You may not have noticed amid all the publicity being undeservedly hogged by former bigoted racist turned national hero Jim Davidson, but the Winter Olympics starts next week. Two weeks of people doing crazy things on bobsleighs, sleds, skis and skates begins in Sochi, Russia on February 7.
But Channel 4 can't wait that long. So to fill the void until then they have done what all television companies like to do these days, and based a celebrity reality television show on it. 'The Jump' pits a series of slebs and no-marks against each other in some highly dangerous sporting pursuits, presumably in the hope that one of them will suffer a serious injury. Because that would be great television.
And one of them almost did during the episode that I watched on Thursday night. The Olympic connection may just be a coincidental bonus, but the sight of five-time rowing gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave stumbling into the snow at break-neck speed was probably exactly the sort of thing the producers were after. I just felt a little embarrassed by it all. This well respected Olympic hero reduced to a crumpled heap on the snow, letting out moans which reminded me of when Alan Partridge got stuck under a cow;
'Are you alright, Alan?'
'No, I'm not alright. I'm stuck under a cow...'
But the show must go on with or without Sir Steve. At the point I join proceedings there are only seven celebrities left in the competition. The idea is that they all compete against each other in a series of winter events, with the bottom two celebrities suffering the indignity of 'The Jump', an actual, real-life if slightly smaller-scale ski-jump. Whoever jumps furthest out of the two gets to further their careers for another night. The loser goes home, metaphorically speaking. In reality they stick around to comment on what happens to the others in subsequent events. Tonight's expert analysis comes from Amy Childs, much to the delight of her interviewer and Last Leg pillock Alex Brooker. Spellbinded by Childs' boobs on legs form, Brooker is reduced to a blathering imbecile. I'm certain he's trying to flirt with her. He then turns his attention to reading out viewer tweets, of which remarkably there are several. What kind of people sit at home watching this shite and think 'I know, I'll tweet Alex Brooker to see if they read out my keyboard warrior false name on television'? And anyway why does Brooker have to have a role in everything broadcast by Channel 4? Anybody would think that he actually has some talent. As for Childs, she is no longer in the competition after she actually refused to perform her ski-jump when she found herself in the bottom two. There's footage of her sitting terrified at the top of the slope, like a mortified deer refusing to drink from the river in case they are eaten by a crocodile. Also hanging around after being knocked out is Sinitta. The thought crossed my mind that this show cannot have been the first time that Sinitta has tried to further her career with a jump.
And so to tonight's event which is the bobsleigh. The bobsleigh is not all that compelling when there are Olympic medals at stake, so what chance does it have of creating excitement when the most interesting possible outcome is watching a celebrity's head roll slowly down the track like Vyvyans on the railway during that classic University Challenge episode of The Young Ones? With Sir Steve in hospital it has therefore been established that this is not even live, thus reducing the chances of any celebrity deaths being broadcast to an almost miniscule level. Sir Steve's bobsleigh run had already been filmed before his accident so he is there and yet not there, if you see what I mean. His run is particularly harrowing for me as the camera inside the bobsleigh dwells unnecessarily on his bollocks as he endeavours to get into the bobsleigh. By the way, the celebrities aren't driving the bobsleigh. That would be madness. Instead their task is to run as fast as they can pushing the bobsleigh down the track before hopping in, bollocks-cam and all. After that their only concerns are holding on for dear life, screaming intermittently, and pulling the brakes on when they hit the finish line.
It's all presided over by shouty former Big Brother presenter Davina McCall. Big Brother is a steaming pile of sewage, but being shoved on to this guff probably qualifies as a demotion for McCall. There's a wonderful sketch on Dead Ringers in which McCall is depicted along with Claudia Winklman as a grunting lunatic, incapable of actual speech. The two meet in the park pushing prams and just thrash their heads about while they grunt. It's one of those rare sketches which you know is not accurate, but you have to love it because it gives you the feeling that this is how the two of them should communicate were they to meet in the park. When she is not shouting McCall is there to provide sympathy for the celebrities as one by one they look back disappointedly on their bobsleighing efforts. To be fair she has done well to recognise some of these celebrities. Who is Kimberley Wyatt anyway? And Laura Hamilton? Then there is Joe McElderry possibly making his first television appearance since X-Factor, and Richie Neville from Five (who in preparation for his bobsleigh run is trying to recall his rugby days, which is like me trying to remember my rock-climbing days), Donal McIntyre, and Marcus Brigstocke. Well who were you expecting? It takes a certain level of desperation to volunteer to career down an icy track at a million miles an hour just to be on telly.
McIntyre is particularly inept. The investigative reporter can get into the inner sanctums of the most cloak and dagger organisations for his television shows, yet here he can't even get into a bobsleigh. He is duly disqualified and, unless more than one of the remaining contestants shows equal ineptitude, is resigned to taking part in the climactic 'jump' at the end of the show. They don't, and so joining him in the crunch showdown will be Hamilton, who it turns out is a television presenter according to commentator Barry Davies. The work must be drying up, is all I can think. She's taking pointless daredevilry to new heights as she explains to McCall that she recently gave birth. The pressure increases on McIntyre then. How humiliating will it be if he can't ski-jump further than a woman half his size who has only recently been discharged from the maternity ward?
And anyway what happened to Barry Davies to see him reduced to this? My childhood is peppered with memories of Davies commentating on some of the biggest sporting occasions on television. He retired from all of that after a moody flounce. He wanted to know why he wasn't getting as many big football games as John Motson. And well he might. I think we all have a case for being selected to commentate on Match Of The Day ahead of Motson, whose descent into senility is gathering pace. Davies' unfaithful dalliances with the likes of tennis, gymnastics and ice skating probably cost him dear on that score, but I'm sure he never saw it ending like this. Trying to describe a ski-jump performed by two inept celebrities just hoping for another night on the telly.
In the event it is McIntyre who edges the jump, with a winning distance of 13.5m. So unimpressive is this that I am reminded of Bob Mills' old joke about sliding down his driveway one snowy morning and finding out later that day that he was ranked second in Great Britain in downhill skiing. A lack of a reliable snow supply has rendered the British somewhat useless at winter sports, a fact that will no doubt be further proven when the real action starts in Russia. And so seven become six here in Celebrityville, and we are promised some speed skating tomorrow. Sir Steve's participation is in some doubt but that would not be as big a blow for him as it might be for some of the others involved. No matter how many crap reality shows you do you can expect to retain some modicum of respect after having achieved all that he has.
The stakes are palpably higher for the likes of McElderry.