A tall young man in a lean gray suit was blaring schmooze into a hand mic. His accent was unforgivingly Mancunian, and his tone music-hall brassy. Something in his manner made it seem probable that he had arrived at his position as a TV-show host directly from an apprenticeship at the valet stand. He said his name was Vernon Kay, and he told me to prepare myself for a reality competition featuring costumes “even tinier” than those worn on Dancing With the Stars. Was this TLC’s annual little-people lingerie fashion show? Was it that time of year already? No, it was Skating With the Stars (ABC, Mondays at 9 p.m. ET), and Vernon roared, “If you like watching celebrities fall over—and let’s face it, who doesn’t?—then you’ve come to the right place.”
Shortly I grew concerned that the particular half-dozen celebrities on offer were not of the proper timber to produce satisfying thuds. Though there was an early promising glimpse of Bethenny Frankel at full rictus, lips coated the red of the fruit of temptation, mostly Skating With the Stars resembled Fresh Meat on Ice. Here was a Disney-channel dreamboat, smoothly mugging; his smile, broader yet than Bethenny’s, bared healthy gums. Here was a soap actress. (To be clear, the woman is an actress on a soap opera, not an actress made of soap, though the latter seemed more likely at frequent intervals.) Say hello to the skier Jonny Moseley, an Olympic gold medalist in 1998, which is not a recent year, though admittedly an extraordinary one for Châteauneuf de Pape. Put your hands together for Vince Neil, late of Mötley Crüe. While you are reading this, somebody somewhere in America is overtipping a stripper named Jasmine as the Crüe’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” plays, plays, plays, and in that context, Vince is an immortal. On your TV, however, he is most noteworthy for not looking half so unwell as Bret Michaels.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you were sure you’d heard this record before—then a startled needle skidded across vinyl. Here was Sean Young! You may cherish Young as a movie actress, a femme fatale type in No Way Outand Blade Runner. Or perhaps you cherish her from such parts as “Crazy Sean Young Ejected From DGA Awards” or “Crazy Sean Young Crashes Vanity Fair Oscar Party” or Sean Young Begs for the Part of Catwoman in a Crazy Fashion. In an attempt to satisfy both constituencies, Skating With the Stars calls her a “movie icon,” which is probably how they would ID Norma Desmond, whose furs Young appeared to have borrowed in one taped bit. Her lavender skating costume was like a backless mother-of-the-bride dress.
The panel of judges includes an unsubtle woman from the field of pop choreography (“dance chick” is the clinical term); glam Johnny Weir, who now looks more like Adam Ant than Mr. Ant himself; and Dick Button, a two-time Olympic champion and figure skating’s elder statesman. Still marvelously agile in his ninth decade, Button last night pulled some kind of triple loop that enabled him to escape the episode with his dignity intact. It was like watching Clarence Darrow presiding over The People’s Court and winning the crowd over by trading earthy smiles with Rusty the Bailiff.
The stars skated with their partners—one-foot assisted glides, pair spins, frenzied grinning. No one fell, which was all for the best; always leave them wanting more. In a relaxed moment, Young fussed with the toes of her tights. Vernon opened his trap to once again assure the heterosexual males in the audience of that they were in the right place: “If you like tiny costumes and water so hard you can break a hip, then this is the show for you.” He also called Skating With the Stars “the most dangerous competition on live TV,” which will be news to the compilers of next week’s NFL Injury Report and to those congressmen now serving out lame-duck sessions.