I can’t wait to find out that the past 8 years have been secretly a reality show in which celebrities compete to see who can commission the best Saturday Night BBC One Light Entertainment Line-Up. I can’t wait to see who came up with “Tonight’s The Night With John Barrowman”. I bet it was John Barrowman.
So last night Tumble debuted to a figure of 3.16 million. And whilst it IS hot outside and it DID somehow grow its audience over the course of the show, it doesn’t exactly feel like I’ll be having to add a full-time blog category devoted to it any time soon, especially as a large percentage of that 3.16 million were probably confused children who had turned on expecting to find a prime-time edition of Something Special. I sat through the whole thing, although I must admit that by the time we got to a Pimp Slot dedicated solely to Diet Barrowman doing a low-cal version of Full-Fat Barrowman’s stint on Dancing On Ice (“I’M A BONA FIDE FULLY DANCE-TRAINED WEST END STAR BUT I DON’T KNOW HOW I’LL TAKE TO THIS TANGENTIALLY RELATED DISCIPLINE I MAY WELL SUCK BOO HOO OH NO WAIT I’M FINE!”) my interest had wandered. So what’s wrong with Tumble?
1. Alex Jones : It pains me to say it, but Alex Jones, as much as I love her, should not be hosting a primetime Saturday night entertainment all on her own, especially one being hosted inside an aircraft hanger. I would imagine that Alex Jones has only just started being allowed to catch the bus to school on her own, let alone hosting 90 minutes worth of reality tv shenanigans. I literally cannot think of any other reality show of this type that’s hosted by one person on their own – even Dermot O Leary has Caroline Flack standing backstage to do interviews/speak to friends and family/grope barely legal teenage boys. And all he has to do is walk from one side of the stage to the other and make sex-eyes at Simon Cowell. Alex Jones was having to teleport around the place like The Great Gazoo – one minute being up on a gantry, the next jabbing at the judges, the next doing interviews at the side. SHE’S ONLY ONE GIRL! AND SHE’S GOT GEOGRAPHY HOMEWORK TO DO! IT’S NO WONDER MISTAKES WERE MADE! (LOL “difficultness” LOL “Beth Tweedle”)
2. The Judging Panel : The whole thing was so transparently set up to mirror Strictly’s line-up as to be absurd. You have the flappy camp Continental one with the dubiously related background. The senile old Dance Legend Head Judge who speaks mostly in bizarre aphorisms (although Nadia Comaneci does at least have the twin excuses of having English as her second language and also BEING NADIA COMANECI!). The inarticulate but likeable enough totty judge. And the Mean Judge. And really that’s where it all falls apart as Craig Heap doesn’t come across as the Mean Judge as the Irritating Tit Judge Who Gives Scores Lower Than Everyone Else And Doesn’t Really Explain Why And To Be Honest It Just Feels Like He’s Doing It Because The Show Needs To Have A Judge Like That. Craig Heap is apparently a gold-medal winning gymnast but to be honest mostly comes across as a fading 70s kids tv presenter trying to show off. And as we’ve already got H in the cast, that vacuum has been quite thoroughly filled. The constant preening, hair-flicking and trying to play the villain without having the charisma to pull it off got old, and the show would do much better just to continue with the other 3. And better script-wrtiers.
3. It’s Celebrities Learning To Do A Thing : Let’s face it, the well has run somewhat dry. We’ve had celebrities learning how to ballroom dance, celebrities learning how to ice-dance, celebrities learning how to do winter sports generally, celebrities learning how to ride horses, celebrities learning how to be a contestant on Fame Academy, celebrities learning how to dive, celebrities learning how to speak Welsh, celebrities learning how to bake, celebrities learning how to wank off a pig, celebrities learning how to do duets with has-been pop-stars, celebrities learning how to do Olympic Sports, celebrities learning how to perform circus skills, celebrities learning how to do street-dance with their husbands, celebrities learning how to wrestle, celebrities learning how to love islands, celebrities learning how to cook, celebrities learning how to survive in the wild and GOD KNOWS WHAT ELSE. At this point it’s really obvious that tv producers are just inserting any old verb they can think of into “Celebrities Learn How To…” and just hoping it’ll work as a tv show, and people are wise to it. Especially as this ground has already been covered in The Games AND Cirque du Celebrite.
4. The Gymnastics I’m not talking about the stuff being done by Louis and the entire Commonwealth Games teams of England and Scotland to top and tail the show. That was all exciting and entertaining. Not as exciting and entertaining as Alex prefaced it by saying “now let’s find out what the boys on the gymnastics team do in the gym when the coach isn’t watching”, but exciting all the same. The problem is that the stuff the celebrities were doing didn’t resemble gymnastics so much as the stuff you see being done behind X Factor contestants on those weeks when Bryan Friedman’s been huffing paint extra hard. Aerial hoops and contemporary dance and random costumes and bizarre modern music choices. I appreciate the show has to be fun, but for all Splash!s many many faults it didn’t make everyone do dives dressed as one of the Fast Food Rockers. Emma Sams entering in a great big fuck-off fur coat whilst stood on someone’s shoulders is all very fun, but it doesn’t feel much like gymnastics.
5. The Size Of The Cast : There’s ten contestants. The show runs for six weeks. There was no elimination in Week 1. How is that even supposed to work? There’s no double eliminations on the horizon either by the looks of it. On top of the logistics long-term there’s the short-term fact that 90 minutes of this sort of stuff is far too much with such little variety. (Although I don’t know if we can blame that entirely on the size of the cast when a good 10 minutes was taken up with showing that Craig Heap has STILL GOT IT! because one episode in he’s already a self-parody somehow).
6. The Cast : And it’s not as though this cast couldn’t have been trimmed. In fairness, the male side doesn’t appear to have been cast badly (Dirty Ringah, Fit Young Totty, Rough Sportsman, Game Old Bloke and…H isn’t too unappealing. If you eliminate H. With napalm) but the female half appears to have been hauled out of a glittery skip from round the back of the This Morning studios. Casting a third-tier TOWIE “star” with no obvious natural athletic talent or personality is the obvious crack in the sequinned plaster the press can focus on, but stooping to pick a Loose Woman but ending up with one of the boring sane not-alcoholic ones is if anything even worse. Nobody other than superannuated gays is interested in Dynasty any more and one washed-up 00s popstar is enough per any series of anything. And we all know what atrocities resulted the last time Amelle Barrabah and Sarah Harding were in the same building. (LOL just kidding nobody involved in that video was ever in the same building as anybody else involved in that video at the same time). It’s hard to get invested in this group of people for some reason, especially as the VTs have given them little opportunity to show us their emotions beyond blank terror and occasional nausea.
7. The Lack Of Public Vote : Why, when everything’s been so gussied up to make a big performance spectacle aren’t we allowed to vote? What if I find Peter Duncan endearing and want to save him from his inevitable Week 3/4 boot? Who cares if it would mean him doing disciplines that would literally cripple him, I PAY MY LICENCE FEE SOLELY FOR THE RIGHT TO CAST JUDGEMENT ON CELEBRITY SOULS DAMNIT! To be honest, the thought that the winner of this show is going to be decided even one-quarter by Craig Heap is enough to make me want to not even look up the result on wikipedia.
8. A Showmance…40 Minutes In I appreciate that we needed to be given reasons to root for Bobby beyond his being good-looking and young and not yet bitter, jaded and cynical like the viewing audience. I know the show doesn’t want to fall into the Dancing On Ice trap of having its professionals be more anonymous and ignored than castmembers of Doctors at the British Soap Awards. I’m aware that this is the Internet and people will ship any old bollocks. But good lord I’ve seen showmances between people who went on to get married and have babies be pushed less hard than his with his professional partner. Can we not save the googly eyes, romantic music, and Louis Smith talking about how he feels all gooey in his pants over the true love he’s seeing before him at least until we’ve all stopped making puns about Diet Barrowman’s love of an Aerial Hoop? True love moves slowly. True love waits. True love at least waits until all the old people have left the room.
9. The Elimination Mechanic : It appears to be who gets over a vaulting horse without smacking their nads stays in. It’s hardly DANCING FOR YOUR LIFE is it?
10. It’s Preventing The Long Overdue Return Of Andrew Lloyd Webber Based Reality : YOU KNOW IT MAKES SENSE.
I don’t want to be negative, truly I don’t. There’s lots of elements to this show that should work and almost do. The production values are good, there’s a lot of genuinely talented gymnasts involved, the level of risk and artistry in what the celebrities were achieving was impressive, and lord knows we need another new successful reality tv format as Dancing On Ice is cremated, The Voice continues to burble along doing nothing much of anything and The Apprentice is suffering a slow death via schedule-punting. But I’m fairly sure we deserve better. Or at least shorter.