I have always been fascinated by what certain networks put up against big time television events. For example what does CBS put on against the World Series airing on the FOX network. I suppose there is some strategy to it. As a big time network television exec, what do you put up against a behemoth of television event by a rival network? Do you a) put on a highly rated program of your own to combat the effect of the ratings vacuum b) put on an alternative type of program to collect a totally different demographic or c) throw up a white flag and completely surrender by putting on the most god awful crap you can find because no one will be watching anyways.
In many instances those in charge of programming choose the latter and I must say I LOVE the choice. This ideology has given me the privilege over the years, of bearing witness to some of the most gloriously terrible programming in history: Rocky V, various grainy quality Steven Segal movies circa 1984, a film about giant bunnies that terrorize the southwest (adapted from the book “The Year of the Angry Rabbit”…you just can’t make this stuff up people), a three hour infomercial about a knife that can cut thru steel toed boots, and did I mention Rocky V?
These all rank as 10 out of 10 on my scale of unintentional comedy. I was quite comfortable with my scale until this past weekend. And although I can barely stand to disrupt the sanctity of 1-10 ratings system let me channel Spinal Tap, when I say I may have found a program that “goes to 11”.
Ladies and Gentleman, without any further ado I present to you the “ Progressive presents Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular”. This little nugget aired from 4-6pm Sunday afternoon on NBC opposite the NFC and AFC Championship on FOX and CBS respectively. Although a written description does it little justice, let me paint a picture if I can. During the opening sequence the center portion of a very darkly lit arena is illuminated to reveal various gymnastics apparatus scattered across the ice in a minor league hockey arena in the hotbed of cosmopolitan culture, Rapid City, SD. Next, as two male figure skaters clad in onion hugging pink pastel body suits begin a routine, Olympic Champions Nastia Lukin and an offseason (I hope) 400 lb William “The Refrigerator” Perr- I mean Shawn Johnson pirouette and pose around the various gymnastics apparatus. The male skaters move towards them and inexplicably they pick Lukin up and carry/parade her around for one lap around the ice, while being very careful not to get close to the rings or uneven bars on which other gymnasts have begun routines. After one laugh…I mean lap Lukin is handed off to the other male skater who in turn goes for another lap. Brilliant stuff. Mind you this is the opening three minutes of a 2 hour program.
Now I was wondering what I’m sure you are currently wondering, “Who in the hell would go to this stupid thing?” The answer: basically no one. During the first pan out you realize that the roughly 2000 seat arena is about 75% empty. The persistent and defining cheers are not of adoring fans but rather a piped in cheer track over the arena’s loud speaker. Those who are in attendance sit expressionless and silent, more as if they are attending a body exhumation than something adorned with the hyperbolic title of “spectacular”.
The broadcast team for the “Progressive presents Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular” is later revealed to be none other than real life husband and wife pair, and Olympic Gold Medalists themselves, Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci. It is not however revealed whether they were the brainchild for this Frankenstein-like abomination of a show.
I’m wondering if you would get as many kids training there whole lives to reach the pinnacle of there respective sports, to be Olympic Champion in figure skating or gymnastics, if they knew it would allow them a place in a two hour dog and pony show taping in South Dakota two days before Christmas. Just a thought.
It was about 5 minutes before I switched back to the football and I didn’t catch the last hour and 55 minutes of the show. I really wish I had had the foresight to Tivo the rest of the show. If you have the means I highly recommend watching a bit of this you’ll be better for it.