Grace Dent on TV: Splash! ITV1
Mr Selfridge, ITV1
Minor celebs hit the swimming pool like baby hippos launching themselves into tapioca
After watching, by no free will of my own, the trailer for ITV1's Mr Selfridge in the ball-park region of 600-1,000 times, I was inexplicably drawn to watch last Sunday. It had been a startling weekend for ITV1 thus far. Splash! – the show where Omid Djalili belly-flops from 10 metres into a municipal swimming baths after a 12-minute build up by Vernon Kay clad in Gap shorts and deck shoes – had been visual nectar. Twitter was alive with glee at the awfulness of Splash! And some mistake that glee for failure, which it wasn't. Splash! relies on the limitless fun of watching minor celebs hitting a swimming pool with the sleek dexterity of a baby hippo launching itself into a vat of tapioca pudding. Splash! relies on the exquisite joy of shouting at diving mentor and Olympian Tom Daley, each time his face fills the screen polishing the TV turd.
Oi, mate, shouldn't you be training for Rio? There are Chinese four-year-olds, right now, doing double-backwards-quadruple-flip somersaults into Beijing pools, while you fanny about in a headset.
Splash! relies on the terrifying jeopardy that someone might catch a verucca or even approach the vending machines in the spectator area post-dive to find it free of KP prawn cocktail Skips.
In all seriousness, Splash! is jovial, harmless family fun and anyone – regardless of intellect or snootiness – who finds themselves trapped in a "family environment" on a Saturday evening welcomes something daft and unchallenging one can watch with children, gran or mother-in-law. I do not have children, but am frequently left with them by chums who drop them at my house mumbling: "A few hours? They do love you," only for me then to hear a terrific revving of car engines, loud cackling and Marlboro lights being lit up as they race to sniff freedom, a pub environment and human contact for the first time in 100 days. It's then that I realise shows like Splash! or Total Wipeout are a godsend. Unlike that BBC3 "funniest moments" show I left playing in front of a seven-year-old the other day and quickly had to answer: "Grace, what is a pregnancy test? And why is that man showing his willie to the crowd? And what are pubes?'"There are no pubes in Splash!, largely, as Daley has yet to grow any.
So by Sunday, it was time for Mr Selfridge. And I'll admit I was already wholly sick, just from the trailer, of Selfridge's smug expression, bumptious manner and jaunty gait as he circumnavigated the store, doing "behold, this will blow your frickin' MIND" hand gestures at displays of socks. Just socks Selfridge, mind, not Jesus's face in a sock. Not a sock made of gold which you conjured from base metals having freshly unveiled the secret of alchemy. Socks. However, I stuck with episode one.
To recap – as far as I can make out - Mr Selfridge is an American with hearing difficulties largely brought on through his own natural speaking volume which is booming and theatrical, a bit like a jumbo jet leaving JFK. He has the makings of an excellent Mr Men character called something like "Mr Jazzhands" which would be the tale of a poor soul who doesn't realise he's the only one in Mr Men town who speaks like a cross between Gene Kelly and the town crier. Selfridge spends his days wandering the store delivering bon mots to the assistants in the terrifying manner people do in a long musical when one thinks, "oh shit, they're going to sing again". And sometimes – beware – there are songs.
Episode one centred around Selfridge worrying whether he'd be able to finance his store. Would it exist? Having just returned from his store that day where I'd been in the ground-floor beautician section being sprayed tikka colour and having my talons done, I could already confirm – spoiler alert – the shop bloody exists.
His other job, aside from storekeeping, is womanising, which is always endearing. In fact building a whole show around a bloke cheating on his wife by trying to bang everything that moves from Marble Arch to Holborn is a good idea, up there with making prime-time telly around Caprice and Jenny Falconer pulling a damp costume out of their bums.
Women find Mr Selfridge's looks and chat powerfully intoxicating. He has that "magic dick syndrome" that Phil Mitchell from Eastenders is spokesperson for. Any woman within 10 metres winds up in love. Selfridge uses his influence to perform amazing feats like encouraging women to recite all the items for sale on every floor like parrots, and to sashay everywhere in catwalk style and not mind when he bursts into their dressing room half-clad as, hey, "it's Mr Selfridge". I'll watch again tomorrow, mainly out of curiosity.
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