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There are upsides to indefinite unemployment, especially when you find yourself in this particular predicament in the Autumn, the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness, and an abundance of glorious television drama. As I tread the vast waters of joblessness, not only is there ample time for me to avail of the delights of the Autumn drama output, there is also room to acquaint myself with classics that have previously escaped my attention. Thus I am currently ploughing through season 1 of The West Wing (a programme I cannot believe I have thus far neglected, and that makes me dearly want to swan around in a suit being eloquent and witty but also staggeringly intelligent and astoundingly efficient) whilst simultaneously enjoying new series of Peaky Blinders, The Good Wife and, of course, everybody’s favourite Sunday evening staple, Downton Abbey, the drama that drama forgot.

I would just like to mention here, as a disclaimer of sorts, that I have actually been taking productive steps to finding a job alongside all of this sustained consideration and critiquing of screen-based popular culture. My parents – with whom I am currently living – will probably read this, and I’d hate them to think that all of the hours I spend holed up in my bedroom are dedicated to lovingly binge-watching fifteen-year-old US TV dramas rather than the reality: carefully crafting cover letter after cover letter, and watching my practice psychometric test scores creep painfully slowly towards the desired percentile. Last year, when I was still basking in the luxury of student life, I wrote a column containing recommendations for television programmes that were appropriate as revision. Now that I find myself essay-less and exam-less, I feel an update may be necessary. And the truth is, there are countless lessons to be learned from the stars of the small screen. So without further ado, here it is – Productive Television Consumption: The Graduate Edition.

Core competencies: lessons from the Bake Off.

Independence. Drive. Initiative. Determination. Risk-taking. Tenacity. Multitasking skills. Ability to produce the perfect choux pastry.

Until that last one, this could easily have been yet another list of core competencies reeled off by yet another ‘Requirements’ section on yet another graduate scheme website. In fact, it’s a list of all the qualities possessed by our beloved Great British Bake Off contestants. With that in mind, the only motivation I have for watching this week’s final is because I’m looking to gain inspiration for any application forms, interviews or assessment days that may miraculously come my way. It’s obviously not just because I quite like gazing at baked goods for extended periods of time. Nothing to do with that.

'Can you tell me about a time when you showed initiative under the icy glare of Paul Hollywood?'

‘Can you tell me about a time when you showed initiative under the icy glare of Paul Hollywood?’

Surviving numerical reasoning: Daisy in Downton Abbey

Times they are a-changing (as they are wont to do alarmingly often in the land of Downton), and Daisy is worried that her maths skills aren’t quite up to the standards that a future career may demand of her. I FEEL YA DAISY. Numerical reasoning tests are the Thomas to my Miss Baxter, the bus (read: Bates) to my Mr Green. Every time this poor kitchen maid bemoans her non-existent affinity with numbers, I find myself nodding along to her proclamations of woe. I, too, have been the victim of much numerical trauma. I, too, have spent hard-earned cash on books that might help, only to cast them aside in despair. But Daisy is not going to give up. She’ll keep going, even if it means hiring Miss Bunting to teach her alongside the demands of her never-ending culinary to-do-list. An inspiration to all those who feel defeated by data interpretation.

Looking the part: literally everyone on The Good Wife

I am currently in the market for a Corporate Fairy Godmother, and I would like, if possible, for Alicia Florrick to fill this vacancy. Or Diane Lockhart. Either will do. This is partly to do with the fact that I want them to share with me all of their wisdom and insights relating to being Kick-Ass Women In High-Powered Jobs, and partly because I think that if anyone could wave a wand and majestically transform my H&M jumper and jeans into a classy Hugo Boss suit and blouse combo/devastatingly sophisticated Etro dress, it would be Alicia or Diane. In fact, everyone on The Good Wife looks so fabulous that it may as well be renamed The Good Wardrobe, and from this we can deduce the following: 1) It is important to look the part, so dress well for interviews, and 2) Maybe if I get a good job, my hair will miraculously become more voluminous.

'Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boss'

‘Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boss’

'That's why her hair is so big. It's full of corporate insights.'

‘That’s why her hair is so big. It’s full of corporate insights.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commercial awareness: the Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders returned last week, and in Episode One we learned that our favourite razor-capped, dubiously-moralled brummie gang were looking to expand to London. We were flies on the wall as Tommy et al discussed the implications of the move on the family business. These people had clearly done their research. Tommy new all about the current political and economic landscape in the capital (apparently the Jews and Italians aren’t too keen on each other), and Esme exhibited remarkable insight when she proclaimed that London meant ‘smoke and trouble’. We can learn two things from this: 1) Commercial awareness is key to a successful business application, and 2) Maybe we aren’t that keen to move to London after all.

CV points: Cilla

By the end of the first episode of ITV’s cosy biopic Cilla, we’d already seen our Scouse heroine excel in typing, experiment as a hair stylist and belt her heart out in the Cavern Club, accompanied by the Beatles. This is a girl who clearly understands the value of work experience – and the importance of networking.

'Did someone say transferable skills?'

‘Did someone say transferable skills?’

Conclusion: TV is a valuable resource when it comes to the graduate job hunt. Now back to the application forms. (And maybe some more West Wing…)

Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby (Picture: Digital Spy)

This coming term I am TV critic for Varsity, one of Cambridge’s student newspapers. I’ve already reviewed Strictly Come Dancing and new BBC drama Peaky Blinders, both of which can be read below.

Peaky Blinders, BBC2

Peaky Blinders is set in post-World War I Birmingham, but it has the feel of a Western. It opens with Cillian Murphy (occupying the position of Primetime BBC Cheekbones whilst Benedict Cumberbatch is away) riding on horseback through a filthy slum. Men, women and children scatter as he approaches, whilst drums thud in the background and a lonely viola plays a haunting solo. Murphy cuts a menacing figure as Tommy Shelby, the kingpin of the Peaky Blinders- so called because of the razors stitched into the peaks of their flat caps.

Tommy is a compelling character. He received medals for gallantry in the war, but now he’s fixing bets and hiding stolen ammunition. He’s treated with reverence and wariness by those who know who he is – which turns out to be almost everyone. Whilst his stony gaze hints he isn’t to be crossed, we glimpse moments of compassion, particularly in his treatment of his shell-shocked friend, that suggest there is more to this character than meets the eye.

The drama is heavily stylised. The action is painted in muddy browns and earthy greys so that when colour does appear it stands out and sticks in the memory: red powder billowing through the air; blood spatter on pale skin. This technique is used to great effect with the arrival of the enigmatic Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis). She appears dressed in vivid green and strolling calmly down a mucky, dilapidated street in which she is so clearly out of place. “Are you a whore?” asks Tommy, in a somewhat unconventional introduction. “’Cause if you’re not, you’re in the wrong place.”

This is a violent world where the power balance is held in place by bribes, blackmail and murder. However, the arrival of Northern Irish Inspector Campbell (Sam Neill) threatens the fragile order. A ruthless Javert-like character, he has been sent to rid Birmingham of gangs, communists and the IRA. While I’m on the subject of communists, we’ve seen the ‘sister has affair with man holding controversial political views’ in many a drama before (Downton Abbey, anyone? Upstairs Downstairs?) so this aspect of the storyline didn’t exactly put me on the edge of my seat.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot of potential in Peaky Blinders. A nice bit of intrigue has been set up involving stolen guns, and I’d hazard a guess that something is going to happen between Tommy and Grace, signalled by the lingering gaze they shared mid-episode. The fact that she (perhaps predictably) turns out to be more than just a barmaid with a pretty voice might make things more interesting though. Overall, then, Peaky Blinders is definitely one to stick with.

Strictly Come Dancing, BBC1

I have a confession to make. I’ve never actually watched Strictly Come Dancing; I’ve always been more of an X Factor girl. So when the request to review the launch show for the new series dropped into my inbox, I must admit my heart sank a little. How was I going to write a decent view of such a well-loved show, having had no experience of previous series? Then I realised – that’s kind of the point of a review, right? An impartial and carefully considered evaluation of a piece of culture. I therefore present to you the first impressions of a Strictly newbie.

Actually, my first impression was that I might not be so far from The X Factor after all. There were the same cheering crowds, pyrotechnics, and judges arriving in swanky forms of transport. I got the feeling everyone was rather excited. They even did a dance to The Pointer Sisters to prove it. So far so good.

Now to the contestants. They range from TV presenters to rugby players via soap stars, a Hairy Biker and Vanessa Feltz. Also in the mix is noughties dance floor murderer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Dragon Deborah Meaden and former pro-golfer Tony Jacklin.

I will say that for a show in which pretty much nothing happens, it managed to be fairly entertaining. The revealing of couples, however, could have been done in half the time. Admittedly the repetitiveness of this segment was diminished slightly by interspersing the announcements with a lively performance from Jessie J and the return of last year’s winner, Olympic gymnast Louis Smith and his partner Flavia. Their sparkling Charleston was the highlight of the show – which does suggest that it might be worth persevering with the series (or ducking back in when it gets to the final six).

Still, the end of the episode dragged. Former Bond Girl and current contestant Fiona Fullerton proclaimed that she had been ‘watching this series for ten years!’ and I think I might know how she feels.

I started to flag at Rod Stewart’s performance but soon after it was (to quote Brucie) ‘the moment you’ve all been waiting for!’ No, not the end of the show, but a group performance in which the contestants and their partners strutted their stuff for the first time. I’d love to finish off with suggesting a favourite to win, or making some savvy statement about the ones to watch. However, I’m not going to flatter myself by pretending I have any idea. I will say, though, it’s probably not going to be the Hairy Biker.

The reviews on Varsity can be found here and here.

Photo: Digital Spy

The X Factor, ITV1

Hey guys! You know One Direction? That boy band that are, like H-UGE at the moment? Guess what? They came from THE X FACTOR! And guys! You know what else? They’ve totally got a FILM out at the moment! So you know you guys should really go WATCH the FILM! Because they came from THE X FACTOR!

That was essentially the introduction to Saturday’s episode of The X Factor, the first of the new series which is now set to run (and run and run) until Christmas. (It’s like a really really long, drawn-out Advent calendar that replaces chocolate with Whitney Houston covers every time you open a door, culminating in an inevitably under-par rendition of a decent song with an added gospel choir and key change when you finally get to the door reading ‘Christmas Number 1’.)

Anyway, as I was saying, The X Factor thought it necessary to remind us that they are the culprits behind the plague of screaming teenage fangirls that descended on Leicester Square a couple of weeks ago. Thanks. They also took the time to explain the new not-as-complicated-as-it-was-made-out-to-be system of the DOUBLE AUDITION, which basically just means that instead of one audition in an arena, there are two auditions – one in the room today and another in an arena tomorrow. So if weekly X Factor all the way through to Yuletide doesn’t quite cut it for you, you now have the option of twice-weekly X Factor. Yippeeeee.

This series marks the return of Sharon Osborne, an event that cynics might cite as a desperate bid to boost the festering viewing figures of recent years. I’m inclined to disagree. If I had been given the task of reclaiming viewers for a tired talent show format, ‘Bringing back Sharon Osborne’ would have been pretty low on my List of Things That Will Make the Show Infinitely More Watchable and Enjoyable: probably somewhere between ‘Replacing Dermot with Jedward’ and ‘Giving Louis a category other than the groups for once’. However, there is one thing we all seem to agree on: that the show has never been the same since the live auditions were introduced. Keen to resurrect the stifled snorting-into-teacups and prolonged awkward silences that sustained previous series, The X Factor producers have relocated the auditions to the cardboard-flanked room once again.

It kind of worked. There were a couple of auditions that showed glimmers of the brilliance of yesterseries, namely the two girls singing operatically out of key, iPod earphones plugged firmly into their ears. But mostly you got the feeling that The X Factor was trying too hard to be funny again. This was especially evident in the so-hammed-up-it-had-to-be-a-joke rendition of Halelujah from model J Star Valentine (I know, I know), as well as in the whole ‘Fil-with-an-F’ debacle, during which I cringed for all the wrong reasons (just think Gary Barlow trying to do rock ‘n’ roll and that’s probably all you need to know). When it came to it, however, Mrs O was not as irritating as I had anticipated. Her ability to not take anything remotely seriously was refreshing and luckily, when it came to the other judges, contagious.

Sunday’s episode was basically a repeat of Saturday’s episode. Except (as we were reminded of once again in the introduction in case we hadn’t quite got it last night) it took place in the ARENA. Because we’re doing DOUBLE AUDITIONS this year. That means there are TWO of them. You may be thinking, and reasonably at that, that a second audition stage might be quite useful in order to whittle down the auditionees so that the Boot Camp stage isn’t quite so laborious. And this would be the case, had the judges not let people through in the first stage that could barely cut it in a small room, let alone in an arena. Let’s be honest, one guy was a Justin Bieber tribute act – was that not a bit of a clue?

There were some obvious finalists here though. Obvious in the sense that the show wasted no time in searing their backstories onto our brains so that the next time we hear them sing we’ll immediately think, ‘Oh, this is the girl who has a difficult relationship with her mum/the prison officer mother who has low self-confidence/the 16-year-old who got separated from her audition partner in the first stage, forgot her words in the second stage, but nevertheless blew everyone away with her impressive but shouty Whitney Houston cover‘. Oh, X Factor…

Sob stories have always been a feature of the show, but they weren’t what attracted viewers. Instead, it was the colourful, endearing, deluded and often downright nutty auditionees that kept people coming back. The return to the room auditions is, granted, a massive improvement, but most of the auditions were either rushed, forced or predictable. Maybe the likes of Ant and Seb and Steven the Rapper just don’t audition any more. If that’s the case then I can’t see previous audiences returning either.

The Only Way Is Essex, ITV2

Listen, don’t knock Towie. On the surface, it may seem like a dozen air-headed orange people with too much money, gossiping in cafes in the day and rowing with each other in clubs at night. But in actual fact, it’s really a dozen air-headed orange people with too much money, gossiping in cafes in the day and rowing with each other in clubs at night, whilst offering valuable viewpoints on important current affairs stories. In this, the first episode of the new series, we were given insight into how some members of the Towie crew were coping with recent revelations about the true content of various beef-based products.

‘Last night I was eating shepherd’s pie,’ confessed Chloe. ‘And I was a bit like “ok, i’ll just eat the mash” but then I couldn’t help it so I ate the beef so I probably ate horse,’ she giggled. Shepherd‘s pie, Chlo? Something tells me you’re probably ok…

Chloe wasn’t the only one getting her animals mixed up, though. Lauren P struggled to remember what to call a baby horse. What is it again, Lauren? Ah, yes. A fowl. Of course. This was in reference to the imminent arrival of Mick’s baby horse. Well, obviously not Mick’s baby. That would be weird. Nope, one of his prized horses is expecting, and Lauren was musing on whether he would hold a baby shower when it finally emerged. A fowl shower, as she put it. I now have images in my head of a flock of birds raining down on guests as they assemble in a field, their six inch stilettos sinking slowly into the turf, while their extensions are picked at by a thousand peckish starlings. Now that would be worth watching.

But I digress. Back to horsemeat. Gemma wasn’t taking any chances. She’d decided to go vegetarian. ‘Shut up!’ exclaimed Bobby. But really he knew already – he could tell by her aura. It was really positive. In fact, quite a lot of our Essex friends were turning over a new leaf. Little Chris was hitting the gym: ‘This is a rebrand of Little Chris,’ he told Ricky. ‘I’m trying to make Little Chris, Big Chris.’ Hmmm. Not sure the gym will help. Stilts maybe? And Arg, too, was looking to change. He was ordering smoked salmon and scrambled egg, by itself. He was exercising. According to Diags, his arms were slimmer. ‘I do feel the new Arg is back, ‘ he declared proudly. Interesting turn of phrase. Not really sure how that works. Have we seen the new Arg before? Has the new Arg mastered time travel?

So new year, new lifestyle was one big theme. The other was babies, and not just of the equine variety. Bobby was feeling broody ‘I want a baby’ he declared. Or, to be more precise, a ‘gayby’. And he’d seen a pushchair on Bond Street that matched his black and silver bag. Perfect. Gemma was there to offer a voice of reason. ‘It’s not a fashion accessory,’ she said, reasonably. ‘It’s a massive thing in your life’. Sam and Billie were having the same discussion, except this time it was about a dog. In Sam’s view, dogs are worse than babies ‘because you can’t put a nappy on them’. Billie, too, was against the idea: ‘even if you put, like, dog perfume on them, they still smell.’ I’ve just googled dog perfume. It actually exists. Who knew? (Also, I just googled dog perfume. What has my life come to…?)

Mario also wants a baby, but Lucy thinks it’s too soon. She’ll need some persuading. The trouble is, Mario seems to think the best way to persuade Lucy to want a baby too is to party on down with identical blonde bombshell twins in a club in Manchester. Ooops. We leave Lucy sobbing in her dressing gown in Sam’s kitchen as the credits start to roll. Oh, Towie, I have missed you.

I used to love The X Factor. I’d watch it religiously, every week (in a really ironic way, obviously…). I openly acknowledged that it was trashy television, but that didn’t matter because it was entertaining. I’d start out ‘just watching the auditions’ but by the end of them I was hooked and would end up watching a whole series, right up to the final. It was weirdly compulsive (which I guess it needed to be, given the frequency and length of the ad breaks). Not any more. I haven’t watched a full episode for a while now, let alone a series. It’s not just me either. The ratings for the last series were the worst since 2006. Is anyone surprised? No, not really. Here’s why.

1) It has become too much about the music. I don’t know anyone anywhere who has ever sat down in front of The X Factor so that they can have an evening filled with quality tunes. Let’s face it, when has it EVER been about music? It’s only recently that winners have released fully-fledged original albums. Previously, a hastily-put-together cover album released as soon after the final as possible would suffice. No, The X Factor is primarily about good TV. That’s why I watched it. Not because I enjoy under-par Whitney Houston covers, but because I enjoy watching Barbara from Manchester belt out You Raise Me Up whilst Simon Cowell glowers in the corner and Louis Walsh fails to contain his mirth. So why the sudden change of tune (literally)? Why, X Factor, do you suddenly think you’re the  go-to guy for nurturing new ‘home-grown’ singer songwriters? There’s a reason why singer-songwriters don’t play arenas. The X Factor format sucks all the rawness out of acoustic performances, and replaces it with confetti and pyrotechnics.  I can just hear the producers now: ‘Cor, that Laura Marling’s alright isn’t she? But y’know how this performance could really be enhanced? If she chucked in a gospel choir and a key change… and Brian Friedman could definitely do some edgy interpretive dance thing with that chorus…’

2) The auditions are no longer funny. I miss the slightly makeshift nature of the small audition room with the cardboard background and the X taped onto the floor. Often, the most entertaining part of the audition process was watching the judges snort into their teacups when a self-confessed ‘next Justin Timberlake’ slaughtered Cry Me A River. The minute the live auditions were introduced, gone was the hilarity of the bad audition. You don’t get gems like this any more, mainly because the audience will have ruined any opportunity for awkward stifled laughing by yelling ‘OFF’ repeatedly from the get-go.

3) The show is now bigger than the talent it nurtures. This is (indirectly) the fault of Leona Lewis. After the previous winners (Steve Brookstein, Shayne Ward) no one ever expected to hear a voice like Leona’s on The X Factor. She took everyone by surprise. I think that’s when The X Factor started thinking it could ‘do music’. Cue the whole show taking itself far too seriously. Wind forward six years and the final is now held in an arena, as if the contestants are already platinum selling artists. The problem with this is that it just makes most of the finalists look mediocre and a bit lost before they’ve even begun.

4) It’s running out of twists. ‘OMG guys lets put four or five good-looking-but-mediocre soloists together to form a band that fourteen year olds will worship and idolise! No. Wait. Lets get these judges to have a petty feud about nothing in particular! And then lets get one of them to take a decision over an amazing contestant versus an untalented novelty one to deadlock! Wait, what’s that? A contestant has a chest infection? Let’s act like we don’t have a standard procedure for when that happens, just so we can CREATE EXTRA DRAMA. Ok, now run the VT of the favourite-to-win in their previous job at Asda.’ Yawn.

5) The X Factor now actively courts the press, which is not enjoyable for anyone, especially not the contestants themselves. This weird, cultish fascination with their every move is a depressing reflection on our society’s obsession with celebrity culture. And they’re barely celebrities. The thing is, most people like to watch TV shows to escape for an hour or two and forget about that deadline they’ve got tomorrow, what to cook for tea that night, that bill they have to pay, or what on earth to do for their dissertation (sob). Just because we watch for an hour every week, it doesn’t mean we want to know about it every. day. for. the. rest. of. that. week. I don’t want any TV show in my face 24/7 (ok, apart from maybe Sherlock. I literally cannot get enough of Sherlock. Hurry up and stop prancing around pretending to be fantasy creatures so you can FILM THE NEXT SERIES). When you walk into WH Smith in X Factor season you are confronted by a magazine section filled with contestants badmouthing each other and stumbling out of clubs at 5.30am (then we watch them on Saturday in their VT claiming that their week has been ‘non-stop’ and ‘such hard work’). The thing is, this kind of press attention now seems to be actively sought after by the programme-makers. The contestants are herded from party to premiere to photoshoot, being ‘papped’ all the way. That’s not entertaining. It’s just invasive. For them and for us.

So there you go X Factor. Bring back the cardboard audition room. Bring back Ant and Seb. Get rid of the singer-songwriters, they’re better off on their own. And please don’t keep making the mistake of thinking that you’re anything other than just good old-fashioned Saturday night entertainment.

(You can keep the key changes, though. Everybody secretly loves a good key change.)

Splash!, ITV1

The Olympics were all about Legacy. How many times did we hear that word leading up to, and indeed during, the Games in the summer? It was all about the Legacy. Legacy was every Olympic organiser’s favourite word. London 2012 could create a ‘long and lasting Legacy’ said Sebastian Coe, emphasising the Long-Lastingness of Legacy with a spot of alliteration. But the Legacy of what? What is Legacy? We all just assumed it was another political buzzword, and we were dubious about how much of a Legacy the Olympics would actually have after all the hysteria died down.

UNTIL NOW. For here it is, folks. Here is the Legacy we’ve all been waiting for.  ITV has cracked the Legacy conundrum. Forget funding for sport. Who needs it? What we all really need is 15 celebrities throwing themselves off diving boards of varying heights on a Saturday night. I get it now, Seb. Thanks.

Yep, this was Splash!, the latest entertainment offering from ITV, in which 15 celebrities-in-the-loosest-sense-of-the-word were coached by Olympian Tom Daley, before being required to perform one dive on live television, in front of a panel of judges. These judges were obviously chosen according to the usual Saturday Night Entertainment Show Judge Formula.

Former diver Leon Taylor – who apparently won some medals in some Olympics once, but is more likely to be recognised as that diving commentator at London 2012 who got a bit too excited every time a participant looked as if they were going to crack their head open on the 10m platform/be severely winded by bellyflopping on a failed springboard dive – assumed the role of Serious and Critical Judge. He put on his best Simon Cowell impression for the role, picking the celebrities up on their dodgy techniques and doling out low scores. Whilst not technically a judge, Daley was there to fill the Young, Tanned and Easy On The Eye position, previously inhabited by the likes of Cheryl Cole and Nicole Scherzinger. And the Team GB diving coach, Andy Banks, was Older Judge Who Is Unlikely To Offend (see: Len Goodman).

So far, so predictable. At least they all knew a lot about diving. But of course, there was also the obligatory Sorry, Why Are You Here? position, previously inhabited by such experts-in-not-really-any-field as Sharon Osborne and Piers Morgan. ‘Hmmm,’ mused ITV. ‘Who can we get who probably doesn’t know much about diving but will provide some light relief from all this serious technique talk, and who is also a woman because the panel at the moment is looking fairly male?’ Well, Jo Brand, naturally. (Oh but actually she’s totally qualified to be here because apparently she did some diving once, when she was younger. Ah, great! This means I can judge Strictly because I did ballet when I was three!) ‘I’m so pleased I’m on the panel and not in my cossie,’ said Jo. ‘So are we,’ said my dad.

Splash! began with a professional diving routine in which people did a bit of a dance on the 10m platform, then threw themselves off, one after the other. If I thought this was a bit cringey, then I was wholly unprepared for the James Bond-themed routine during the voting, which ended with Daley in black tie, sipping a martini and flanked by girls in slinky dresses. But Daley’s first appearance was, naturally, on the edge of the 10m board, poised to dive. It was like the Olympics all over again: a big audience yelling his name, cameras filming his every move, his coach down on the ground, tens of millions of people watching him on televis… oh. Yeah. Maybe not that much like the Olympics.

One by one the celebrities took to various platforms, but not before they’d done a weird strip-tease and a slow-mo strut up to their board of choice. Their decision depended on a) how scared of heights/water they were and b) what injury they had sustained during training. Most of them had suffered one of the aforementioned predicaments. Poor Jake Canuso (from Benidorm, apparently – no, me neither) had experienced both. He told us of how he almost drowned in the ‘Tunami in Thailand’. Tunami? What’s a Tunami? (Is that the same Tunami that features in that new film The Impoible, about the Tunami in Indoneia, starring Naomi Watt?) Then he scraped his nose on the bottom of the pool, and needed a plaster. According to the doctor, the plaster could come off AT ANY TIME, making his live dive EXTRA perilous. And he could only dive ONCE with said plaster. Would it survive his second dive in the Splash-Off? This was edge-of-your-seat stuff.

It was emotional too. Comic actress Helen Lederer overcame her fear of heights to dive from the 3m board. ‘I’m in tears,’ said a dry-eyed Leon, thinking he was on The X Factor again. Tom was at the poolside ready to greet each relieved contestant, all teeth and tan, and dressed as though he’d just walked off the set of One Direction’s ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ video. To be fair to him,  he did a good job throughout, although I think the less said about James Bond the better…

In the end Omid Djalili’s 10m swan dive saw him soar like a ‘majestic turkey’ into the semi-final. Which, let’s be honest, I probably won’t be watching. Splash! was entertaining for one night (not, I suspect, for the reasons ITV had hoped), but on the whole it could have done with a lot less cringing and a lot more diving. And besides, if episode two has more plaster-related sagas in store, I don’t think I can take the tension…