Let's face it: "Ice Wars: The U.S.A. vs. The World," the two-night made-for-television ice skating extravaganza, would be nothing more than the idle ruminations of a network executive if not for last winter's "Tonya Harding Free-For-All."
For those of you hiding under rocks (and there weren't many, according to the Winter Olympics ratings), Nancy Kerrigan was nearly taken out of the run for the gold with a well-placed shot to her right knee at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Harding and Kerrigan made the trip to Lillehammer, Norway, for the Olympics, and the first night of the women's competition drew the fourth-largest audience in television history and was the sixth-highest-rated telecast of all time.
So, as tomorrow's show -- pitting a team of four skaters, two male and two female, from the United States against a team from around the world, hence the title -- prepares to air from Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. (Channel 11, 8 p.m.), guess who won't be there?
"If you're going to pick the top two ladies skaters in the country from the professional ranks, I don't think she [Harding] would be in there," said David Winner, who will produce the two shows. "If we went three-deep, you might be able to make a case, throwing aside all the other things. But to have Tonya in this competition would be pandering to a low instinct."
Goodness knows, no one associated with television has ever been accused of pandering to a low instinct.
At any rate, the U.S. team of Kerrigan, Kristi Yamaguchi, Brian Boitano and Paul Wylie should handle itself well against the world squad of Oksana Baiul, Katarina Witt, Viktor Petrenko and Kurt Browning. The finals are scheduled for Saturday night at the Providence (R.I.) Civic Center.
It is built and they have come
At 8:30 tonight, ESPN airs an intriguing one-hour special, "Dreamfield," which visits the Dyersville, Iowa, farm and field featured in the wonderful 1989 movie, "Field of Dreams."
While it does at times lapse into the "baseball as metaphor for life" cliche that has taken the fun out of the game for many, "Dreamfield," narrated by James Earl Jones, who played author Terrence Mann in the movie, is a warm slice of Americana.
Sorry seems to be the hardest
Sorry seems to be the hardest
Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis has written to ABC/Capital Cities, the majority owner of ESPN, seeking a retraction for a story on "NFL GameDay" two weeks ago that alleged that Raiders coach Art Shell uttered a racial slur during an on-field argument with quarterback Jeff Hostetler on Oct. 16.
Shell and Hostetler have denied the report from ESPN's Chris Mortensen. The network says it stands by the story.
Birdies in prime time
Bad news, kids: You'll have to do without "Who's the Boss?" reruns for a couple of nights as TBS tees up a rare midweek tournament, the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, tonight and tomorrow at 6:05 p.m. from the Poipu Bay Resort Golf Course in Kauai, Hawaii.
The field features this year's winners of the four major championships -- Jose Maria Olazabal (the Masters), Ernie Els (U.S. Open), Nick Price (British Open and the PGA championship) and Greg Norman, the defending Grand Slam champion to round out the foursome -- in a two-round, 36-hole showdown.
The winner takes home $400,000, and the fourth-place finisher is guaranteed $150,000.
Between the pipes
An interesting sidelight of tonight's International Hockey League game between the Houston Aeros and the Las Vegas Thunder, to be carried on ESPN2 at 10 p.m., is that Manon Rheaume, the first woman to play in a regular-season professional hockey game when she played for the Atlanta Knights of the IHL two years ago, will start in goal for the Thunder.