The Jump, TV review: A bonkers, scary mash-up of Big Brother and Ski Sunday
An utterly ridiculous but quite heartwarming new show
In 21 Winter Olympics, team GB have won 22 medals, an average of one per outing. This year, in Sochi, kicking off on 7 February, the target's three. It's not our fault we're rubbish; topography and climate are against us. But our lack of prowess in the Winter arena means for many, the most well-known home-grown Olympian is Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, he came last in his events in the 1988 Games, but no matter, he's what we've got.
In a bid to drum up enthusiasm for Russia, Channel 4 - who've secured the Paralympic coverage - have used The Eagle's name to put behind The Jump, the latest reality show where "celebrities" push their bodies - and sanity levels - to the limit. The result is bonkers, and nail-biting to watch - for the wrong reasons.
The show's not just about ski jumping. The 12 celebs include five-time Olympic gold medalist (and former British bobsleigh champion) Sir Steve Redgrave, who's competing against such luminaries as former Blue Peter presenter Anthea Turner, celebrity hair dresser Nicky Clarke and Simon Cowell's ex, Sinitta. They're tackling eight sports over 10 nights, and the losing two in each time trial then face a - frankly terrifying-looking - live ski jump, with the celeb recording the shortest effort being packed off back to Blighty.
The Jump feels like a mash up of Big Brother and Ski Sunday. That's probably because at the helm is Davina "Big Brother" McCall, while former Olympic skier Graham Bell, usually seen fronting BBC's Ski Sunday, is one of the coaches, and incidentally the only sensible thing about it (his guides to the Sochi disciplines are worth tuning in for).
Both presenters are great in their own way but together, it's weird. The timing's odd too; the first 45 minutes is taken up with Davina, at the bottom of a ski jump, surrounded by a 30-strong, cowbell-wielding rent-a-crowd, the "celebs" trussed up in garish alpine gear, and some jazzy coloured lighting, introducing clips of pre-recorded action.
The action in this first episode was the blokes tackling the Giant Slalom, no mean feat for non-skiers like boyband member Ritchie Neville (who, by the way, definitely used to be called Rich). Cue headcam shots of teeth-gritting and expletives, fancy angles and commentary from veteran Barry Davies, who's probably wondering where it all went wrong since the London 2012 closing ceremony. On the piste, Neville looked terrified, Clarke cried, Redgrave, of course, aced it.
When we finally got around to the jump, Ri(t)ch(ie) and Nicky were up and The Eagle was no where to be seen. Both contestants opted for the smallest jump, out of three. Alarmingly, Neville revealed he'd only been "signed off" to do the small one. "I'm dangerous, apparently," he said. He's not the only one - Sam Jones aka Flash Gordon was forced to pull out through injury before the live stages.
The actual jump showed why ITV's equally bonkers Splash! is so flawed; jumping off something takes seconds. There are only so many replays of Nicky Clarke wearing a tight, shiny light blue suit looking like he is about to vomit all over the camera in fear that we can watch.
On landing unscathed, Ri(t)ch(ie) had the look in his eyes of an innocent man who's just found out he's been released from Death Row. Defeated, Nicky held it together in the post match interview with Davina, but then fell into Redgrave's strong, sane arms.
The whole thing was quite heartwarming. Utterly ridiculous, yes, but I'll be tuning in tomorrow - to check on the body count and to see more of Sir Steve existing in the same mountain space as Sinitta and ex TOWIE "star" Amy Childs.
Follow Sally on Twitter: @sally_newall
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