Every couple of years now, we ignore the Olympics for a few days and then are drawn in by the inherent drama. It’s good stuff. The stuff Skating with Celebrities is made of, only without Bruce Jenner and the cutaways to his wife and daughters.
The latest Olympic coverage on NBC has done away with the tinkling piano tragedy stories in favor of X-game attitude profiles. With semi-athletes like snowboarders taking center stage, it all fits— but what the hell is up with Johnny Weir?
Maybe this kid is old news. We don’t know. We haven’t followed figure skating until Fox’s Skating with Celebrities became the breakout surprise hit of the season in the Tabloid Baby office. But young Johnny has got to be the future of Olympic competition, a test balloon for NBC's political agenda, a test pilot for some new wave of social engineering, or living proof that we all live in one big Christopher Guest movie.
We get it. We’ve seen the Target ads. Everybody’s gay. But this kid is something else indeed. He’s the harbinger for breaking down the gender boundaries in the Olympics and letting men compete against women. Dressed in a Bjork swan outfit—with a red glove to represent the bird’s goddamn head-- he went out and did a lovely skate. But it could have fit easily in either category. Male or female or something in between.
And that's fine with us. Not our bailiwick. The genetic engineering in both sexes is glaring in the Olympic competition, so there’s no reason to pick on this poor androgyne. He’s obviously been picked on enough.
No, sitting at home last night, it wasn’t the performance, but NBC’s videotaped Johnny Weir profile that was offensive. We were embarrassed to be watching it with the kids. It wasn't the obvious "in your face" offensiveness they aimed for, either, setting him up as a "flamboyant diva" ice rink version of Loudon Wainwright’s kid. They shot him lounging on a chaise in scenes that were caught somewhere between Bravo and Blueboy. They had him posing in a Soviet CCCP zip-up number. Real hip. Real annoying. They had him driving in his car, playing “What A Girl Wants” on the car radio. What got us was how NBC Sports tried to add to his rebel cred by replaying his interview bite in which Johnny described a fellow skater’s performance as “a vodka shot, let's-snort-coke kind of thing.”
Vodka and cocaine? In the Olympics? C’mon, guys and gals. We get it with the brokeback locker room, drawn-to-skating and Swan Lake standard media message. But throwing in recreational drug references when folks are getting disqualified for using anti-baldness remedies isn’t cool. We were doing enough explaining about Johnny’s lipstick and his final line in the piece, when he sneered that anyone who doesn’t dig his style can “eat it.”
Which brings us to NBC's Olympian signs of aging. Though we don’t have Jim McKay wizening biennially into a Cabbage Patch Kid before our eyes, we now have Bob Costas, NBC’s former smart aleck wonderboy, now about to turn 54, still looking like the little kid sitting up trying to reach the grownup table, but with his babyface lined and hair Grecian Formulaed and looking more like that crazy guy with who used to play the drums in Times Square (see Taxi Driver) than the kid in A Christmas Story. Anyone planning to sign Katie Couric to a long-term contract should turn in to Hi-Def Costas to get a look at the future of perky.