To many viewers, NBC figure skating analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir are Olympic darlings — a one-stop shop for knowledge, sass and brass. Others, however, reach for their ear plugs, calling the duo mean, obnoxious and distracting. This debate resurfaces every time Lipinski and Weir appear on television.
“They’re just awful,” one commenter wrote after a Washington Post interview with Lipinski and Weir. Another added, “They chatter incessantly like a couple of squirrels.”
Their supporters are equally passionate; “I love these guys,” one reader wrote. “They bring the skating events to life with their insightful, enthusiastic and wry coverage.”
Weir and Lipinski took over NBC’s flagship commentating perch in PyeongChang, amplifying the discussion.
“For this last decade, I’ve been working towards this next dream of sitting in the prime time booth,” said Lipinski, who like Weir, is a former Olympic star and is now in her thirties. “It feels very surreal.”
The duo replaced familiar figure skating broadcaster Scott Hamilton in the primetime slot, which he had held for decades (he can still be seen elsewhere in NBC’s coverage). Hamilton, 59, was typically more measured in his on-air remarks. That style, for better or worse, began to fade during the Sochi Olympics, when Lipinski and Weir debuted on NBC’s cable network, NBCSN.
“Johnny and Tara were just this phenomenon, and no one was going to stop them,” Hamilton told the New York Times. “They were such a breath of fresh air.”
The mainstream media (including The Post) has tended to agree. “The commentary combo [of Lipinski and Weir] is more of a reason to tune in to the Winter Olympics than the individuals and pairs populating the competition itself,” wrote USA Today this month. The Hollywood Reporter described the pair’s tone as “wonderful cattiness.” Even the Wall Street Journal gave them a glowing review, while the New York Times toured their PyeongChang hotel room.
The public’s commentary on the commentators, however, seems to be endlessly divisive. Common debate topics include Weir’s outfits (“Weir looks like he should be hosting the hunger games”), their broadcast partner Terry Gannon (“I feel sorry for [him]”) and, ultimately, whether to deploy the mute button or not.
Weir isn’t shy, or apologetic, about what he and Lipinski are trying to accomplish.
“We have a big pride and honor in making the best reality TV show there is and that is the Olympics,” he said in an interview. “I have never felt bad about anything I’ve said for the most part, simply because when you tell the truth, while it may not always be the prettiest truth in the whole world, you don’t have anything to regret.”
Whether you appreciate Lipinski’s and Weir’s “truth” — and their newfangled approach — it appears they’re here for the long haul. Aside from anchoring the final figure skating competition Thursday night (the women’s free skate), and the exhibition gala over the weekend, NBC announced that Lipinski, Weir and Gannon will also host coverage of the PyeongChang Closing Ceremonies this weekend. The reaction to this news? Predictably, it was both joy and agony.
“Love them! Look forward to this!” one viewer wrote. “They are beautiful, artistic souls and I enjoy their rapport.”
“Just when I thought the coverage couldn’t get worse,” wrote another.
“Excellent choice!!!” wrote a fan.
“Swell. I guess I’m skipping the Closing Ceremonies then,” wrote a non-fan.
Other responses labeled this either the “Best news ever!!!!!” or the “worst possible idea!”
When the Olympics officially end, fans of Tara and Johnny will have to get their fix elsewhere (perhaps at the Kentucky Derby, or in the recording studio). Haters, on the other hand, can look forward to finally being able to raise the volume on their TVs.
Read more Post coverage of the PyeongChang Olympics: