Former Olympic skaters Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir hit a rough patch of ice Thursday night in their debut as lead figure skating analysts for NBC at the Winter Olympics.
The judges of social media wanted them to stop talking — ironic, as they’re being paid to talk.
The former Olympic skaters made a huge splash with fans four years ago at the winter games in Sochi, Russia, with their knowledgeable commentary and flamboyant fashion away from the ice rink.
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In Pyeongchang they succeed Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic as lead analysts for figure skating.
The Wall Street Journal gushed all over them as the young, charismatic pair headed to South Korea: “The most incisive, most engaging and maybe even the best sports broadcasters on television wear bedazzled headsets.”
We’ve come a long way since Sochi 2014. We are honored and privileged to be able to cover all the action on the ice for you guys from Pyeongchang 2018. We can’t wait to get started! @taralipinski @johnnygweir @terrygannon83 #winterolympics #throwbackthursday
A post shared by TARA & JOHNNY (@taraandjohnny) on
Tara and Johnny — as they call themselves — made it clear that their analysis of skaters in Pyeongchang will be critical, blunt and honest. “For some reason, we just don’t care,” Lipinski told the Journal. “We tell it like it is.”
Added Weir: “It’s the era of reality TV. And we try to make the best reality TV show there is at the Olympics.”
Sports commentary is a critical job. Figure skating should be treated no differently than football or hockey. Real critiques > Fluff.— Johnny Weir (@JohnnyGWeir) November 30, 2015
Well, the reality for some fans on Thursday was they didn’t like what Tara and Johnny were bringing.
Fans especially took issue with the way they talked about star American skater Nathan Chen as the 18-year-old struggled in his first time on Olympic ice.
In the men’s short program for the team event, Chen fell on a jump and placed fourth overall.
Weir called it “a disaster.”
"That is the worst short program I've ever seen from Nathan Chen", says Johnny Weir.— Hannah Stuart (@HockeywthHannah) February 9, 2018
Tara and Johnny are being absolutely brutal tonight.
#Olympics So annoyed with these team ice skating commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. A moment ago they were praising Nathan Chen as if he were a God and he makes a mistake (he is human) and now they are crucifying him. Opening ceremonies haven't even happened yet.— Dawn (@DawnGrpntblank) February 9, 2018
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Throughout the broadcast, social media users complained about how the duo crossed that fine line between critical and catty.
These #Olympics figure skating commentators are BRUTAL. They called one skater’s the “weak link” and his performance “technically a disaster” and another’s “abysmal,” “the worst I’ve ever seen from him.” I’m over here like pic.twitter.com/lqYQW0XwvL— Katy Doom (@katydoom) February 9, 2018
NBC should send Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir to cover White House press briefings. #Olympics— Ted Atkinson (@atkinson_ted) February 9, 2018
If Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir are this brutally honest and catty on television, can you imagine what they are like when they think no one is listening? Yikes. ⛸#olympics— Erin O’Neill (@IrishBelle_1) February 9, 2018
Wish you were commentator at the Olympics! Thank you for being kind and supportive to our athletes. @taralipinski & @JohnnyGWeir need to learn from you. Show some compassion and stop the mean comments, @TaraandJohnny! https://t.co/7ppxQXtZLf— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) February 9, 2018
Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir need to ease up on the rude, brutal commentary, unless they're about to strap on the old skates and show us how it's done. And in those unfortunate, hideous outfits, it looks like that's exactly what they intend to do. #Olympics— Shannon (@EyeoftheSiren) February 9, 2018
The other major complaint? People wanted them to stop talking so much while the competitors skated. The diss even inspired a new drinking game.
Oh my god. Can Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir just shut up?! Please, just stop talking.— Lytian Andrade (@Lytian) February 9, 2018
Hi Tara and Johnny and Terry we're supposed to be hearing the music and it's really hard when you're talking over it so shut up— Sassy Skater (@sassy_skater) January 22, 2017
Open letter to Tara and Johnny: SHUT UP AND STOP RUINING FANTASTIC SKATING!! It is SO ANNOYING.— Rink Rat (@axelpiggy) January 22, 2017
Ugh, Tara and Johnny are both too talkative and too savage for me. (a) shut up a little and (b) put down the thesaurus and stop collecting increasingly intense ways to say "not good"#Olympics #PyeongChang2018 #FigureSkating— victoria elizabeth (@surrexi) February 9, 2018
Tara and Johnny honestly kill the mood with their commentary. I just realized I used to be mesmerized during figure skating routines. Now I'm just too busy trying to mute them in my head.— Alex Tank-WHOA (@atankco) February 9, 2018
Dear Tara and Johnny SHUT UP AND LET ME ENJOY THE BEAUTY OF SKATING WITHOUT YOU GUYS RUINING IT EVERY .3 SECONDS YIU GUYS TALK DURING A ROUTINE— Alex Ludeman (@andromedalex) January 6, 2018
New #USChamps17 drinking game: Sip every time you feel like telling Tara (and/or Johnny) to shut up.— Not Actually A Giraffe (@ItsAFez66) January 20, 2017
(H/T to @mrthnsufferings )
Other fans, however, loved the “Tara and Johnny” show, and their clothes. Weir’s shiny jacket made some people think of “Hunger Games” host Caesar Flickerman.
I support Mean Johnny Weir. He's an announcer, not the skaters' damn publicist.— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) February 9, 2018
How do we get Johnny Weir calling more sports? I need him on everything.— Judy Battista (@judybattista) February 9, 2018
you would not be able to miss tara lapinski and johnny weir’s outfits even if you were on the outer rims of the galaxy pic.twitter.com/fNLDP9lbFF— Joon Lee (@iamjoonlee) February 9, 2018
I will always, always need more Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski in my life. They need to do commentary beyond the Olympics because waiting between Olympics for them is too long!— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) February 9, 2018
But the complaints were so overwhelming that supporters rushed to their defense on Friday.
“Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski are really good analysts,” wrote Mack Rawden for CinemaBlend.
“If they keep improving, they could eventually be considered among the strongest niche sport commentators on television, and there are very valid reasons for why they were so aggressive last night: the skating was awful.”
It’s not the job of professional commentators to be nice, Rawden wrote.
“It’s also not their job to be mean. It’s their job to explain what’s happening and offer context to those of us watching at home. So, when everyone is performing better than expected, we should expect to hear lots of positive statements. When everyone is screwing up, we should hear lots of negative statements. Last night was (mostly) a bloodbath. As a viewer, I would prefer to hear the truth, not some nicey-nice, overly optimistic slant on the truth.”
Fireworks are launched during the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Games. Associated Press; Monty Davis, curator