In a culture that watches skating primarily to see people fall and rack themselves, it's only fitting that "Skating With Celebrities" (Fox, Mondays, 8 p.m. ET) would send home its first celebrity when someone finally took a dive.
The fall didn't come from last week's last-place finishers, Kristy Swanson and Lloyd Eisler. In fact, they were probably the most improved pair of the week. After tanking with last week's slow, boring number, they rebounded this week with a performance that, while still bad, moved much faster. They performed to "Boogie Fever," a song choice only partially excused by the fact that the theme of the evening was "the '70s."
Sartorial disaster did strike with Swanson's unfathomably unflattering pair of bell-bottomed sparkle pants. But the performance, divorced from the ugly outfits, was good enough for substantially better marks than last week, and if you enjoy seeing people grab their own behinds or someone else's, it was pure gold.
Furthermore, Swanson and Eisler executed one of the moves many of us expected not to see, except over the dead body of the show's liability insurer: the one where he swings her around by an arm and a leg, threatening to smack her head into the ice at any moment.
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Someone call Bob Saget
On the flip side, the goats of the evening were Dave Coulier and Nancy Kerrigan, who followed last week's lame but well-received "Blues Brothers" number with a lifeless, unpleasant rendition of "Get Up Off That Thing." Coulier comes off in the practice footage like a condescending pill — hard to understand if you only remember him from "Full House"; easier if you believe the conventional wisdom that he inspired Alanis Morissette's "You Oughtta Know."
Coulier and Kerrigan certainly appear to be having the least fun in the group. The ability to convey crippling ennui while James Brown sings "Get Up Off That Thing" indicates a basic spiritual deficit that will not be solved by beyond filing off one's toe picks.
As for skills, Coulier's spin was ostentatiously dreadful, and he presented the worst case yet of the "celebrity" standing around while the professional did the skating. Worst of all, he defended himself to the judges by saying his feminine side was "in [his] other pants," laughing at his own joke in spite of the fact that it landed with a resounding thud.
Bruce Jenner and Tai Babilonia set the standard for cheese last week with their embarrassingly literal interpretation of "Up Where We Belong," and they weren't quite able to top it with this round's "Shake Your Groove Thing." Fortunately, the existence of a groove thing and the shaking thereof does not require a military uniform.
They did, however, come close. While Jenner is expending substantially more effort than Coulier, he is just as much of a clod. And really, nothing makes a man who has little grace appear to have absolutely none quite like purple velour flare-leg pants. Having rid himself of both elegance and dignity, Jenner can be expected next week to punctuate his routine with obscene armpit noises.
Skating away with it
Once again this week, the runaway leaders were Jillian Barberie and John Zimmerman. Production tried to create a measure of drama with the revelation that Barberie pulled a groin muscle going during practice. But just as reality-show viewers have become accustomed to efforts to make foregone conclusions seem less so, people watching this show are well aware that Barberie isn't going anywhere anytime soon, in spite of her clear fondness for saying "groin injury."
Their serious, sleek white outfits for "More Than A Woman" were nothing like the clown suits everyone else wore all evening, and served to emphasize that they are actually skating, and not merely wearing funny costumes and trying not to fall down.
Casting is everything in reality shows, and whoever cast Barberie apparently didn't realize that in addition to the advantage she started with as a former skater, the training from a professional partner benefits her more than it benefits anyone else. That means the gap between her and the other contestants looks bigger, not smaller, no matter how the scores are manipulated. Two of the three judges implied that Barberie and Zimmerman's performance this week somehow disappointed them, but the grousing came off like a suspense-building ploy.
Deborah Gibson and Kurt Browning finished in fourth place last week. While this week's skate to "You're The One That I Want" featured more impressively absurd costuming and they were obviously trying very hard (to say the least), Gibson is no skater. These two highly theatrical personalities added up to a lot of posing and mugging, but very little skating, just as was the case in the first week. As he characteristically gentle Dorothy Hamill put it, they look great —from the waist up.
Todd Bridges and Jenni Meno delivered — well, Bridges delivered — the first fall of the competition during a painfully halting skate to "Jungle Boogie." While Bridges is not the first novice skater to land on his behind in public at the worst possible moment, he happens to be the only one who did it in this particular competition. The fall was enough, combined with their weak showing in the first set of performances last week, to spell the end of Bridges and Meno.
So who's next to go? Next week's elimination will be based on next week's performance alone, so almost anything could happen. It's all about falling on your face, after all, and that can happen to anyone.
Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.
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