Thursday, January 11, 2018
Show of hands -- how many remember Tonya Harding? For those of us old enough to be cognizant in 1994, she's kind of hard to forget. She dominated the headlines for weeks.
For those too young, or those who've forgotten, ABC is airing a two-hour special at 8 p.m. today. Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story features "an emotional interview" with the figure skater who is best known for the infamous police baton attack on chief rival Nancy Kerrigan on Jan. 6, 1994.
The footage of Kerrigan clutching her right knee and wailing, "Why? Why? Why?" is still tough to watch.
"It makes you cringe, hearing it," Harding says in the special. "Because you know how much that it had to have hurt."
But it wasn't Harding who attacked the Olympic hopeful. As the soap opera unfolded, it was learned that Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, plotted the attack with three others, one of whom caught up with Kerrigan at a Detroit ice rink two days before the Olympic trials. With Kerrigan unable to skate, Harding won a spot on the U.S. team at the 1994 Norway Olympics.
By Jan. 14, the plot had been uncovered. Although Harding denied involvement, Gillooly was charged with conspiracy to assault Kerrigan. Shortly after, Harding changed her story, admitting that she had learned of Gillooly's role after the attack, but failed to inform authorities.
In the end, Kerrigan and Harding were named to the Olympic team and their competition set ratings records. A bootlace-plagued Harding managed only eighth, while a fully recovered Kerrigan won the silver medal behind Ukraine's Oksana Baiul.
But the soap opera didn't end there.
Harding was fined, sentenced to probation and community service for conspiracy to hinder prosecution and, in 2002, Harding participated in an episode of Fox's Celebrity Boxing against Bill Clinton sexual harassment accuser Paula Jones.
The matchup was billed as Tonya "TNT" Harding vs. Paula "The Arkansas Pounder" Jones. For the record, Jones kept running away whenever she was hit and Harding was awarded a technical knockout.
Harding's life was the subject of a 2017 black comedy, I, Tonya, that focused on the attack on Kerrigan. The film has gotten generally positive reviews, even earning a Golden Globe nomination.
In the ABC special, the 47-year-old Harding "opens up about her life now, her childhood and her past, the attack on Kerrigan and the tumultuous relationships she had with her mother, LaVona "Sandy" Golden, and Gillooly.
Also in the special, Harding once again changes her story, indicating she "knew something was up" when she heard Gillooly and his friend plotting "a month or two" before the attack.
"I did, however, overhear them talking about stuff, [saying], 'Well, maybe we should take somebody out so we can make sure she gets on the team.' And I remember telling them, 'What the hell are you talking about? I can skate.'"
The special has rarely seen video of Harding as a child and interviews with news anchor Connie Chung, whose interview with Harding during the '94 Olympics was dramatically cut short when Harding walked out.
Also interviewed are Harding's coach, Dody Teachman, a number of others familiar with her life, as well as actors Margot Robbie, who plays Harding in I, Tonya, Allison Janney, who portrays her mother, and Sebastian Stan, who plays Gillooly.
And Kerrigan? We last saw the 48-year-old last year in Season 24 of Dancing With the Stars. She was eliminated in week seven.
• Special treat. Friends, it just doesn't get much better than Tony Bennett, and AETN has a two-hour special to prove it. Tony Bennett: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song airs at 8 p.m. Friday.
On hand to perform in honor of the venerable 91-year-old national treasure are Chris Botti, Michael Buble, Michael Feinstein, Savion Glover, Josh Groban, We McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Vanessa Williams and Wynton Marsalis. Bruce Willis hosts.
• Taken. Season 2 finally arrives at 8 p.m. today on NBC. The series got a major overhaul between seasons. Only two actors are returning -- Clive Standen and Jennifer Beals. Season 2 promises to be "more procedural."
• Blindspot returns from its winter hiatus at 8 p.m. Friday on NBC with a large part of the tale filmed in Morocco. Also, look for a nail-biting skydiving sequence over New York. It was real. There was no computer-generated magic for that one.
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