View from the Sofa: It's a 10 for mediocrity as H from Steps just about avoids a Tumble

Tumble, BBC1

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The Independent Online

The list of whacky or mildly dangerous activities that an aspiring young producer can get celebrities to do on television is shrinking. We've had cooking, ice skating, diving and now gymnastics, in the cleverly titled Tumble, the final of which aired on Saturday night.

Somewhere, you suspect, there is a windowless room in the cool part of town, where people with interesting beards and unorthodox piercings have “thought showers” about potential activities to put cast members of Geordie Shore, a table tennis Commonwealth medallist and the plump one from Union J through. You can imagine the conversation: Half-pipe skateboarding! Too out-there. Ultra-running! Too slow. Base jumping? Erm, elimination may be a little too permanent.

Whatever the skinny-jeaned ones in charge of what we watch come up with, they must remember that one of the keys to shows such as these is that the celebrities have to be spectacularly bad – like many in the diving show Splash! – or surprisingly good, such as Phil Vickery in a recent series of Celebrity MasterChef, if the show is to be a success. It doesn’t cut it if the contestants are merely OK.

As it was in the Tumble final on Saturday night. The ingredients were there: they had danger (they had to perform a double trapeze) and true star quality in Nadia Comaneci as one of the judges. There was even some sporting interest outside gymnastics in the boxer Carl Froch as one of the contestants.

However, the rest of the line-up was ho-hum. H from Steps was there (in his fifth celebrity game show appearance, no less), as was someone from The Only Way is Essex. And they were all right at gymnastics. Not brilliant, just, well, “meh”.

There were some surreal moments – like Comaneci, the first woman to get a perfect 10 in the Olympics, giving H the same score, with a gushing “that was amazing”, for managing not to drop his partner.


Then there was Froch, who was described as “a wimp” by the choreographer for his moaning at trapeze training. It must be noted that the choreographer was standing nowhere near the world super-middleweight champion when she said this.

“I am not one to whinge for the sake of it,” Froch whinged in defence. “I punch people in the face for a living – I know what pain is about. But the trapeze is excruciating; I can’t stand it.”

He was right: it was excruciating, watching him galumph around the floor in a giraffe-skin patterned leotard. The judges said he had discovered “grace”, after he capped off his routine with a somersault that was as graceful as a goal celebration.

That encapsulated the main bone of contention with the show.

We had genuine gymnasts in Comaneci and Louis Smith, bronze medallist at London 2012, saying what we were watching was spectacular. It wasn’t. It wasn’t even exciting. We are not asking for compound fractures and screaming judges, but we would like to be entertained.

Take note, beardy ideas people.