I’m a big fan of reality TV, which I accept as being highly scripted and rarely real in any sense. But even I had to roll my eyes when not one but two celebrity diving programs made the programming slate (Fox’s “Stars in Danger: The High Dive” two-hour special in January sunk like a stone in the ratings, bringing in just 3.4 million viewers). Now ABC’s foray into celebrity diving, “Splash,” is scheduled to air, and the big question is whether or not it will belly flop like its predecessor.
I get it — a diving reality show was a big hit in the Netherlands, so some smart exec decided U.S. audiences would like it, too. I’d also like to point out that an eight-hour program featuring wood burning in a fireplace (and a little chopping, just for action) is a huge hit in Norway, with 20 percent of the population having tuned in at some point. That’s not a joke, by the way. I’m just waiting for NBC to tackle the U.S. version of that one. The ratings couldn’t be too much worse than what they’re already getting for “Smash.”
But yes, this gives us a chance to see a variety of celebrities — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Louie Anderson, Drake Bell, Chuy Bravo, Rory Bushfield, Nicole Eggert, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Ndamukong Suh, Katherine Webb and Kendra Wilkinson — in swimwear, though only the physically fit get regular bathing suits (everyone else gets some variation on long shorts and t-shirts or a wetsuit). This is a relief, given that I think Louie Anderson would just be really unhappy in a Speedo.
Beyond that? The appeal of watching diving in the Olympics is that it’s quick and it’s beautiful. I don’t think diving will be either of these things on this show, which will likely feature a lot of belly flops and panic.
Ultimately, I think “Splash” is sort of like hanging out at the pool with people who are being bullied into getting on the high diving board even though they’re scared to death. I call that any given summer at a public pool, so I just have to wait a few months if I want to see this live, without commercial breaks.
We do get to vote (as with “Dancing with the Stars,” judges’ totals will be combined with votes from the public) and watch live diving (just like the Olympics! But with more pain!). Still, I’m wondering if more than a few celebrities are just hoping the whole show gets canceled before they have to dive in front of a live audience. Given the track record for celebrity diving on TV, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
Are you going to be watching “Splash”?