Sunday, 10 August 2014

Telegraph TV review: Tumble, BBC One, Sat 9 August

Trailed as the new Strictly Come Dancing, Tumble was more or less a straight rip-off of its predecessor, says Gerard O'Donovan

4 out of 5 stars
BBC One's Tumble sees celebs including Sarah Harding and H from Steps compete in a gymnastics competition for judges Louis Smith and Nadia Comaneci
Ten celebrities bravely don their tightest lyrca for BBC One's Tumble, in the hope of impressing judges Louis Smith and Nadia Comaneci Photo: BBC
It used to be all you had to do was swallow a witchetty grub to renew your faltering grip on fame. But nowadays celebrity game shows are much, much tougher and BBC One’s gymnastics-based Saturday night extravaganza Tumble looks one of the toughest yet.
It was trailed as the new Strictly Come Dancing but cracking out a sesequence of back handspring is a more hazardous prospect than knocking out a dashing quickstep. So it was always going to be more athletically demanding; more so even than Dancing on Ice or Splash. Or if the injury-focused tabloids were to be believed in the run up, riskier than your average blood sport. After all, Olympian and Tumble judge Louis Smith did say “if their hands aren’t bleeding, they’re not working hard enough”.
As it turned out, though, the Strictly comparison was more accurate than anticipated. For one thing, Tumble’s format was more or less a straight rip-off of its predecessor, from the eye-popping group opening performances and whimsical filmed training inserts, to the competitive routines with professional performers skilfully bringing out the best (and covering up the worst) of the star contestants.
There was a panel of four judges, too. Impressively lead by Romanian legend Nadia Comaneci alongside Smith, aerial performer Sebastien Stella and former Olympian Craig Heap – the latter eager to mark out his place as the new Craig Revel Horwood by awarding inexplicably low scores to contestants he’d praised face-to-face.
As for the contestants they were the usual mixed bag of former popsters, reality show and soap stars, with one or two surprising talents emerging from the start – not least of them former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan who at 60 looked younger and fitter than his professional coach and blasted out an impressive early floor routine full of jaw-dropping lifts and flips.
Sugababes singer Amelle Berrabah also impressed in the show’s chief novelty: the aerial routine which half the contestants must complete each week (which while obviously full of danger and difficulty never quite managed to convey that due to poor camerawork in the studio).
Others who did well were Steps singer Ian H Watkins, boxing champion Carl Froch and EastEnders actor John Partridge, with three female competitors – TOWIE star Lucy Mecklenburgh, Loose Women host Andrea McLean and Dynasty actress Emma Samms trailing in the scores at the end – and facing the dreaded knockout round on the vault if they don’t up their game next week.
Overall, Tumble lacked distinctiveness by sticking too close to the Strictly formula. But on this evidence it will grow in strength and confidence as it goes on. If the celebrity performances were understandably a little wobbly at this early stage, where it really impressed was in the professional routines – in particular the closing number by Louis Smith and his fellow members of the Commonwealth Games medal-winning team. For that alone the show deserves an extra star. I will be coming back for more. 

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