When we first heard about ABC’s “Splash,” we had our doubts — watching D-list celebs hop into a pool doesn’t seem nearly as entertaining as watching them cha-cha. (And even the entertainment value of that is dwindling.) Tuesday’s series premiere of the celebrity diving competition show was surprisingly compelling, though. London Olympic U.S. gold medalist David Boudia and Australian Olympic athlete and USA Dive team director Steve Foley were very dynamic judges, and because the show doesn’t air live, there was room to create drama with editing.
First of all, we loved to hate the jingles for each of the divers — particularly “The Cosby Show” child star’s Keshia Knight Pulliam, whose jingle made sure to mention that she wasn’t little Rudy anymore. Her dive involved a handstand on the board, but the judges weren’t particularly impressed by it. “You had as much balance as a one-legged man at a butt-kicking contest,” Steve said. Keisha received an average score of 6.
Next up was 417 lb-Louie Anderson, who got emotional when talking about his first jump in the pool during practice — not because of the dive, but because he couldn’t get out of the pool afterward. It took several people to get him out of the pool, which he said was his most embarrassing moment. “My goal is that I’m going to be able to get out of the pool on my own,” he said. For a comedian, things took a very serious turn as tears came to his eyes. “It’s like a miracle that I was given this opportunity. It’s like someone was looking out for me.” Anderson, who dedicated his dive to the troops, started on the 5-meter board and then changed his mind and went up a level. The judges, impressed by his progress, gave him an average of 7.25.
Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition model and Miss Alabama USA 2012, Katherine Webb, wore an elaborate mono-kini that looked like it was painted on. “I’m more than just a pretty face,” she said. “Training is difficult. The fears that I do have are busting my face or bellyflopping.” She did a back somersault. The judges wanted her to up her degree of difficulty, but still gave her a 6.75 average score.
Extreme skier Rory Bushfield is used to landing on snow, not water. “When I jump off of something, it’s like a reset button. That sense of zero gravity calms my head.” He was having trouble getting used to the idea of landing on his head, since obviously that’s not ideal in skiing. He also had some form issues. Bushfield chose to dive from the highest board available — ten meters — and his dive was impressive, but he definitely didn’t go into the water head first. His back double somersault with a single twist impressed Steve. “You’re the new breed of diver … just maybe, 2016, we’ll have a skier win the Olympics in diving,” Steve said. He had an average score of 8.
Finally, 65-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took to the board, wearing his Laker colors. “It’s fun to watch an athlete who’s great at one thing trying to be good at something else,” coach Greg Louganis said. “My height is not an advantage. It’s easier to do somersaults when you’re not so long,” added Jabbar as he climbed to the three-meter springboard. “There’s a whole lot of physics involved. Diving is a small person’s game.” He attempted a back somersault, but belly-flopped into the water.
“This is a young guy’s sport,” David said, impressed that Jabbar even joined the competition. “When you’re doing a back somersault, you’ve got to use all your body, and you’ve got a lot of body to use.” The judges gave him a 7.25 because even though his dive wasn’t great, he is 7′ 2,” and 65 years old.
Once the audience’s vote was factored in, the bottom two divers were Katherine Webb and Keshia Knight Pulliam — the same bottom two as the judges chose. The two competed in a dive-off at the end of the episode. David saved Katherine, and Steve saved Katherine as well, sending Keshia home.
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