Channel 4’s The Jump came to an end on Sunday night. Now the question is, will they take another leap of faith and recommission the winter sports reality show, or have we seen the last cowbell trophy dished out?
This third outing has seen many viewers take to social media calling for its cancellation. Blink and you missed another contestant out with injury: six of the original line-up forced out with everything from ruptured ligaments to dislocated shoulders.
Ofcom is currently assessing 17 complaints from viewers about the level of danger to decide whether it needs to investigate.
While the show has always been dangerous, there was a sense that the injuries were coming thicker and faster this year, the most worrisome that of former Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle, who needed surgery to fuse fractured vertebrae in her neck after a fall in training.
Even the back-up contestants came a cropper: presenter Joe Swash chipped a bone in his shoulder before his first appearance and former rugby pro Ben Cohen needed 20 stitches in his lip after a collision. A review of safety procedures was ordered just two weeks in, the channel itself admitting it was “in light of the number of injuries this year”.
But should it face the axe? Bake Off this is not. But nor is it meant to be. Winter sports are risky; there are no two ways about it. The celebrities taking part are aware of the dangers. As a C4 statement reads, they all “undertook a rigorous training programme to prepare them for the show”, and they’re training with some of the best in the business. Heck, if any of the contestants watched it before, they know to take out shares in Arnica cream.
This tweet seems to hit it on the nose: while it does seem somewhat disproportionately dangerous for a bit of ‘light entertainment’, the contestants just seem… well, happy.
#TheJump does seem disproportionately dangerous for a bit of Sunday night entertainment but, if Adlington is happy, who am I to argue?
— Ru (@RupertBudgen) February 7, 2016
Actress Louisa Lytton was eliminated first and then couldn’t return as a reserve because she’d injured her hand, but still defended the show: “I felt like I was in safe hands at all times”. The former EastEnders star told Good Morning Britain she was “begging producers” to let her go back in because they were having such a “good time”.
Former Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding was quick to take to social media to correct those suggesting she’d quit the show insisting: “I DID NOT QUIT, but had no choice due to a ruptured ligament.”
Even actress Tina Hobley, with her cast in place, seemed keen on the idea when she was told she’d been “invited back to compete next year”, which might be a sign bosses haven’t dismissed the idea out of hand.
Viewing figures have held, too. Consolidated viewing figures (overnight ratings plus viewing within seven days of the programme’s broadcast) were almost always over two million, broadly matching last year’s numbers. Stats from the first night saw the channel enjoy the highest share of viewers aged 16-34 in its time slot.
Channel 4 is certainly not a channel that’s interested in or known for doing the ‘norm’. But there’s always a line. Insiders tell me it’s far too early to have started discussions and that they’ll be taking a (no doubt deep) breath before deciding what’s next.
Putting the injuries to one side – if the celebrities are game, that’s their decision – from a viewing perspective, I’d like to see the show return to its original nightly run, rather than across six weeks.
Consecutive nights gave the show more of a Britain’s Got Talent/ I’m A Celebrity feel to it – and if there were a formula to emulate, I’d certainly look to those big hitters.
The longer run and move to purpose-built tracks on ‘Jump Mountain’ in Kühtai was in part designed to make the show almost entirely live. The safety review played its part in halting this, deeming that only one of the events could be live: the challenge or the jumps.
Bad weather too meant some nights the show was forced to use pre-recorded footage. However, even with those considerations, I actually think it was better last year: a couple of big live nights boosting us towards the final.
It was also thought we’d get to know the celebrities more on a longer strip, but with the lineup changing faster than you can say “après ski”, that didn’t really get to happen.
Time will tell. It could be back. Or, perhaps they’ll just launch The Shuffleboard instead…