Like most other charity telethons, Sport Relief usually persuades you to part with your money the traditional way – offering up all manner of shiny-floored entertainment and intermittently studding it with heartbreaking documentaries. After a few hours spent pinging between several wildly conflicting emotions, you’ll eventually become discombobulated enough to relent and donate a tenner.
But unlike other telethons, this year, Sport Relief is really going in hard on its secondary formula: conjuring a lineup that mixes more imperilled celebrities with brazen nostalgia. An Only Fools and Horses reunion. Davina McCall crying in a frozen lake. A Boyzone performance. Alex Jones from The One Show scaling a sheer rock face over the course of three days. Then there’s Kylie Minogue singing Especially For You and someone from Made in Chelsea moving in with a single mum for a bit.
Of course, the “imperilled celebrity” lineup isn’t particularly new. Ever since David Walliams decided to swim across the English Channel in 2006, Sport Relief has turned into a competition between celebrities to see who can undertake the most punishing challenge for charity. In 2009, Eddie Izzard ran a marathon a day for about six weeks; Walliams struck back by swimming the length of the Thames with his mouth wide open like a basking shark, to see how many infectious diseases he could contract.
But the more they suffer, the more we donate. Walliams and Izzard both raised over a million pounds for their efforts, and there’d be something pathologically terrifying about the British public if the images of Davina McCall being pulled from Lake Windermere, sobbing uncontrollably, didn’t inspire a similar amount.
It’s not hard to see why these are the moments that people gravitate towards – next to them the rest of the entertainment on Sport Relief can look a little tame. After watching people battle to the ragged brink of their limitations as humans, it’s a bit of a dull thud to return to the studio and watch Little Mix sing a song. Or Patrick Kielty and Greg James joining forces for a spot of synchronised swimming, another event that’s scheduled for this evening.
The truth is, if Sport Relief wants to really draw the public in, maybe it ought to think about dropping everything else and focusing everything it’s got on the big-name endurance events. They make bigger stars of whoever attempts them but most importantly, they make people donate like nothing else. If the Sport Relief producers are reading, here’s my wishlist of things I’d like to see happen in future years. You are welcome to use all of them.
1) Kirstie Allsopp rollerskating up Scafell Pike in a hailstorm.
2) Shane Richie trampolining solidly for a week.
3) Holly Willoughby doing loops of Croydon Ikea on a Sunday morning.
4) Alex Zane fraudulently evacuating the Shard before climbing to the top and basejumping off.
5) Len Goodman running in the Grand National.
6) John Barrowman being chased through a medieval maze by a vengeful lion.
What would you like to see happen on Sport Relief? Do leave your suggestions below.