Distributor: The Seven Network
Release Date: Grand Final May 16, 8:45 PM
It was a bad idea from the very get-go. Line up a bunch of Australian household names and force them to jump from diving platforms into a pool – the televisual equivalent of walking the plank. Not surprisingly Celebrity Splash has belly-flopped as badly as its contestants. But there may be a spiritual lesson in why audiences are paddling off to other programs.
Anyone wondering if there are any twists to this format that couldn’t be contained in a commercial break will be sadly disappointed. Mostly second-rung Australian celebrities are given six weeks to learn the skill of high diving under the watchful eyes of Olympic coaches. Then, initially over three weeks, they would compete in front of a live audience at the Sydney Aquatic Centre, wowing us with their new-found skills while hosts Larry Emdur and Kylie Gillies make wise-cracks about their swimwear – all for the dubious honour of being crowned Australia’s first Celebrity Splash Champion. What could possibly go wrong? More likely, what didn’t?
Watching this program has left me with nothing but questions:
•Why do Larry and Kylie insist on calling the platform the ‘Tower of Terror’?
•Why does the voice-over man have to count off the metres every time a competitor climbs – especially to three metres?
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•If it’s so death-defying, why is Brinn Edelsten wearing earings and false eyelashes?
•Why does Kylie feel the need to check the ‘leader board’ when only one competitor has dived?
•Why are professional sportspeople like Tamsyn Lewis and Leisel Jones doing this?
•Why, in fact, is it called ‘celebrity’ splash?
Celebrity Splash is an exercise in making something out of nothing. It’s not extreme enough to gather the audience attracted by self-destructive Japanese game shows, nor celebrity enough to gain more popular attention. Though 1.3 million Australians tuned in to the first episode to see what the fuss was all about, they were greeted by a less than stellar roll call of stars. Former cricketer Andrew Symonds? Model Nick Bracks? ‘Extreme surfer’ Koby Aberton? Frankly putting up aging TV icon Denise Drysdale on a diving platform was just plain cruel. But it would have taken a name like John Howard to keep the audience glued to their sets.
The opening diving demonstrations are nothing short of breath-taking but, unsurprisingly the celebrity diving is uninspiring – like watching an uncle who’s drunk just that bit too much fooling around by the pool – leaving judges like Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham struggling for words and resorting to marking big on ‘courage’. Also unsurprising has been the ratings plunge and Seven’s decision to cancel the second semi-final in the rush to get the show off air. But has anything positive surfaced from the bottom of the pool?
Quite apart from sympathy for their embarrassment, a Christian might express some admiration for the way the competitors have faced their fears. More than a few have expressed a terror of heights, of swimming … of coming out of doors. In fact fear has a lot to do with Celebrity Splash, though the fear of becoming obscure is probably the greatest motivator. In any case, judge Alisa Camplin put it best:
“Fear is a genuine obstacle and so many people never push through that obstacle.”
Fear of diving off boards is genuine … the fear of change, of risking ridicule, of walking away from something that’s just a bad idea are also real. It’s worth remembering that when we ask our friends to turn their life over to God we’re not asking something small. There are no prominent Christians amongst the competitors and I think it’s worth pausing for a moment to consider what someone would find preferable to trusting God. Think about it: these competitors will dress up in revealing swimwear, go on national television and make fools of themselves – but socially speaking, revealing you trust in God is considered far more embarrassing. I’d like to see these stars earn real celebrity by doing something we can really celebrate. Jumping off your board is nothing compared to falling into the arms of God. The key difference is that there’s no humongous crash at the end.