CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Soggy hosts and celebs rowing boats

Soggy hosts and celebs rowing boats — it’s hardly oar-inspiring… CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV

Don’t Rock The Boat  

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Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories 

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Science tells us that chemistry is the basis of everything in the universe. Nothing would exist without a chemical reaction.

But science clearly doesn’t know about A.J. Odudu and Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff. 

Big Brother Bit On The Side presenter A.J. and ex-England cricket captain Freddie are the hosts of Don’t Rock The Boat (ITV), a soggy format that challenges 12 celebrities to row from Cornwall to Scotland.

It looks like hard work, though not half as laborious as every appearance by the hosts. 

When they introduced the show, they appeared to be meeting each other for the first time.

A.J. Odudu and Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff are the hosts of Don’t Rock The Boat (ITV)

And by the end of the first episode, it seemed as if they were no longer on speaking terms — not a hint of chemistry between them.

Their commentaries competed to outdo each other for deadpan boredom. 

‘This has got the makings of a Titanic battle,’ said Freddie, cribbing the pun off the prompt cards in his hands.

‘Do not be mentioning the Titanic here,’ mumbled A.J. — the remark greeted by silence from 11 celebs and a forced cackle from Emmerdale actor Adam Thomas, like an embarrassed hyena.

Eight of the contestants set off to row the first leg, to West Wales, in a pair of boats that look like floating clogs. 

Immediately we discovered the show’s second big flaw: watching people rowing is really dull.  

Everyone is hunched over their oars. They have no spare energy for talking. 

There’s no scenery. And the sight of Red Dwarf actor Craig Charles chucking up in a bucket loses its appeal quite quickly.

The producers must have guessed this, because they kept four people back for an abseiling challenge. 

Laughing Boy Adam, a bloke off The Chase and a couple of reality show has-beens were clipped into harnesses and told to collect plastic balls as they stumbled down a cliff face.

‘Oh no, he’s dropped a buoy,’ said Freddie, with all the conviction of a hostage reading a ransom demand to a video camera.

‘She’s lost her footing,’ replied A.J. in the same weary voice you might use to say: ‘Your mother’s on the phone.’

‘Ah, this is not fun, this,’ groaned Adam, dangling over rocks. He spoke for us all.

Meanwhile, out at sea, former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson was putting in a five-hour stint on the oars. He’s taking this show seriously, but then he has to. 

What with Ed Balls, Jacqui Smith and who knows how many more, there’s no shortage of his former front-bench colleagues ready to step into his spotlight.

Robert Rinder hosts the reality courtroom series Judge Rinder

Robert Rinder, who has dipped his own toes into the reality TV pond, wisely sticks to what he’s good at — afternoon telly that smacks of an appointment at the solicitor’s office. 

Standing in front of his desk with his fingers steepled, a pose that must be taught at law school, he laid out the facts behind two dreadful murders on Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories (ITV).

For the first few minutes, the barbaric shooting of two police officers in Manchester in 2012, Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, seemed too raw a subject for retelling through reconstructions and news footage.

But it quickly became clear that this was done with the full co-operation of both young women’s families and their senior officers. 

Fathers Paul and Bryn spoke movingly about how enthusiastic their daughters were about their jobs, and their hopes for the future.

The voice of Chief Superintendent, Nick Adderley, choked up as he described the moment he learned his PCs had been killed. 

This was not exploitative television. It’s easy to forget how much police officers want their voices to be heard after outrages such as this. 

Colour palette of the night: The plot may be overwrought but The Undoing (Sky Atlantic) is bathed in rainbows. Skies are ochre, yellow cabs glisten on the New York streets and Nicole Kidman’s golden green coat is just extraordinary.

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