner skates here like he did at Cup of China, it should be good enough for at least 3rd… but if there is any wiggle room, look for Japan’s teen phenom Yuzuru Hanyu to make a move.

For PAIRS:

Gold: Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS)

Silver: Takahashi/Tran (JPN)

Bronze: Berton/Hotarek (ITA)

While I’m sure the centerpiece of this competition will be Kavaguti/Smirnov’s season debut (with a free skate to “Claire de Lune”), I’m actually going to be paying much more attention to the season debut of Berton/Hotarek… and hoping they find their way to a medal. Paige Lawrence/Rudi Swiegers of Canada (replacing Dube/Davison) would be my first guess to get the bronze if the Italian team proves less promising than they were at Worlds last season.

For LADIES:

Gold: Miki Ando (JPN)

Silver: Akiko Suzuki (JPN)

Bronze: Ksenia Makarova (RUS)


Last time Ando and Suzuki went head to head—at Cup of China—I predicted Suzuki to win, underestimating the reliability of Ando’s jumping prowess. Though I still prefer Suzuki, I’ll put this as Ando’s to lose.

The bronze is tough; I can see four different possibilities. Alena Leonova got bronze behind the Japanese women at Cup of China, but that was largely on the errors of others. Ashley Wagner has a shot, but her two-footing tendencies could get the best of her. Even Agnes Zawadski could be on the podium, if she doesn’t fall apart like she did in the NHK free skate. That leaves Makarova, who gave a solid performance to earn silver at Skate Canada behind Alissa Czisny. And at this point I’d predict Makarova over Leonova in any event.

For DANCE:

Gold: Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)

Silver: Faiella/Scali (ITA)

Bronze: Ilinykh/Katsalapov (RUS)

Until I read that The Kerrs were pulling out of this event due to Sinead’s shoulder injury, I thought it was a pretty safe bet as to who would make the podium here. But even then, I wasn’t sure about the order. Faiella/Scali will presumably have their costume issues resolved, but are their dances this season gold-medal worthy to begin with? I’m not yet convinced… which is why I’m suggesting Bobrova/Soloviev will win instead. And while bronze may be an interesting battle between Canada’s Paul/Islam and Russia’s Ilinykh/Katsalapov, I’ll give the tip to the latter—who also happen to be home country faves.


I’ll be back with results and observations after the event!