Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Battle of the Blades"

I've never been a big reality TV watcher. I watched one episode of the original season of "Survivor" & thought it was the dumbest, most contrived thing I'd ever seen (but I still tuned in for the last 10 minutes of the finale to see if Richard won, lol). I watched the last few episodes of "American Idol," the season when Fantasia won, & was blown away by her rendition of "Summertime." And we watched the first season of Debbie Travis's "From the Ground Up" on Global TV (we started watching the second season, but it was a totally different concept -- we didn't like it as much & lost interest).

But I HAVE been a figure skating fan, almost my entire life. And while I wouldn't say I'm a huge hockey fan, you simply cannot be Canadian & not absorb some sort of knowledge &/or appreciation of the game & its history.

Two weeks ago, a new reality show started on the CBC that I found absolutely irresistable, & I suspect many of my fellow Canucks will as well. (Whoever came up with the concept is a marketing genius.) "Battle of the Blades," which started last Sunday night, paired up 8 of Canada's best & most famous professional female figure skaters (pairs & dancers) with 8 former NHL hockey players -- and is teaching them to figure skate. Each week, each couple performs a pairs number (in front of a live audience at the hockey Mecca of Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto) & the audience votes. The next night, the results are revealed, the two couples with the least number of votes have a skate off, and the judges (Dick Button, Sandra Bezic, and a different guest judge each week)(this past week was Don Cherry!!) decide who gets to skate another week. The last couple left standing wins $100,000 for their favourite charity. (I believe the eliminated couples get a lesser amount.)

The first week, it was Kristina Lenko and NHL tough guy Bob Probert who got voted off. (For all my years of watching figure skating, I must admit Kristina was unfamiliar to me.) This week, it was Isabelle Brasseur & former Edmonton Oilers captain Glenn Anderson.

Anyone watching?? (Someone must be -- there were an estimated 2 million viewers for the first episode, which is huge in Canadian TV terms.) Who are you cheering for?

I'll admit I have a soft spot for Barb Underhill and Ron Duguay -- if only because they're probably the ones closest to my age (46 & 52 -- the other skaters have been referring to them as "Grandma & Grandpa"). When I heard Duguay was on, I thought, "Good Lord, he was playing hockey when I was in high school!" -- I checked, and he was!! But they are also proving to be a great pair to watch. Duguay still has some Studio 54 moves in his repetoire ; ) (he takes a lot of teasing about that), and even though it's been over 10 years since Barb last competed, she clearly still has what it takes to be a champion.

I was always a huge fan of Barb & her skating partner, Paul Martini, who won the world pairs championships in 1984 and went on to a stellar professional career before finally retiring. Also close to my heart: Barb is a bereaved mother who lost one of her twin daughters in a 1993 pool accident, but found some solace in her skating. In the years since then, she has campaigned for various causes related to children's safety. It is great to see her back on the ice again!!

Christine "Tuffy" Hough-Sweeney (paired with another NHL tough guy, Tie Domi) is the mother of twin boys, born prematurely some 13 years ago. She mentioned on the show this week that she just celebrated her 40th birthday. You'd never know it to look at her. How do these women keep such great figures???

I am finding this a lot of fun. The first week in particular, the novelty factor was huge, and I thought it was a total hoot. This week, though, I found myself amazed at just how much some of these guys had improved. I think they are surprising themselves, too!

You can find video clips, skater profiles, voting mechanisms and other stuff on the program's website. Jodeyne Higgins, one of the competitors, is keeping a blog, and there's another blog on the Toronto Star covering the competition.


  1. I'm watching ;o) I'm ga-ga over Duguay. And I was pretty sad to see Probert go the first week.

  2. I actually did see it, but I didn't care for the judges much. They were all so nice - even Don Cherry. There has to be a harsh judge who actually gives critical judgment or else it's not worth taking seriously. Other than that, I enjoyed the skating very much.

  3. While I actually liked the "Survivor" :-), I have to agree - good to see a nice reality show for a change. Though I'd rather not call it a "reality show". I like the Hough-Sweeney & Domi couple the most, but all the skating pairs are great...