It had so much promise. A reality television / game show about celebrities learning to dive from a variety of great heights. Better than your usual reality guff, right? Not really…
“Splash!” is a series that invites your usual Z-list celebrities to follow in the footsteps of Tom Daley, Peter Waterfield and Tonia Couch. The dives were never going to be as extravagant as the Chinese champions’, but what do you expect after a few weeks practice? The format of taking an Olympic sport and transferring it to prime-time entertainment working for Dancing on Ice, so why do I get the feeling it’s a missed opportunity for diving?
Whereas Dancing on Ice is as close as you can get to actual ice dancing with at least one professional and moves taken straight from the competitive manual, Splash! grabs overweight nobodies and poseurs to fall off a board from about 3 metres up and get arbitrarily scored for it. That’s after all the ridiculous dancing, revealing of ridiculous costumes (or lack of) and the briefest of talks with everyone’s favourite presenters Gabby Logan and Vernon Kaye. Of course, it wouldn’t be Saturday night without a sob story – I only watched the first three dives and I lost count of all the “brave”, “courage”, “guts” and “amazed” buzzwords thrown all over the place.
Not that they weren’t brave. It’s a word that’s lost some of its meaning these days, but you wouldn’t see me diving from a 5m platform into some pretty hard water. I can’t even dive off the edge of a swimming pool and I feel like strangling the kids that can. Well, OK, not quite. Remember, though, that at it’s core, this is a programme about diving. Regular people climbing up the daunting stairs, staring down into a gaping pool with millions of people watching you and just jumping off. For the time I watched it, nobody got it right. Over-rotations and gangly legs everywhere. Not everyone played it safe, though and Jake Canuso’s dive was an unexpected treat.
The star of the show, without any doubt, was Tom Daley. A mentor to the “stars”, Daley showed everyone how to dive and didn’t appear to be arrogant or impatient about any of it. He was there for moral support and was on hand to give everyone a big old hug at the end of it. He was everywhere but the show needed him. Unfortunately, where you have a teen idol like Tom, you’ll get his screaming army of fans. Or, at least, a screaming army of people pretending to be fans. At every mention of his name, a horde of lustful teens screamed in his direction, holding aloft messages from their iPads and racy underwear maybe, I don’t know. Just like the atmosphere at a One Direction concert (probably, ahem), I’m glad I wasn’t there.
If Splash! had concentrated more on the diving aspect than glamming it up for Saturday night, fewer people may have derided it. If the ever-irritating Olympian Leon Taylor (know-it-all commentator at London 2012) and the pointless Jo Brand hadn’t have been there, there may have been some integrity to the whole thing. If I couldn’t watch more than half of the first episode – and I’m a sports fan – then how on Earth am I going to watch an entire series of this?