Entertainment & Arts

Tom Daley's diving show makes a splash

Tom Daley on Splash!
Image caption The show sees celebrities trained by Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley

Splash!, ITV's celebrity diving show, has won the Saturday night ratings battle, despite mixed reviews.

The series sees contestants, including comic Omid Djalili and Sugababes singer Jade Ewen, being taught to dive by GB Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley.

An average audience of 5.6 million viewers watched the somersaults and bellyflops, with a peak of 6.3 million.

It was the most-watched show of the night, but some reviewers called it "TV's biggest belly flop".

The Daily Mail called it "gob-smackingly awful" and "cringe-making".

"When it's all over, you find yourself questioning whether it really happened or if you just dreamt it," wrote Claudia Connell.

"As Olympic legacies go, Splash is down there with a discarded G4S uniform," said the Mirror in its editorial.

But The Sun was kinder, saying the show was "so bad it's good".

"In telly, as in diving, flops make the biggest waves," wrote Colin Robertson.

Image caption Sugababes singer Jade Ewen confronted her fear of water to take part

The opening episode lasted 90 minutes, but the five contestants performed only one dive each. The rest of the running time was filled with training videos, a show dive from Daley himself, and a James Bond homage, with stunt divers in tuxedos.

Ewen, who joined the Sugababes in 2009, confronted her fear of water to take part - explaining that she had never learnt to swim because both of her parents were legally blind.

"The first time I had to walk along the board, I panicked," she said.

Another celebrity with nerves was Jake Canuso, star of ITV sitcom Benidorm, who had to confront his memories of the 2004 tsunami.

"Initially hitting the water, with all the bubbles it just triggers some memories," he said during training. "I nearly drowned in the tsunami in Thailand."

Djalili, who has starred in Hollywood films including Pirates Of The Caribbean and Gladiator, topped the leader board with a daring 10-metre swan dive, while Canuso made it through after winning a head-to-head "splash off" against Falconer.

They progressed to the semi-finals while, over the next two weeks, 10 more celebrities will take part in the heats.

Among them are Olympic boxer Anthony Ogogo, supermodel Caprice, and ski jumper Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards.

Image caption Omid Djalili topped the leaderboard, scoring 23 points out of a possible 30

ITV will be waiting to see whether viewing figures hold steady after the initial episode - although the buzz on social media could see more people tune in out of curiosity.

Twitter user Simone Rodney wrote: "The only thing that could make this awful programme even remotely entertaining would be a great white shark."

Sherlock and Doctor Who writer Mark Gattiss wrote a verse about the show, and its presenter Vernon Kay: "Strictly moistened / Barrel scraped / Vernon's eyes/ Quiet desperation."

Many were mystified by the presence of comedian Jo Brand on the judging panel, alongside Team GB's diving coach Andy Banks and former Olympic diving medallist Leon Taylor.

On the show she explained she was a "keen swimmer" who practiced springboard diving as a teenager.

She recently starred in a show on TV channel Dave called Jo Brand's Big Splash, in which she mixed stand-up comedy with meeting people with a love of water.

Radio presenter Jon Holmes jokingly suggested two possible alternatives for the panel: "Where's Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah?"

Radio 5 live presenter Richard Bacon said: "We've had our sarcastic fun. But let's admit that in its own mysterious way, it's strangely enjoyable. If not utterly compelling."

After the programme ended, Djalili posted a defence of the show on his own Twitter account: "Seriously. #Splash most surreal Saturday night TV show ever. But it'll go global".

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