As So So Gay’s Sports Editor, and a huge diving fan, I approached ITV’s Splash! on behalf of So So Gay with equal amounts of excitement and dread. We wanted to know if this could be the show that helped raise the awareness of the sport, and lift it out of the minority sport category, or would it be the standard poorly produced, celebrity ego-massage that ITV seem to so proficient at creating? Unfortunately it was the latter.
To anyone who remembers The Games on Channel 4, this was not like that. We were expecting there to be a selection of celebrities who spent weeks improving and learning new dives, kind of like Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing on Ice, but it wasn’t to be. On Splash!, the celebrities perform one dive from the board of their choice. Without going into the complexities of the scoring or the viewer vote, it’s easier to say that the two best divers go through to the semi final, where we assume they will need to perform a more complex dive.
Presented by Vernon Kay and Gabby Logan, the show followed five celebrities as they trained to perform a dive on the live show. Each dive was judged by a panel of ‘experts’ including 2004 Olympic silver medallist, Leon Taylor, Tom Daley’s coach Andy Banks, and comedienne and professional belly flopper Jo Brand. We were not really sure what qualifies Brand to be a judge on a diving show. She mentioned something about being a 3m springboard diver in her youth, but it was hard to distinguish fact from joke with her dry humour. Leon Taylor, meanwhile, was cast as the Nasty Nigel/Simon Cowell character, which came across as forced and unnecessary; anyone who heard his diving coverage at the Olympics knows that’s not what he’s like.
The show opened with a professional performance. Several divers performed a show routine which culminated in Daley performing a dive. This was accompanied by constant screaming from the numerous 14 year-old girls and middle-aged gay men in the audience, which almost had us reaching for the off switch in the first two minutes, but we stuck with it.
This weeks celebrity contestants included Sugababe Jade Ewan, Benidorm actor Jake Canuso, comic actress Helen Lederer, presenter Jenni Falconer and comedian and actor Omid Djalili. The viewers followed their journeys, which included a bumped nose and a strained shoulder, as they learnt how not to land arse-first in the water. It was hardly a journey though; they started diving on the Monday and performed on the Saturday. The producers attempted to string this section out with the obligatory sob stories, including how Canuso survived the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, or Ewan not being able to swim. Whilst they may have had the courage to overcome these obstacles, if they feel so traumatised by it all, why seek therapy by throwing yourself off a diving board on national television? We’re guessing their fee had something to do with it. Z-listers still to compete include Caprice, Joey Essex and Linda Barker.
Once all the divers had performed, and the lines had opened, we were treated to a James Bond themed stunt-diving display. This looked to be the highlight of the show, hopefully dragging it out of the deep and into something more entertaining. It should have done that too if it wasn’t for the poor camera work, which led to numerous crowd shots showing the stunned reactions of the members of the audience, but missing the stunts that had produced such a reaction.
Following the show Daley tweeted to ask what everyone thought of the show. #Awkward
Images courtesy of ITV