The single greatest travesty in Olympic broadcasting is the fact that Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski do not have prime time jobs (yet). Watching the Winter Olympics has been tricky. Russia and its uncooperative time zone make it so our primetime viewing options are old, stagnant performances and athletic feats that happened some eight hours earlier. There are spoilers and spoiler warnings; it all feels like a hassle.
But I can say, unflinchingly, that the best thing about watching these Olympics live is the presence of former national champion Johnny Weir and former Olympic Champion Tara Lipinski on commentary during NBCSN's 10 a.m. figure skating broadcasts. And the prime reason is the amount of shade being thrown (the second reason, of course are Weir's Hunger Games-ish outfits).
The two, combined with the straight-faced Terry Gannon, have a bubbly chemistry, probably cultivated by hanging around one another even when the cameras are off. They're the Frank and Claire Underwood, the Karen and Jack, the RuPaul and Michelle Visage of figure skating.
Friday was the best day yet. With a men's free skate filled with flawed, chippy, scratchy performances (results here if you want a spoiler), the two shined like diamonds. Bitchy, shade-throwing diamonds. The thing to remember with shade, is that it relies on subtlety and wit. With that in mind, here's a brief collection of the pair's best zingers from Friday (we've edited them a bit to not give away results).
"He really reminds me of a hockey player that's also a really good dancer." — Weir, on Czech skater Thomas Verner.
Shade level: Total eclipse. This is prime shade, an artful putdown because there are limits on a hockey player's dancing skills.
"Terrence, I think you know that I will say it's better to stand on your own." — Weir.
Shade level: Umbrella. This was Johnny's response to Terry Gannon as to whether or not he would rather see a teammate do well or beat him. Note the use of the name Terrence, not Terry, which automatically ups the shade component score. And the subtle way Johnny called this question stupid meant big bonus points.
Gannon: "So [changing your skating technique] is like changing your golf swing?"
[million second pause/ possible crickets]
Lipinski: "...We wouldn't know."
Shade level: Willow Tree. Notice how they let Terry just wallow in that question, then made him feel bad for liking golf.
"[Czech skater] Michal [Brezina] is skating to the soundtrack from Sherlock Holmes, so watch for that detective style and mystery caper-solving in this program." —Weir.
Shade level: Sun hat. Always be wary when Johnny Weir asks you to "watch for" something.
"I feel like he's the cool kid of skating" — Weir
Shade level: Visor. Being the "cool kid of skating" is kinda like saying you're the best house on a bad block.
Sometimes situations call for more blunt insults. That happened on Friday as well.
Weir: "[Estonian Viktor Romanekov] is looking mildly disinterested today."
"It's as if nobody showed up." — Johnny
Reading level: Harlequin novel.
"It's a shame that he's given up on this free program because there are several other men that I'm sure would have loved the chance to compete in this free program today." - Weir
Reading level: Library. Mind you, this was said as someone was still skating.
As you can see, if you're not tuning in to NBC's daytime coverage of the Olympics, then you are missing some of NBC's best stuff. No offense to Mary Carillo. And just know that this means we're not fans of Scott Hamilton (because we are). We'd love to see Hamilton, Weir, and Lipinski (and eventually RuPaul) share a booth.