David Walliam’s Big Swim Review: Stroke of Genius

DAVID WALLIAMS BIG SWIM: Thursday 8th March, BBC1, 9pm

When I heard that David Walliams would be swimming the length of the River Thames, my first thought was that it his immune system would take the same amount of abuse as his body. I walk across London Bridge to get to work every day and the water below looks dirtier than Michael Fassbender’s hard-drive in Shame.

As such, it’s a testament to David Walliam’s steely determination that he overcame hypothermia, raw sewage, chronic fatigue and diarrhea to complete his 140 mile swim in eight days. Some might call him ‘Camp David’ but this captivating Sports Relief documentary proves that he has balls of solid rock.

You might have expected the first couple of days of his challenge to be relatively plain-sailing (clean rural water and a body full of energy) but unfortunately some jackass dumps 300 tonnes of sewage in the river the day before he starts and temperatures are unseasonably low, rendering his highly-ambitious decision to swim without a wet-suit suicidal. Consequently, he’s soon behind schedule and exceptionally ill, yet like Micky Goldmill in Rocky or Denzel Washington’s character in that film about American Football, his trainer kicks him back into the water and tells him he needs to pick up the pace. Meanwhile, his wife looks on with a look of morbid concern and a host of fellow comedians take it in turns to offer their support.

Jimmy Carr deadpans in for an hour or so and Rob Brydon manages to be genuinely funny as he paddles along behind Walliams. “It’s been difficult, but I’ve got to keep going,” he says. “Unfortunately I’ve had some idiot swimming in my way for most of the time, so that’s not helping!” he adds, pointing to the Little Britain star. Miranda Hart also turns up and ruins the poor bloke’s porridge in that ‘hilarious’ way of hers. For a second I thought he was going to swing for her.

As he draws towards the big smoke, Walliams’ skin is peeling off, he’s torn a disc and his face is swollen to the size of a football, but still he battles on, to a soundtrack made up of inspirational indy anthems from the Beeb’s montage playlist. By the time he climbs out of the water at Westminster Bridge I was inspired to donate another tenner to those poor kids in Kenya who sleep in between two busy roads. That’s £1,000,010 David!