‘Splash!’ – Episode 1.1 Review

The hype surrounding Splash! was ridiculous – and, stupidly, I was drawn into it. I found myself, in fact, sitting at home, watching the trailers and thinking, ‘A show about celebrities learning to dive? It’s never been done before!’ I was right: up until Saturday, it hadn’t been done before – for a very good reason, it seems.

TOTAL WIPEOUT + X FACTOR = SPLASH!

If you didn’t see Splash!, let me congratulate and give you an idea of what the end product was like: imagine Total Wipeout or Hole in the Wall pretending to be X Factor. That was Splash!. However, the one good thing about X Factor (and it’s not often you can say that) is that, although you have to tolerate the sob stories and emotional “journeys”, you do get a vaguely enjoyable three-minute power ballad out of it. With Splash! on the other hand, you must sit through these VTs and then, as a reward, you’re only provided with a three-second plunge into a pool, which Jo Brand is then supposed to get analytical about. It’s ridiculous!

The Olympics brought our attention to sports which we had previously not considered watching, nor following – with the inclusion, to some, of diving. It was obvious that the producers were going to cash in on the Olympics success, but the least they could do is deliver something that does the Games some sort of justice. I think the problem lies with Splash! being quite a good concept on paper but, when live, being an expensive oddity, which had me on the edge of my seat only to switch over to In It to Win It.

WHY, JO?

A lot of people have berated ITV for their decision to inexplicably add comedienne Jo Brand to the judging panel (seemingly purely owing to her 2011 series for Dave entitled Jo Brand’s Big Splash). However, I really like Jo and think she has the ability to add some humour to the show to make it bearable. So, I’m not going to question her being offered the role, but rather her acceptance of it. For her to go from the sublime, televisual masterpiece that is Getting On (which she co-writes and stars in) on BBC4 to Splash! on ITV1 is a shock and she surely regrets it just a smidgen. The flicker of hope I possess for the improvement of this show mainly relies on her, although I understand it can’t be easy for her to comment on the dives – and even when she does provide some tongue-in-cheek humour, she seems to be cruelly shot down by her fellow judges; Team GB diving coach, Andy Banks; and former Olympic diver, Leon Taylor, both of whom are taking the farce with far more seriousness than it clearly deserves and appear think they are critiquing our 2012 competitors.

‘NOTHING SHORT OF CRINGEWORTHY’

Another call for criticism (other than the flawed format, odd choice of judge(s), Daley’s screen presence and the resident aquatics team, Stunts in Trunks (a Freudulent slip waiting to happen)) is the contestants. I just felt embarrassed for them. Some (such as Omid Djalili) saw the show as the joke it was while others (such as Jenni Falconer and Benidorm star Jake Canuso) seemed to think they were competing in a serious diving competition. Canuso’s participation in particular was nothing short of cringeworthy, as reflected in the brave faces his Benidorm colleagues were putting on as they witnessed him self-indulgently strutting up to the diving board in his red Speedos (read dental floss) to the sound of ‘Spice Up Your Life’. Steve Pemberton (Mick in, and co-writer of, the sitcom) must have been sitting in the crowd, thinking, ‘I created The League of Gentlemen and Psychoville. I’ve won a BAFTA and Royal Television Society Award, yet I’m watching this car crash – featuring one of my friends!’

The British public were then asked to pay good money to vote for their favourite celebrity diver of the night! Are ITV out if their minds – and, more to the point, are those who voted? Dialling to save your favourite contestant on Dancing On Ice or Strictly I can cope with, but your favourite amateur diver? Really?

Oh, and please don’t get me started on the ludicrously over-excited studio audience, whooping and cheering every time a contestant moved an inch in their absurdly padded-out preparation for their respective dives!

I’m not the only person to have written a negative review of Splash! since its premier airing on Saturday, and neither am I the first to say what (to my shame) I’m about to: it was compelling. Don’t get me wrong: the emotional roller coasters and journeys were frustratingly predictable and tedious but the dives were slightly interesting – for the three seconds that they lasted. Unfortunately, I will watch next week. It should only take five minutes if I fast forward the rubbish.

Splash! is on Saturday evenings on ITV1.

To let me know what you think of any of my comments, or just to share your views on anything about the world of TV, drop a comment on this post or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer

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