Poor, sad Skating with the Stars (ABC, Monday, 8 p.m. ET). The ratings are low. The injury count is high. The reviews are scathing. How could a spin-off of ABC's top-rated Dancing with the Stars get it so wrong?
Let's start with the contestants. We tune in for the drama of seeing semi-stars out of their element, competing like their lives depend on winning. Problem is, these C-List celebs aren't all that recognizable. Well, except for Sean Young, an actress who's long captivated the world with her crazy, off-screen antics. Unfortunately, kooky Young couldn't stay upright on skates for more than 15 seconds at a time, and she got booted in the first round. This was very bad news for SWTS: Gone was the most famous face in the bunch.
The remaining contestants were all hit or miss in the recognizability department. If you happen to watch All My Children, you know Rebecca Budig. If you have a tween, you may be able to discern Brandon Mychal Smith, who stars (along with Demi Lovato) on the Disney Channel's Sonny with a Chance.
Sure, we all know Olympic skier Jonny Moseley. But unlike fellow Olympian Evan Lysacek, who'd just won the gold medal when he took his place in the DWTS lineup, Moseley is a fading memory. Bethenny Frankel is well-known to Bravo viewers, but how big a fan base does the reality star have among those watching primetime network TV? Vince Neil, the lead singer for the '80s band Motley Crue, is still famous, but not really among the crowd that goes for TV shows like this one.
Granted, it couldn't have been easy to find high-profile celebs with a knack for figure skating. But couldn't the producers have made up for it by hiring some big-name skaters as their partners? Nancy Kerrigan? Kristi Yamaguchi? Sasha Cohen?
"Truthfully, it would be more interesting to see Johnny Weir skating in the show than judging it," Steve Disson, a producer of skating-oriented TV specials, told Zap2It.com. (An Olympic skater known for his wit, Weir mostly just comes across as mean at the judging table.)
Even if the contestants were bigger stars, this show would have to contend with what's turned out to be a defining problem: Injuries. Moseley ran over his partner, Brooke Castile's hand, cutting her finger to the bone and sending her to the hospital. Neil was prone to falls and injured his back. Mercifully for his spine, he's since been ousted. (Randomly, Smith had to make a hospital run, too, but for food poisoning.)
"Skating is just too hard," professional figure skater Brian Boitano told zap2it.com. In other words, the producers made a mistake in assuming that people with little skating experience could learn to do double axels in a matter of weeks. All the falls and injuries were just par for the course.
"If you fall on the ice, it's really hard," he said. "So I was like, 'All right, this is even a step worse than Dancing with the Stars.' At least the judges were nicer than they are in Dancing with the Stars." Maybe, but watching people fall over and over again is still boring.
And while mistakes come with the live TV territory, there seem to be more here than on other live shows. Dick Button held up a paddle with the number seven, but shouted out "Eight!" Host Vernon Kay called a skater by the wrong name. And of course, there was one awkward fall after another.
When it comes to spin-offs, the DWTS producers might need to go back to the drawing board. Something a little easier this time? How about Lion Taming with the Stars? Tightrope Walking with the Stars? Or maybe they should just stick with dancing.
Why do you think SWTS hasn't been as successful as DWTS?