Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Billy on the Box: Splash leaves us all with a sinking feeling

If you stick your head out the window and listen very carefully you will hear, in the distance, the faint sound of a hand being repeatedly slapped against a forehead.

I can reveal that this noise emanates from an ITV production office and is accompanied by uncontrollable head shaking and occasion murmurings of ‘what were we thinking of?’ as the team behind Splash consider the considerable error of their ways.

Over the years there have been some truly awful programmes on a Saturday evening, anything with Nick Knowles in it immediately springs to mind, but this shameless attempt to try and dive (pun intended) onto the Olympic bandwagon takes all the biscuits.

If you missed it (lucky you) then the premise is simple — golden boy Tom Daley (or bronze youth as he should really now be called) coaches a team of ‘celebrities’ to dive which they do in front of a packed swimming baths live from Luton.

Oh, and it’s presented by Gabby Logan and Vernon Kay. If that’s not reason enough to throw yourself off something high then I don’t know what is.

“It’s loud. We’re live. We’re ready to dive, this is Splash,” our intrepid duo struggled to tell us over the screams of pre-pubescent girls, presumably because Tom was around and not Vernon’s shorts and deck shoes combo that looked as out of place as Gabby’s fancy frock.

“The atmosphere in the pool is electric,” we were told, which is surely a major Health and Safety issue in itself before the insurance ramifications of making five non-sporting people dive into a pool.

And they were to be judged by a panel of experts, including Andy Banks, Tom’s coach, Leon Taylor, who won silver at the Olympics in Athens and is now a commentator and Jo Brand, who once dived into a home bakery.

First up was Jade Ewen, one of the Sugababes. People have now lost count as to how many girls have been in the group — I’ll be honest I stopped caring after Keisha left — but if it doesn’t work out at least diving could be a new career option.

Or perhaps not. So after the grand unveiling to reveal Jade in a glittering gold costume, pumping music and frenzied fans in a frenzy, we waited with baited breath as she waited anxiously to dive and then ‘plop’.

She fell forward with a dive that could have been replicated by someone putting their toe to a bag of cement. The only person to enter water with less grace and poise was Dirty Den after he’d been shot but I looked closely and Gabby and Vernon weren’t sloping off into the shadows carrying a bunch of daffodils.

Some bloke from Benidorm in the briefest of briefs was next but he was then put in the shade by someone with genuine sporting pedigree, a woman whose son was a master on the tennis court, Helen Federer. Oh, Lederer, my mistake.

Her training featured such highlights as a fed-up Tom forced to tip her into the pool on a carpet like a stranded dolphin being put back into the sea but cometh the night, cometh the woman, as she arrowed into the water like Daley, Arthur, not Tom.

Jenni Falconer was next and she had a sore arm so was excused diving from the scary boards but no such fears for comedian Omid Djalili who gave hope to the more rotund among us with a winning effort from the 10metre board that had the judges drooling.

“He was on the top deck,” gasped Andy. Health and Safety will be apoplectic that someone was diving while drinking, and he’ll need to be closely supervised after making it straight through to the final. Yes, there is more to come. Darryl Hanna is probably pencilled in.

Omid will be joined by Jenni who beat off the waiter from Benidorm to second in the dive-off, while Jade and Helen had to suffer the further indignity of making their exit by flopping into the pool again.

“No running, no bombing, no heavy petting, just diving,” concluded a still awfully excited Gabby while around the country millions screamed ‘no more’ and longed for a return of the Les Dennis Laughter Show.

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