Making a Splash on a Saturday Night 

19 January 2013

In the past few weeks has seen ‘Splash’ appear on screens throughout the land, opinion itself has be divided in the public domain and on social media. From it being loveable harmless entertainment to the worst thing that television has ever produced in its history. Author and Light Entertainment historian Louis Barfe when in conversation with another fellow follower, made a good point about these shows that in which they maybe seen as ‘mindless’ but when they are done well they can make for great television.

Throughout the years, shows like this have come, seen and conquered. From the Gladiators and their spandex clad antics on the rings in the 1990’s, people chucking sharp pointed arrows at a categorised board for prizes in Bullseye.

No matter how terrible they have seen, people always tuned in to see what happened in them. Amazingly the public were asked by the TV Times in the 1970’s to see what they would do for a gameshow and most of them were seemingly trying to be do-gooding from an idea of disabled people winning equipment to even people winning seemingly impossible prizes such as live animals.

That may seem implausible to some people today, but proves that ideas maybe not matter how bad they could have been used to form a basis of a show. The execution of the programme makes the difference if it will kept for the ages or would be wiped over, a host being important to make what seems like a flagging idea seem better than it is, with Strike It Lucky and later the London Weekend made Strike It Rich both fronted by Michael Barrymore, the game itself is just pot luck but without a host like him it could have just have easily failed. But a good host doesn’t always guarantee a good show, even the late, great Les Dawson couldn’t even save the game show Fast Friends. Dawson, the great host of Blankety Blank tried his best to make it work, but it didn’t quite gel.

So we’ve learned the format is king and such that the latest Saturday night offerings from the BBC and ITV of Britain’s Brightest and Splash have been successes in Germany and Holland respectively. There was a time when maybe there would have been laughter at foreign television but in the past ten years there have been more formats been imported from broadcasters from across the world, as many as have been sold back to them which have been originated in the United Kingdom.

For all the Family Fortunes and Generation Games which have came saw and taken their place at the top of the television ratings, other do not make it to these shores. Whether its just seemingly a piece of fluff in the schedules, it makes the difference if its enjoyable or not. Yet it will be seen if they next thing from The Netherlands is picked up, which is surprisingly Celebrity Ski Jumping. If ITV has used one Olympian to train celebrities to do something, you would not put it past them to use an other to try the same trick again.

Rob Williams is a writer and research of the history of Light Entertainment, the television industry as a whole. He has written for the Portsmouth News as their television nostalgia columnist and also writes on Light Entertainment and Television at his own site Boggenstrovia’s Bit

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3 responses to this article

Arthur Murgatroyd 21 January 2013 at 6:45 pm

“From it being loveable harmless entertainment to the worst thing that television has ever produced in its history.”

Splash is appallingly bad television, but at least it is not being funded by the television licence fee which was the case for what was probably the worst ever Saturday night TV game show: BBC-1’s “Don’t Scare The Hare” (the first TV series to be made at MediaCityUK for BBC Salford) axed after only three episodes were aired.

The BBC’s entertainment controller Mark Linsey stated, “Obviously Hare is not going well.”

Viewers should know that all the best game shows are on Japanese TV.

David Hastings 21 January 2013 at 9:59 pm

Not keen on Splash (with or without exclamation mark) but at least it is unintentionally hilarious in places, at least from what little I’ve seen of it. It’s a municipal swimming bath diving contest with a few X Factor-style bolt-on extras, and as such feels rather dated in its approach therefore nobody can dare criticise anything from the 1970s with a straight face ever again. Which is a good thing.

By comparison, Richard Hammond’s Secret Service is perhaps the worst thing the BBC has transmitted since Don’t Scare the Hare; the latter perhaps being the only programme that achieved the distinction of being both dull and irritating at the same time.

Alan Giles 25 January 2013 at 5:49 am

I think we just have to accept that there are no new ideas and what we see now are just variations on a theme.

What really angers me about modern trash TV is the overenthusiastic studio audiences, who, with a sign from the floor manager whip themselves up into hysterical outbursts of cheers, claps and whistles. Every show sounds as if they are heralding the second coming

Even the bargain bin of BBC TV “The One Show” get the production team to applaud that evenings Z List “celebrity” lounging on the studio sofa. There is of course no studio audience, it is just an attempt to make rubbish look better, and to massage the ego of the guest.

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