fri 22/11/2019

Sink or Swim, Channel 4 review - the Channel awaits for these celebrities | reviews, news & interviews

Sink or Swim, Channel 4 review - the Channel awaits for these celebrities

Sink or Swim, Channel 4 review - the Channel awaits for these celebrities

The latest celebrity format lacks tension or conflict

There are a few bona fide celebrities in the line-up

Is there any challenge that television producers haven't filmed celebrities doing? They won't be happy until they've followed a bunch of them snowboarding down an Alp while baking a cake, conducting an orchestra and researching their family history. And if it involves a little sob followed by a group hug, bonus!

But I can't be cynical about Sink or Swim (Channel 4) because it's in aid of the charity Strand Up to Cancer. The programme's USP is that 11 celebrities – using the term loosely – who are all weak or non-swimmers are being trained to do a sponsored relay swim across the Channel next month. Actually three of them are bona fide celebs – former Olympians Linford Christie, Tessa Sanderson and Greg Rutherford – while most of the rest you may have vaguely heard of.

The experts training them for the task in just three months are Olympic silver medallist Keri-anne Payne and adventurer Ross Edgley, the first person to swim around the British coastline.

The problem with SOS is that there's no real tension or conflict. God forbid that anyone should sink (ie drown), but if they did we would have heard about it and we certainly wouldn't be seeing this four-part series. We know everything will turn out all right, even if it doesn't go, er, swimmingly at the start. And in a show like this, any argument or dissent between participants would be really, really uncool; rather, they were quick to encourage each other and, yes, there was a lot of hugging, and indeed a few sobs as people tried to overcome their fear of water.

Last night, when the 11 were undergoing their initial assessments, we heard about the near-death experiences in water of two of the participants – singer Simon Webbe and TV presenter Diane-Louise Jordan – while another, Georgia Kousoulou from The Only Way Is Essex, had to withdraw because of her anxiety problems.

She's part of the shocking statistic that 25 per cent of adults in the UK – a nation surrounded by water – struggle to swim, so for those individuals SOS may serve a genuine purpose. And I had to stay my cynicism when I saw the immense effort that Alex Brooker (from The Last Leg) put in. In difficulty in his first open-water swim, the presenter, who was born with deformed limbs, was determined to complete the task because giving up would mean being defined by his disability.

We heard about the near-death experiences in water of two of the participants


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article


This was an amazing and inspirational series so sad they didn't complete it:(

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.