With all the “Mayan Apocalypse” chatter that filled the air this week, skating fans could point to their own end-of-the-world signs: ankle surgery that’ll keep the Canadian team of Weaver/Poje out of ice dancing for the foreseeable future... citizenship issues that’ll keep World Bronze Medalists Takahashi/Tran from continuing as a pairs team... a Tweet from world-renowned Hugh Jackman that give shout-outs and praise to (skating) world-renowned Kim Yu-Na (not to mention a wish to meet her personally!)...
Or maybe it was the TLC airing of potential new reality series Jersey Ice that had you packing your post-12/21 survival kit? The 60-minute pastiche of elements from Jersey Shore, Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, and Dance Moms aired back on December 12—much to the dismay of true skating fans. Not that there were any great expectations; we know what to expect from these shows by now. But to see your beloved sport put through the so-called “entertainment” wringer this way—particularly when it’s difficult to find skating on U.S. TV otherwise—is especially disheartening.
I didn’t take any notes; I was too busy Tweeting my dismay at the time it aired, but here are my so-called “takeaways”:
+ The coaches involved (I think there were four women) were none that I’d ever want involved with a kid I knew. EVER. Start with the fact that none of the featured skaters seemed capable of getting off the ground with their jumps, let alone completing them cleanly. Continue with the fact that the coaches openly snipe at each other during practices, non-skating events, and—so it appeared—even at competitions. Finish with the fact that the show is about them... and they are nothing remarkable, other than loud, opinionated, and embarrassing to the sport in which they claim expertise. Jersey Ice had very little to do with the skaters, and even less to do with skating itself.
+ When the attention did turn to the kids, it focused on all the wrong things. No talk of technique. No talk of proper nutrition. One brief “concern” about a skater that might not have been getting enough sleep, and even that was kept in as a gateway to another sniping match between coaches (I think at least one coach was coaching another coach’s student). What WAS there? There were threats about kids getting it together before the upcoming competition “or there was no way they’d be going to
Lake Placid” (where a larger event
was looming)... and there was chatter about competition clothing options—surely
more important than the “required elements,” yes? And there was another part
featuring the children (technically speaking, anyway) at someone’s birthday
party, and the coaches/moms went head-over-Toddlers-and-Tiaras with their games
of one-upmanship (aka “my kid is better dressed than your kid”). Ah, how ironic
that the network’s initials stand for The Learning Channel.
Of course the TV producer in me watched the show and said What do you expect? It’s “reality” TV. They’re looking for simplistic dramatics, one-note emoters, and a smattering of action to keep it from being wall-to-wall talking heads (hence the need for skaters). But that brings me to my biggest issue with making our sport the backdrop for
+ Skating—meaning Olympic-eligible, competitive figure skating—is already some of the best “reality TV” there is. It’s the ORIGINAL reality TV, according to one of the sources I interviewed for Skating on Air. So when you boil all that away, scrap it back together with gaudy duct tape, and schedule it alongside the likes of Sister Wives and Cake Boss... while the largest events in Olympic-eligible skating have to fight with all its toe picks just to get a fraction of the TV time they used to get in the U.S...
Well, among other things, it explains why no coach worth his or her PSA membership would have consented to having any part of what eventually became
Jersey Ice. And with any luck, TLC will opt to
do the same from here on out. As I understood it, the 12/12 airing was nothing
more than a trial run—viewer interest would determine its fate from there. And
in the Wednesdays that have passed since then, a series about competitive
cheerleading has taken its place. Not that I wish the cheer teams of the world
any ill will, but... let’s just say I might even attempt a back flip if they
turn out to be the “winner” here.