Splash! makes Dancing on Ice and Celebrity Big Brother feel like cerebral workouts
"But, it wasn't all bad, right? We got to see that woman out of the Sugababes (a band that's had more members than the TUC) in a bikini, and the hunk from Benidorm in his pants"
In a couple of weeks ITV1 is re-branding back to just old plain ITV... if I'd just made Splash! I'd probably want to change my name too.
This Saturday-night celebrity high-diving championship (live from a Luton leisure centre) was the sort of thing even Alan Partridge would have thought too far-fetched for a pitch meeting. What's more astounding is that Splash! isn't an idea dreamed up by a junior exec at ITV (or a narcissistic Norwich-based broadcaster with nothing left to lose), but a format from Holland - the land of Big Brother and The Voice. Yes, that's right: ITV paid cold hard cash for Splash! (known as Sterren Springen in the lowlands) before delivering it to us in all its flesh-flashing, Olympic-spirit-cash-in glory.
But even the most cynical critic could not have been expecting the hour-and-a-half-long aquatic ordeal we were served up this last evening.
Presumably ruing not having read the small print in their ITV contracts, Gabby Logan (dressed for the beach) and Vernon Kay (who in his shorts and shirt looked like he was ready to join the Hitler Youth) stumbled over the clunky “ironic” script they were given to read – desperately trying to hold together Municipal Swimming Baths: Live!
A panel of “experts” – including former psychiatric nurse turned comedian Jo Brand and some boring diving people – did everything they could to parody the BGT panel, but sadly the joke was lost in the heavily chlorinated atmosphere. Not even Leon the diving expert's valiant efforts to portray a sub-Nasty Nigel Lythgoe/Simon Cowell character could earn this ramshackle cabaret act more than 2.5 out of 10.
But, it wasn't all bad, right? We got to see that woman out of the Sugababes (a band that's had more members than the TUC) in a bikini, and the hunk from Benidorm in his pants. Indeed, the slow motion reveals (designed to keep mum and dad watching) certainly gave us a glimpse of what Baywatch might have been like had it been made in Luton – but even these fleeting flashes of flesh were spoiled by the dreaded backstory.
It turned out that everyone on the show was scared of water, heights, swimming pools, chlorine, being in a pointy shape or... I dunno, Vernon Kay. There was more jeopardy than you could drown a D-list celebrity in. What was poor Olympic hero Tom Daley – the show's resident coach and focus for occasional eruptions of uncontrollable patriotism and pride – to do?
In fact, Daley was the only person on this show who emerged with anything to smile about. A diver – not a professional TV tart – by trade, the young lad “presented” Logan and Kay off the screen, and in some cases appeared to have taught the “celebrities” just about enough to avoid a full belly flop – but not quite enough to stop you wondering if it would have been a better show without the water at all (Splat! anyone?)
Not even a terrible James Bond-style musical number (presumably from a Bedfordshire-based dance troupe who failed to get on BGT – I'd stopped listening by then) in the death throes of the show, fat funnyman Omid Djalili hurling himself ten metres into the soup, and a “Splash-Off” (which sadly didn't involve ITV switching Splash! off) were enough to turn the fortunes of this programme around... it had already drowned.
Splash! makes Dancing on Ice and Celebrity Big Brother feel like cerebral workouts of the highest order. Yes, it is clear it was meant to be in some way “knowing”, but Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway-meets-Banzai this ain't. The producers missed the target on every level, and although they might still (with another month to run and 5m+ watching episode one) think it's a Total Wipeout killer for a “post-ironic” generation... I think most will remember it more simply as Total Crap.