Alex Jones is rarely seen without a sparkle in her eyes and a smile on her face, whether that’s on the sofa of The One Show every evening or climbing a rock face in Utah to raise millions for Sport Relief. But talking about Tumble, her grin is particularly broad.
“Opportunities like a Saturday-night show just don’t come along very often,” she says excitedly, “and I was blown away when they asked me to host it. I immediately said, ‘Yes, and thank you so much for having me!’ I just hope I can repay them because, you know, this is a big, big deal.”
A panicked frown temporarily crosses her brow before being smoothed away; after all, a new Saturday-night light entertainment show isn’t launched lightly by the BBC. In recent years it hasn’t been an easy slot to fill as, among others, Clare Balding (with knockout quiz Britain’s Brightest), Jonathan Ross (magic show Penn & Teller: Fool Us) and Davina McCall (dance contest Stepping Out) know to their cost.
“I did ask how far somebody could get in four weeks of training and they showed me footage of a trial they’d run with a girl and a boy who had never done any gymnastics. By the fourth week it was pretty superb what they could do.
“They then chose celebrities who looked like they might have gymnastics potential – the aim of the show isn’t to laugh at people but to be amazed at how they progress – and they did four weeks of initial training, before ten were selected to actually be on the show.”
Considering how much time has been put into developing this new format, it is surprising that the BBC have chosen Jones, who has little Saturday-night presenting experience, to host the show alone. Wouldn’t she like her One Show co-host (and former gymnast) Matt Baker alongside her?
“The first thing I asked was who I was going to present with! Matt and Chris [Evans, who presents The One Show with Jones on a Friday] would always be welcome but sometimes it’s harder doing a two-hander. The brilliant thing is that both Chris and Matt have offered me their advice. And although I might have to take a few days off The One Show for rehearsals, it’s what my editor’s been waiting for. He said, ‘Al, go and enjoy it and we’ll be here when you come back’.”