Rival celebrity diving shows fail to make a splash with critics
Media and bloggers criticise the reality specials that force contestants to perform risky stunts
Two rival television variety shows about one of the mainland's favourite sports premiered last weekend to generally poor reviews, despite having star-studded rosters of contestants, including some from Hong Kong.
Zhejiang Satellite TV's Celebrity Splash China went to air on Saturday and Jiangsu Satellite TV's Stars in Danger aired on Sunday.
On social media, celebrities criticised the shows for exploitation and for putting contestants in danger - especially after the pilot of Celebrity Splash China featured 64-year-old comedian Niu Qun performing a daring three-storey dive, feet first.
The show's celebrity line-up also included Hong Kong canto-pop singer Charlene Choi Cheuk-yin, South Korean K-pop star Chae Yeon, mainland singer Abao and national diving champion-turned-actor Tian Liang , who was brought in as a "consultant".
Stars in Danger, licensed from German show Total Turmspringen, also featured celebrities, including Hong Kong actress Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi and Taiwanese singer-actor Vanness Wu Jianhao. The show is being shot at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing.
"Artists and singers are not athletes," Hong Kong singer Denise Ho Wan-si said on her Sina Weibo microblog. "How is it possible that they can just receive a few lessons and compete in a sport that requires so much professional training? Diving from 10 metres is way too dangerous!"
Another microblogger wrote: "How do the artists' agents agree to this stunt show? I really don't know."
An editorial in The Beijing News called the shows an "extravagant waste of money" that failed to contribute anything new to the mainland's long list of cookie-cutter variety shows rehashed from the West, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Celebrity Splash China is based on the Dutch show Sterren Springen, which also has US and British versions called Splash!
The Beijing News editorial criticised the show for its lacklustre entertainment value, with diving - its supposed focus - comprising only a minor part.
Celebrity Splash China's organisers have pledged, in co-operation with the China Women's Development Foundation, to solve water pollution problems in western regions.
For every point a contestant receives from a judge, 1,000 yuan (HK$1,200) is donated to the cause, Zhejiang Satellite TV said. On each day of a given contest, one microblog post or repost about the show by viewers would translate into a 1-yuan donation to rural primary schools "to solve their water safety problems", the network said.