Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Splash (or Splutter?)

I've been watching this new reality show called Splash about a group of celebrity contestants who learn how to dive and, week after week, compete against each other in order to win a final title of, what, best diver who's still alive? Not sure, but it's a horrible show. And I can't stop watching.

Each week these poor contestants come out in sparkly ill-fitted bathing suits to an assemblage of blood-thirsty spectators amid flashing lights and stunt divers. Sequins are flying everywhere; it's a den of fools. The producers show us how practice went that week, via film clip. Usually the celebrity is mumbling they can't, they can't and when you see their poor arm-flopping attempts you say to yourself, "They're right. They can't. And they shouldn't." But coach Greg Louganis, former head-busting Olympic medalist, urges them to reach past their fears and try something new. One person breaks an ear drum, another is too heavy to get out of the pool without assistance. Clearly the show was not very well planned, there's not even a Med-Act unit around. Film clip over, the contestant moves up to a high platform where they stare at the water below and shake in their skivvies. "This is crazy," they say to the camera. And we nod. Crazy. Yes. Will they dive? They didn't practice on the ten-foot platform. Greg Louganis smiles and says in a very soft preschool-teacher type of delivery, "You can do it." Maybe it's the brain injury. Yes, it must be. He's clearly bonkers to think his group of diving progenies has the ability to fling themselves up into the air, do a flip, and land without any sort of pain or scarring.

Another few minutes of celebrity quivering passes before the contestant bends over into a handstand and then hurls their body into the air. "Tell my mother I love heeeeeeeer." KABLAM. SPLASH.

"Ooh," they say, crawling out of the pool akin to the first slimy beginnings of life dawn of time has ever produced. "Oy. That hurt. But what's my score? Will I be eliminated this week?" Please eliminate me, they're praying.

The nice judge scores highly. The second, I call him Popeye, he's kind of mean. He always gives a low score, may he rot in hell.

Then there's the Dive Off. The worst contestant goes home, and the second worst gets to resume another week of practice at some crumbling LA pool that used to be awesome in the time of the El Camino.

Splash is, quite possibly, the worst show ever put on television. But here's the thing. I love it. I love how the contestants, scared as they are, still try to do their best every week despite the failures, despite the pain and the stupid glittery costumes. These people are devoted. Bull headed. It's brilliant. Splash is like a Hollywood grouping of celestial recourse. These celebrities needed this show, this challenge. Some have a fear of heights, some have physical limitations that should make every singe moment of it impossible. But ask them if it's impossible.

Every week they risk their lives. And for what? I'm sure ABC isn't handing out equal restitution for the fear, the pain, the lost eardrums and split backsides. These people persist and we, the audience, have grown to love them for their tenacity amidst the chaos. I know I need to learn a lot about tenacity, perhaps that's what draws me to the show. Or maybe it's because I like those who fail but aren't failures. There's a difference, you know.

Perhaps we're all on the highest platform every second of our life, and we're sacred, so freaking scared to take the leap. To dive. We're unprepared, we have pre-existing ailments, judgements, terrors and yet me must dive and hope it all works out okay.

But we do. We always take that dive.


  1. Interesting. The show was started over here. (I didn't see it.) The critics universally panned it and I think most viewers did too. In the end, there is still a huge cultural divide. Americans admire the plucky can-do attitude. Brits point and laugh.

  2. Totally brilliant bit of writing, by the way.

  3. Thanks, Tom. I've been watching this show and every week I think, "Hmmm. Sometime I'm gonna write a blog about this weird show." Can't blame you for not watching it!

  4. I would like to contradict TCW. The programme certainly seemed weak, but it turned up some real surprises. I didn't watch all of it, but was very impressed by certain celebs' bravery and skill. If you have time, keep watching.

    1. All of them have been amazing with their bravery, but there are definitely a few who have real talent. I can't even imagine how frightening it would be to drive head-first off the high platform. Not sure I could do it.


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