Is The Jump too dangerous for TV?

The Jump 1

Broken backs, dislocated shoulders and fractured ankles, just some of the injuries incurred in this year’s The Jump. Channel 4’s TV reality show, where celebrities compete in winter sports, is back. Presented by the cheery Davina McCall, the third season sees celebs take on the events such as the skeleton. Then the slowest two celebrities in each discipline compete on an enormous looking jump to stay in the competition.

Launching in 2014 the show was an instant hit, attracting 2.6 million viewers for its first episode. The second season did even better with a 2.8 million viewers for its first.  Past competitors ranged from Heather Mills to Mike Tindall to Lady Victoria Hervey. This season includes Linford Christie, Lady Tara Palmer Tomkinson and Brian McFadden.  It has received heavy criticism from the press due to Olympic gymnast Beth Tweedle damaging her spinal cord, Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington dislocating her shoulder and Holby City’s Tina Hobley fractured her arm in two places, to name a few.

How did this happen? It was always a dangerous show. If you take any nonprofessional skier, and make them compete in a skeleton or slalom there are bound to be accidents. Every year the injuries have made the news. In the first season socialite Henry Conway shattered a bone in his hand while Melinda Messenger got concussion. There have been changes that might account for this.  In previous years it was filmed mainly in Natters, Austria. Now it is Kuthai – still in Austria but 1,300m higher than Natters, with steeper slopes. The contestants are also living together for the first time in a luxury Alpine lodge.

A study of the location reveals Natters is deemed as being fairly ‘safe’. Kuthai is different, steeper, more challenging for the inexperienced skier. The celebrities living together is another factor. An extra glass in the evening with a new friend after a hard day on the slopes could be an inviting prospect for many of them.  A shared house would encourage that conviviality and altitude will assure they get drunk more quickly.

My only major skiing accident was when I was hungover after a big night. Que blood wagon down the mountain and a flight home for surgery. That highlights that this isn’t the type of show where you can mess around. To do well here logic dictates that the celebrities will need focus and a willingness to put a lot of work in to get it right. That leads on to the question of attitude. To succeed, as they have in their chosen fields, they will have had to back themselves 100%. If they are afraid they can maybe voice this but actually bowing out of completion, unless injured, would be a big loss of face, and could lose fans.

Perhaps it’s something very simple, three years’ worth of accidents consolidated in the public mind. The public and press remember them all and combined it does look like a big number.

Despite these possible causes for the danger, personal choice plays a significant part. The celebrities themselves must assess whether this is too risky for them. No one is forcing them to do this, perhaps an eager agent will encourage it but that’s it. They are getting paid handsomely – Ben Cohen is rumoured to be getting a £60,000 fee. For those joining later in the competition, there is even less reason to opt in blindly as they can’t have escaped the press coverage.

It’s also worth examining competitors to see where The Jump sits in the reality TV landscape. I’m a Celebrity… is a popular show that takes place in a jungle filled with deadly spiders and snakes. The cast and crew are subjected to these threats on a daily basis. Medics have had to treat people for anaphylactic shock, ticks and fever related to ticks.  All the challenges are pre-tested so perhaps the most damaging aspects are the mental ones. Gemma Collins of TOWIE fame had a very public breakdown on the show last year. The Jump is similar in many ways but the injuries seem more physical. It appears as I’m a Celebrity’s… colder, harder, meaner sister. It could be that it has stepped across an invisible line which is unacceptable to viewers in a way that I’m a Celebrity… has not.

The Jump is dangerous, but too dangerous for TV? I’m not so sure. Perhaps the insurers will have the final say. When the celebrities are gathered together they do look like they’re having a blast. That may seem irrelevant but conviviality between them looks real. It’s attractive to watch. Those little moments, in between the accidents, are endearing. Be it Sarah Harding being fired up after the skeleton or, watching Arg slide over a jump on his arse, it is exhilarating viewing! No one forced anyone to get involved. If you don’t want to watch it you can always switch channels. So, yes – dangerous but good viewing and hopefully will continue to be for a while longer.

The Jump is shown on Channel 4 on Sunday nights at 20.00.