CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: The rowing was gruelling work… and that was just watching it 


Don’t Rock The Boat 

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Being Frank: The Frank Gardner Story

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Ex-model Jodie Kidd scowled down at the Scottish cliff face she had just scaled, dripping with exhaustion. ‘It was horrible,’ she said fervently. 

‘I hated every second of it.’ Yet she’d slogged through the ordeal. 

That’s how millions of viewers must feel about Don’t Rock The Boat (ITV) — we were mad to watch it in the first place, but somehow we’ve endured to the final episode tonight. There’s a strange, masochistic satisfaction in that. 

ITV should issue us with badges: ‘I survived Don’t Rock The Boat!’ 

It helped that the five-part series has been stunningly well filmed. In rolling seas, at night or dangling over sheer drops, the cameras have caught every grimace and spasm on the competitors’ faces. 

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Five-part series Don't Rock The Boat, which concludes tonight, has been stunningly well filmed

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Five-part series Don’t Rock The Boat, which concludes tonight, has been stunningly well filmed

The low-light lenses are exceptional, the drone shots spectacular. Thanks to 20 years’ experience with filming the jungle challenges on I’m A Celebrity, ITV crews do this better than anyone. 

That makes it all the more bizarre that the show itself is so awful. In one sideshow, former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson competed against professional quizzer Shaun Wallace to find boat buoys buried in the shingle of a Scottish beach. 

It was like some game invented by a desperate dad on staycation. Tom and Shaun must have been told by the producers to leap around and yell like six-year-olds. 

Most six-year-olds, though, would have got bored and wandered off after a couple of minutes. 

Meanwhile, out on the seas off the Western Isles, the celebrities were completing a 24-hour row. It was back-breaking, gruelling work…and that was just watching it. 

As I pointed out at the start of the week’s run, the challenges might be bearable if hosts Freddie Flintoff and A.J. Odudu had a scrap of charisma between them. We’d see more warmth if the show was presented by Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. 

Still, to my shame, I haven’t missed a minute. Aware of the charisma void, the producers called in Olympic rower James Cracknell, a man whose chin has been chiselled from granite and his eyes from diamonds. 

No one was looking at his face, though. While everybody else was wearing knee-length cagoules, James had forgotten to put his trousers on and was standing there in a pair of tight cotton leggings. It was enough to give Rudolf Nureyev an inferiority complex. 

‘Wow,’ murmured Emmerdale’s Adam Thomas, ‘that’s a real man.’ 

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner was being even more explicit with bits we don’t normally see, as he changed his catheter bag and cleaned his stoma — the valve in his side that bypasses his bowel. 

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner was stoic about his injuries which left him paralysed from the waist down

Being Frank: The Frank Gardner Story (BBC2) did not flinch as it depicted the damage done by six bullets from an Al-Qaeda assassin on a Saudi street. 

For the first time, we saw the report that Gardner was filming at a Riyadh checkpoint in 2004 before the attack happened. The screen went black. 

Cameraman Simon Cumbers was killed. This film’s only mis-step was that we didn’t learn more about him. 

Now 59, Gardner is stoic about his injuries, which left him paralysed from the waist down. 

‘My coping mechanism has always been to tell myself to just get on with it,’ he said. ‘It makes b***er all difference whether I’m ok with it or not.’ 

That attitude enables him to keep reporting from remote regions, even when his wheelchair has to be carried by locals. 

Over a pint, he practically ordered a young man named Gerrard to overcome his own catastrophic injuries and go travelling, despite his almost total paralysis. That spirit is infectious, and it will be an inspiration for plenty of people.

Yardsticks of the night: Keeley Donovan used every possible comparison to convey the scale of the Drax generating station in Yorkshire, on Powering Britain (BBC2). 

She measured it in Albert Halls, Statues of Liberty and Nelson’s Columns. It’s big. 

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