I can see at least two problems with the title Stars in Danger: The High Dive, Fox’s celebrity diving competition special.
On one hand, and not that surprisingly, this decidedly low-rent addition to the “recognizable faces doing things they’re not known for” reality genre has not exactly enticed the A-list. Terrell Owens is arguably the biggest “star” on hand, with thousands of football jerseys bearing his name, and those of the seven professional teams (including the arena league) he’s played for before his, shall we say, complicated personality sent him packing mouldering in closets around the nation. Jersey Shore’s (sigh) JWOW (nee Jennifer Farley) might rate a distant second, with Alexandra Paul, from Baywatch (although she’ll always be Dragnet’s “the virgin, Connie Swail” to me), a couple of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (Kyle and Kim Richards), surfer and sharkbit Soul Surfer inspiration Bethany Hamilton, Paul’s Baywatch costar David Chokachi, dancer Stephen “tWitch” Boss from So You Think You Can Dance, and soap actor/professional handsome guy Antonio Sabato Jr. filling out the ranks.
In the second place, and in spite of the show’s liberal application of tension-ratcheting incidental music, actual “danger” is not especially apparent. The aforementioned JWOW claiming to be afraid of heights and whining that she’s “about to [expletive deleted] her pants” notwithstanding, the show’s unwavering insistence that the participants are in genuine peril is persistently silly, and tiresome. (Especially since they’re not performing truly risky moves anything like the kind of inside pike that famously brained Greg Louganis at the Seoul Olympics.) Sure, it’s a long way down from the high platform (which seems even longer, since, you know, water is transparent and stuff), but there is water down there and, as the various training bellyflops (and myriad YouTube videos) show, the worst that can happen is a serious case of pink belly (although Paul does sport some nasty thigh bruises), and some televised embarrassment. But, then again, most reality show participants seem to have had their dignity waived with their fee...
Few athletic pursuits are more likely to make the novice look foolish than are the diving arts, where even the most finely toned are destined to resemble less the impossibly balletic, graceful transformation of the practiced diver and more like a plastic bag full of meat pushed off a cliff. Over the show’s two(!?) hours, trainer and one-time Olympic bronze medalist Troy Dumais and his team smilingly do what they can, but, out of the assembled amateurs in his charge it’s, unsurprisingly, the best-conditioned who pull ahead (although I expected tWitch’s ridiculous dancer’s body control to carry him further in the individual competition).
Stars in Danger isn’t completely void of entertainment value: most of the competitors take the mastery of their new skills with endearing seriousness (although they keep repeating the one dive they’re most confident in), and I could watch the engaging tWitch and Bethany synchronized team (dubbed “Team Happy”) a bit longer. The show’s attempts to inject a reality show human interest subtext to all the splashing, however, (mostly in the form of the sibling rivalry of the Richards sisters) is undermined by that familiarly-unconvincing reality confessional style and the sisters’ too-ready tears which drip into the pool at the slightest provocation.
In the final analysis though, while no one is more bored by mocking reality TV than I, one must ask what attracted these particular personalities to Stars in Danger. No one could realistically expect a concept like this to be a regular gig, or to supplant the various terrestrial celebrity talent competitions which can rope in at least the B-list and actual hall of fame ballers. And any prize money, judging by the decidedly pedestrian production values on display, can’t be enough, surely. So watching these fading lesser lights, pariah ex-athletes, and those semi-famous for doing things engineered to make them semi-famous flopping themselves off diving boards for pocket change and another week’s worth of derided notoriety engenders sad empathy more than laughs at some fame hungry folks obviously just trying to stay afloat.
- Although now best known for their tenure as Real Housewives, the Richards sisters have some John Carpenter cred lurking in their filmographies. Kim was the obnoxious little girl gunned down in Assault on Precinct 13 while Kyle was little Lindsay Wallace in Halloween. Thanks IMDb!
- Even the ever-present pink belly peril is undercut by the fact that, much of the time during training, contestants are wearing protective, full-body wetsuits.
- “Stars the way you’ve never seen them before- in tight swimsuits and in danger!” You know, except for when they were on Baywatch busting criminals in tight swimsuits every week...
- Paul could easily apply for the position of this generation’s Geraldine Chaplin.
- Announcer Kyle Martino claims that the contestants launched themselves at “ludicrous speed.” Mister, I’ve seen Spaceballs, and that was not ludicrous speed...
- That harness/trampoline contraption and the adult-sized ball pit full of foam blocks do look fun.
- Hamilton’s chipper description of her minor training injuries contrasts humorously with the ominous music and narration throughout her segment. I mean, she was partially eaten by a shark...
- Contrasted with a shark attack victim’s cheery resilience diving with one freaking arm, some of the contestants’ teary, overdramatic reactions (JWOW, Paul) come off as, perhaps, less than sympathetic.
- Dumais’ statement “Blind entry is terribly scary” elicited an immediate “Phrasing!” because I love Archer. And am apparently 15 years old.