Remember The Olympics and the national pride we all felt back then? Well it seems that Saturday night TV in 2013 wants to capitalise on it as two new shows have come along with familiar faces from the event. The BBC appear to have reinvented the Krypton Factor with Britain’s Brightest hosted by everyone’s favourite Olympic presenter Claire Balding while ITV1 have gone more energetic with celebrity diving contest Splash! the face of which is cheeky Olympic medallist Tom Daley. Though Daley is very talented in his field I had some trepidation about him hosting a prime time Saturday night show. I was semi-relieved when it was revealed that the hosting team were Gabby Logan and Vernon Kay. Straight away Splash! felt a little cheesy as rent-a-divers in day-glow outfits presented a mini-routine while the crowd chanted on waving those awful foam fingers. Didn’t they go out of fashion when Gladiators finished? When Vernon Kay, who was wearing an ill-fitting pair of shorts, shouted ‘the atmosphere in Luton is electric’ I knew Splash! wouldn’t be a Saturday night show that would last past one series and that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate more than one episode.
There were lots of problems with Splash! and number one was the level of ‘celebrity’ involved which will make people who complain about the Celebrity Big Brother line-up feel lucky with what they’ve got. First up was Jade from Sugababes whose job appeared to be the contestant who would provide ‘something for the dads’ as she wore a gold bikini all evening and the opening slow-mo shots of her approaching the diving board were very reminiscent of the opening titles of Baywatch. I started to feel for poor Jade, who wasn’t even given a towel to dry off with following her dive, as every time we saw her she looked to be questioning why she agreed to do this in the first place. Following Jade was that guy from Benidorm and Helen Lederer the latter of whom always seems to be a part of these ‘celebrity’ shows despite the fact nobody can remember what she was famous for doing. While Helen was firmly presented as ‘the comedy act’ it was the guy from Benidorm whose dive had special poignancy as he had developed a fear of water after being in Thailand during the Boxing Day Tsunami eight years ago. While I can appreciate that the Splash! producers want to give us some X-Factor style sob stories I don’t think a comedy actor recounting a near death experience is what people want out of their Saturday entertainment programming. Next we had Jenni Falcolner who bragged about her level of fitness but when she came up to the board her gymnastic effort was only average at best. At least the final contestant of the evening, Omid Djalili, actually did something fairly impressive when he jumped from the ten metre board which to me provided the only highlight of the five dives.
Another issue I had with Splash! was that there was plenty of build-up for what was essentially somebody jumping into water. While dancing and singing shows are everywhere these days at least both of those type of performances last at least two to three minutes while a dive is over in a matter of seconds. After the Olympics it was also fairly clear that none of us really understand how diving is scored so the judging panel’s comments also seemed rather irrelevant. Talking of the panel they were comprised of Daley’s diving coach Andy Banks, who kept trying to create catchphrases for himself, as well as former Olympic medallist Leon Taylor who appeared to be the panel’s ‘Mr Nasty’ after failing to score anybody above a 6.5. Oddly the third judge was Jo Brand, presumably because she did that diving programme on Dave a couple of years back, who was on hand to offer bad jokes and high scores to the contestants but personally I thought she was better than this.
After an incredibly naff James Bond diving routine, which didn’t really seem to impress the once electric Luton crowd, it was time to reveal the results of the home vote in which the audience had a massive six and a half minutes to call the premium rate number. To me this was one of the worst parts of Splash! mainly because Gabby and Vernon couldn’t decide whether one semi-finalist would be decided via a ‘dive-off’ or a ‘splash-off’ while it also appeared as if one of the contestants were eliminated too early. While Jade was the first to go, probably glad that she finally got the use of a towel, Omid predictably sailed through to the semi-final. Eventually it was revealed that Benidorm Guy and Jenni were to compete in the Splash-off, or was it the dive-off, with the former joining Omid in the semi-final which as you can guess I probably won’t be watching.
From the tacky setting to the level of ‘celebrity’ involved everything about Splash! felt a bit cheesy and naff to the extent that I thought I was watching a programme from 1993 rather than 2013. The only saving grace was Daley himself who actually seemed to take what he was doing seriously and gave each celebrity constructive advice on how to improve their dives. While he wasn’t particularly charismatic during his interviews his passion for trying to get diving into the mainstream shone through and I hope being involved in this catastrophe doesn’t dent his image too much. Though Splash! may not have been as bad as say Celebrity Wrestling or Famous and Fearless it still felt awfully dated and didn’t make me feel nostalgic for the Olympics one little bit. While I can sort of see what the producers of the programme were trying to create ultimately Splash! will be seen as a failure of a programme which I can’t see being recommissioned after its five week run comes to an end.