The Eagle has landed.
And so we come to the end of Splash!‘s brief initial run. Despite the inauspicious start, I’d be inclined to say that the series can broadly be considered a success. The ratings have been stable, it’s always won its timeslot, and it’s demonstrated a reassuring willingness to learn from its mistakes. Not many shows are willing to admit to their viewers that they consider themselves a work-in-progress rather than the finished product, but it’s hard to argue against the suggestion that by the end of the series Splash! was both more confident and more assured than it was during its shaky debut at the start of the year. The only other show I can think of in recent memory that’s shown a willingness to attempt to fix the flaws in its formatting from episode to episode was Superstar, though in that case I think most of the damage had already been done by the time the production team frantically started bailing water over the side. Tellingly, throughout this week’s final, this series was referred to as “Splash! 2013″, suggesting that while a second series isn’t necessarily a fait accompli at this point, it’s at least still on the table. (Of course, it’s unwise to read too much into things like that: off the top of my head, The Mole and So You Think You Can Dance both made on-air references to new series that never actually made it onto our screens.)
Anyway, to business: this week was the final, and everyone had dressed up a little bit: Tom was wearing a smarter shirt and some improbably tight jeans, while Vernon forsook his usual off-duty Scoutmaster’s outfit in favour of a shirt, tie, waistcoat and matching trousers. In a bid to generate some anticipation for the result, we were occasionally offered fleeting glimpses of the winner’s trophy. It was, in all honesty, quite difficult to get excited about. It looked like something you’d use to recharge your electric toothbrush in 1998. Still, a trophy is a trophy, right? It’s the winning that counts, and not the taking part, and all that.
Before the contestants took to the boards for their final dives, we were treated to a little bit more of Tom’s Diving Advice, one golden nugget thereof went as follows: “You’ve only got one shot, and you’ve got to make it count.” Unless you’ve been a bit bothered by some flash photography and petition the officials for another go, eh Tom? Also, I have a feeling he might just be lifting all of his advice from a JLS lyrics website at this point.
Up first in the final was LAST WOMAN STANDING (you might have missed the show mentioning this, they were very subtle about it) Linda Barker, whose photogenic family were in the audience looking very supportive and being gushed over a little bit by Gabby. Linda’s VT was an early indicator that this was to be an evening of injury porn as we were shown evidence of her overrotating in practice and gaining a large patch of bruises which appeared pretty much instantly as a result. One thing’s for sure: this show wasn’t about to let us forget that diving is a dangerous business. As Tom put it, you can hit the water at 34mph, so “it hurts if you get it right, let alone if you get it wrong.” Like a few other things I can think of, EH LADS? Tom informed Linda that she’d be doing somersaults this week, which Linda admitted wasn’t something that came naturally for her and, after struggling with the 3m springboard, she decided to move up to the 5m board instead. As Tom pointed out, this was a risky decision because the springboard gives you a boost, height- and speed-wise, but jumping from a stable board means you’ve got to do that all for yourself. Not that Linda needed to worry, as she executed a clean forward 1½ somersault on the night, after which the judges applauded her again for being “the only lady in the final” (Christ, there were only three spots available; we were guaranteed a gender imbalance whatever happened) and gave her 26.5 points, her highest score so far.
Eddie was on next, and since his victory seemed pretty much guaranteed all evening, it was important to inject a bit of jeopardy into the proceedings less he become a boring invincible hero, so we saw lots of his bellyflops from training, with Linda and Jake watching from the sidelines and gasping about how Eddie never normally SITS ON THE SIDE IN PAIN so something must be REALLY WRONG. This gave Tom an opportunity to remind us once again how it once took him eight months to recover from a botched dive (easy life!) and how the contestants on this show do not have the luxury of time. Or indeed the luxury of luxury, judging by some of those costumes. Anyway, Eddie’s nerve was affected a little bit, but not to the extent that it stopped him from doing a 2½ somersault from the TEN! METRE! BOARD!, one which was so inarguably flawless that it earned him the series’ only perfect score from the judges. In other news, Eddie did prayer-hands before diving which made me realise how much I want Pamela Stephenson to do series two, if one goes ahead.
After an ill-advised jaunt into the audience to seek Louie Spence’s opinion, it was time to rejoin Jake Canuso, who’d been given another handstand dive by Tom. Jake wasn’t terribly convinced this was a good idea, as all those handstands from last week had left him with stiff, swollen wrists (at least, that was his excuse). So he attempted the dive (a forward somersault pike) from a seated start before realising that it looked completely naff that way – “without the handstand, there is no dive” as he put it. So the handstand was reinstated, meaning that we got lots more agonising wobbly close-ups of Jake’s facial tension as he prepared for it. After one abortive attempt at the handstand, he managed to complete the dive, and despite a little bit of arm-flailing, the execution was pretty good, leading the judges to score him 27.5 points. A good score, but nonetheless Vernon felt it necessary to petition Tom all “Y THEY NO TENS?”, leading Tom to point out that you can’t really give someone a perfect score when it took them five minutes to do a handstand.
With the first round out of the way, it was time to catch up with some of the also-rans. This led to the if-you-didn’t-see-it-with-your-own-eyes-you’d-never-believe-it scenario in which Omid Djalili quoted Proust on ITV Saturday primetime (the quotation in question being “we always end up doing the thing we are second-best at”, and if Omid truly believes comedy is the thing he’s second-best at, it’s probably not my place to correct him), while Jade tried the “I’ve learned a new skill!” approach. Except the new skill in her case was swimming rather than diving, which is nice and all but not really the point.
After that, it was the moment everybody (/some people) had been waiting for: the synchronised dives with Tom! This wasn’t really as exciting as we were led to hope – due to the restricted time frame available and the general unwillingness to endanger Britain’s golden boy of diving unnecessarily, most of the dives were fairly straightforward. After Tom explained the deeply complicated process of synchronised diving (“I’ll count them in, and we’ll go on ‘go’.” THANKS TOM!), Linda was up first and was very impressed that Tom was able to alter the speed of his dive if she was falling faster than he was. TOM DALEY, MASTER OF GRAVITY. Linda and Tom went for an inward pike from the TEN! METRE! BOARD! which came together pretty well, although Linda slightly over-rotated at the end.
Following a brief interlude in which Gabby and Vernon attempted synchronised presenting (which they pulled off impressively well, which just goes to show how they’ve actually developed some decent chemistry together since the awkwardness of the first episode), Eddie and Tom performed their inward 1½ somersault pike, which was so impressive that it caused Leon to comment that “for a minute there, I thought I was watching Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield.” Meanwhile at home, Peter Waterfield was all:
Rounding off the competition part of the night’s proceedings, Jake and Tom performed a 1½ somersault pike from the 7.5m board, and despite Jake’s slight issues with jumping next to another person (it’s no aquaphobia, but it’ll do), it all worked out fine in the end, even though Jake hit the water *slightly* sooner than Tom. Final results for this round: Linda 27.5, Eddie 29.0, Jake 28.0, leaving the leaderboard essentially unchanged.
The show had lined up a suitably ridonkalonk water performance for its final appearance, as we were treated to all of the following (listed in no particular order): water drums, water cannons, ‘The Edge Of Glory’, Tom Daley, and the world’s only known female professional diver, Tonia Couch. It was quite something.
After a bit of filler from the judges and a recap of the series (I forgot Diarmuid Gavin had been anywhere near this show until he suddenly popped up again), it was time to reveal the winner. First, Linda was confirmed as the third-place finisher (YOU SEE HOW EASY THAT IS, STRICTLY COME DANCING? I HOPE YOU WERE TAKING NOTES), leaving Jake and Eddie standing – and of course, Eddie was crowned the winner. After that there was nothing left to do but for all the presenters, mentors and judges to leap into the pool fully clothed to declare the series officially over. (Points of note here: Gabby could not get in the water fast enough, she was ripping her earrings out while she was still finishing her last link, while Vernon had to be dragged in kicking and screaming.)
So, that was Splash! 2013. Hardly a watermark for highbrow television, but a pleasant enough way of passing 90 minutes on a Saturday night, and as I said above, a show that seemed determined to be the best version of itself that it could be, even if that meant working out the kinks live on air each week. Whether it’ll be back for another series remains to be seen, but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. I imagine it’ll depend on whether ITV believes that the ratings will hold up during a second run once the novelty value’s worn off, and whether they’ve already scraped the bottom of the contestant barrel. Still, I hope Dr Pamela Stephenson-Connolly is hovering by the phone, just in case.