On Tuesday night, ABC debuted its new reality television show, Splash!. The show is a reality show that takes a group of ten celebrities and puts them under the tutelege of Olympic great Greg Louganis in an effort to teach them how to dive from either the platform board or the springboard at a variety of regulation heights (all the way up to the 10 meter platform).
When I had first seen previews of the show, I was kind of excited – though a bit skeptical – of the show and was curious to see how it would play out. After watching the first episode, my skepticism was confirmed as I found the show to be quite disappointing on just about every front.
The show is very “Dancing with the Stars”-esque. The “stars” perform (dive), are judged, and the low person is eliminated. In the first episode, only five of the ten celebrities competed. Each performed one dive, was then scored by two “official” judges, and then received an audience score. As each prepared for his/her one dive, we saw a short montage of the training that had led to that point. To build some drama, there was a final “dive off” between the two low scorers to see who would be eliminated.
Watching a few random celebrities perform a single dive (often not very well), is less than compelling. If they want to keep the same elimination format where the contestants get a single dive to be judged on, then they need to have contestants that have a little bit of potential. They need to make sure that the dive itself is fun to watch. If they want to keep the same random group of celebrities that have little potential for diving, then the format should not be an elimination single-dive competition, rather it should focus on the process and journey of learning how to dive. That would mean that the short, 15-second montage they showed before each dive would be the show. This would be a shift away from a “Dancing with the Stars” format to more of a “Biggest Loser” format that emphasizes the journey and growth/improvement.
There is a range of celebrities that were chosen to be contestants, from NBA legend (and 7 footer) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to 400+ pounder Louie Anderson (welcome to the Feud!), to Chuy (assistant on Chelsea Lately), to Katherine Webb (whose career took off after Brent Musberger couldn’t stop talking about her during the BCS National Championship Game).
I don’t have anything against any of these particular celebrities, and I even think that it’s kind of a neat group of people. But it’s not even remotely diving for some of them. To see someone simply do a line-up (basically falling off the board into a dive) or a single flip – especially if it’s a pretty bad line-up or flip – isn’t entertaining or interesting to me. Even the fact that it’s a celebrity doesn’t make it must-see tv.
As I stated above, with this format of the show, the celebrities should all be much more similar to Rory Bushfield (extreme athlete/skier). Some raw talent and skills with some coaching could be fun to watch. In fact, his daredevil/kamikazee approach to learning dives and tricks is similar to how I learned to dive*.
But with this group of celebrities, the format should be a week by week show where we watch them learn and improve. It should be about the process of learning how to dive.
The judges themselves are definitely qualified to be judging. The problem with the judging is the inconsistency. Are you rewarding divers based on which height they dive from, the difficulty of the dive, the back-story of improvement, how well the actual dive was performed, or any number of other factors?
The answer is “yes.” But you never know which of these is being taken into account.
Kareem, your dive was pretty terrible, but you’re really tall and kind of old, so it’s kind of impressive that you’re even here.
Katherine, you did a pretty poor line-up (falling in face first) from the platform for the elimination dive, but you’re pretty good-looking so we’ll keep you around.
Louie, when you started off, you couldn’t even get out of the pool by yourself, so that’s pretty incredible that you can do a line-up from a platform.
Rory, your dive was actually pretty impressive, so you get a good score for being good.
So the overall problem with the show is that it’s not a great fit with the celebrities that they have and the format of the show. The first episode was not entertaining or interesting. And it certainly wasn’t diving. I might give it one more chance, but it certainly doesn’t seem promising.
*I was a former collegiate diver. But a mediocre DIII diver. My critique of the show is not out of any sense that diving is being disgraced or mocked. The show just happens to be a poor fit all around.