Monday, September 05, 2005

Lone Shark

On Sunday night at 8pm, ITV1 screened 'Sharks on Trial', a documentary discussing the possible reasons for the marked increase in shark attacks on humans in recent years. The programme concluded that a leading cause could be the relatively new phenomenon of 'cage diving', where people are lowered into the sea inside a metal cage, and sharks are lured to the area by pouring chum (a mixture of blood and guts) into the water. This practice was condemned as irresponsible by many leading experts, because it teaches sharks to associate humans with food.

But hey, what's a bit of irresponsibility when you're making a reality TV show? Nothing, that's what. So a quick commercial break later, and ITV1 launched 'Celebrity Shark Bait', a show which spent an hour doing exactly what the previous programme had warned us not to. It would be nice to think that it was done with a bit of irony, but this is ITV we're talking about. I don't think they know the meaning of the word.

Anyhoo, according to a recent article in The Guardian, the formula for a successful reality show is to have "a pretty one, a funny one, a thick one and a mad one". So step forward the stars of 'Celebrity Shark Bait': Amy Nuttall (pretty), Ruby Wax (funny), Colin Jackson (thick) and Richard E Grant (what's left?). The four were shipped out to South Africa, and stuck in a house together in Capetown, where they were told "a Great White has no regard for celebrity". Yeah, them and me both.

Once settled in, the group were introduced to "shark guru" (shark guru???) Mike Penman, and diving instructor Adam Cruz, who did their best to build up a bit of tension by showing the celebs a video of a dive which went wrong. Or right, depending on whether you're a diver, or a reality show viewer.

I was expecting the four's training to involve an intensive diving course, and hours spent familiarising themselves with their equipment, but strangely their entire preparation seemed to consist of standing in a freezer for two minutes. Which is nothing - I've spent longer in the ice cream cabinet at Tescos. But having experienced a few seconds of cold, they were promptly told they'd be diving the next morning. It's obviously easier than it looks, this cage diving lark.

As luck would have it, the weather turned against the plucky Brits, and the following day's dive had to be abandoned. As Amy Nuttall said, "I am gutted actually". Interestingly, that's precisely what I tuned in to see, but to be honest I had something else in mind.

Fortunately, another two days of sitting around (which celebrities do so well), and the show reached it's climax with the actual dives. Ruby clearly found religion, shouting "Oh my God" about once every three seconds, while Richard and Colin merely commented on how big the Great White is. The clue was in the name.

The actual footage of all four shark dives was both brief and surprisingly tame. Frankly, nothing happened. The celebs may have described it as "awesome", "amazing" and "jaw-dropping", but for us viewers it was five of the dullest minutes of television you're ever likely to see.

Next time, they should do without the cage.