Question: What happens when you toss Strictly and Splash! together and, with some fanfare, stick the end result on primetime BBC1?
The answer is Tumble: a new talent show which requires celebrities to learn gymnastics, of both the floor and aerial varieties. They’re coached by a gymnast, partnered by a gymnast, commentated on by a gymnast, and then judged by a panel of gymnasts; it’s very much a gymnastics-orientated vehicle. This week, all of the celebrities performed for the first time and were guaranteed a place in next week’s show – but at the end of the second episode, the two contestants w ho receive the fewest votes will have to take on the Vault, and whoever is deemed to be the poorest will be eliminated. Sad times.
Other than the gymnastics element, there is nothing to set Tumble apart from any other celebrity talent show: the forced drama, mixed bag of routines and tedious judges have all been seen on shows previously. Even the celebrities aren’t new to reality TV fans: Andrea McLean competed on the first series of Dancing on Ice; Ian ‘H’ Watkins (the ‘H’ is very important nowadays) has been a Celebrity Big Brother housemate; Emma Samms, as well as being one of the less recognisable faces from Dynasty, was a contestant on Celebrity Scissorhands; and Peter Duncan has been on The Games and Let’s Dance for Sport Relief – as has Carl Froch. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the celebrities – they seem a perfectly amiable bunch – but they’re largely typical reality TV fodder, and are therefore often as disengaging as the training videos in which they feature and routines they perform.
In fact, even the judging panel is quite unappealing, comprising of Louis Smith and three others who, I think it’s safe to say, most viewers of this programme have never heard of, nor have any interest in. They’re all gymnasts and all are disengaging. I mean, say what you like about Jo Brand’s right to be on the Splash! panel but at least she cracks a few gags and brightens up the mood after her fellow judges have commented on a ten-second belly flop with far more scrutiny than is necessary, or even appropriate, for a Saturday night celebrity competition. Tumble doesn’t even have a Jo Brand figure, though, meaning that the only person who rises above the tedium of his peers is Craig Heap, whose desperate emulation of Strictly’s Craig Revel Horwood is painfully obvious and threatened only by mild conceit.
My main qualm with Tumble, however, was that it didn’t live up to its title – we saw very few tumbles. There’s a reason why the public love shows like You’ve Been Framed and It’ll Be Alright on the Night, and in the past have voted week after week for Todd Carty and Joe Pasquale to stay in Dancing on Ice, and Ann Widdecombe and John Sergeant to endure on Strictly: rightly or wrongly, we love to see failure and accidents on TV. It entertains us as a nation! So, when a show like this comes along, which doesn’t involve something that viewers have at least a smidgen of knowledge and can pass judgement on, like singing or dancing, we long for the accidents – the eponymous ‘tumbles’ – and when they fail to come, it makes for quite a boring show, as Tumble proved to me to be.
I appreciate that the celebrities have put a lot of time and effort into their routines, and Alex Jones did a quite admirable job as host, but the result was something bordering on car crash TV. I imagine that during these summer months, it will prove popular with families, and a few years ago could even have been lumped into the ‘Bearably Bad’ category – but now that that is occupied by shows like Splash! and Your Face Sounds Familiar, Tumble just seems like a bit of a damp squib.
I’m just preparing myself to pity the BBC when it goes up against The X Factor in a few weeks’ time…
Tumble is on Saturdays at 6:30pm on BBC1
What did you think of Tumble? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer