Review: Don't Rock the Boat rowed through choppy waters, but I finally got on board

I didn’t expect to like Don’t Rock The Boat (ITV, Mon-Fri, 9pm) as much as I did, but this combination of I’m A Celebrity..., Bear Grylls and Carry on Cruising did just enough to get me on board.

Friday, 6th November 2020, 6:00 pm

One reason was the opportunity it gave to play reality TV bingo:

• Mix of former sportspeople, soap actors, reality TV stars, an ex-MP and Fleur East? Check!

• Confronting demons and conquering fears? Check!

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Jodie Kidd and Victoria Pendleton lead the way in Don’t Rock the Boat

• Rubbing people up the wrong way? Check!

• Everyone going on a journey? House!

This particular celeb-tastic show saw two teams of six row the length of Britain, from Cornwall to the north of Scotland. Often, these types of shows are fund-raising vehicles – like last year’s in which stars swam the Channel for cancer charities.

Don’t Rock the Boat, however, didn’t seem to have any motivation, beyond the sadistic pleasure of seeing Olympian Victoria Pendleton, actor Craig Charles and the ex-deputy leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson (!) wet, shivering and flecked with vomit.

Which all made it a bit of an empty vessel. However, what made it fascinating was the difference between the athletes on the crews and the rest – not just physically, but mentally.

Heptathlete Denise Lewis and Pendleton were fearsomely single-minded, dedicated to winning. In fact, the women on both crews – including Pussycat Doll Kimberley Wyatt, model Jodie Kidd and Blackpool’s own Lucy Fallon –were much more impressive than the men, leading the teams and doing most of the rowing.

Reality TV as feminist tract? Sounds unlikely, but on this evidence, I’d rather be on a maiden voyage.

For Thatcher’s children and fans of 80s pop, like me, Long Hot Summers – The Story of the Style Council (Sky Arts, Sat, 9pm) was required viewing, and was a welcome blast of musical nostalgia.

Talking of pop music, Maxxx (Channel 4, Thurs, 10pm) casts a satirical eye over manufactured pop. A bit hit and miss, but OT Fagbenle is great as boyband has-been Maxxx.