The Games review: ITV's new celeb sports show is short on fun and games

Watching The Games (ITV, Mon-Fri, 9pm) this week made me long for the days of Superstars, that iconic 70s show of rippling muscles and dodgy hair.

By Philip Cunnington
Friday, 13th May 2022, 5:00 pm

The Games sees six female and six male celebs take on each other and, inevitably, their fears, in a series of sporting challenges including the canoe slalom, 100m hurdles and javelin.

And while the actual sport is entertaining enough, you have to battle through an awful lot of guff to get there.

First, there’s George Ezra singing, then hosts Holly Willoughby and Andrew Flintoff tell us what happened last night, before the stars – including a Spice Girl’s daughter, Strictly’s Kevin from Grimsby and a Thomas brother – are introduced.

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From Initial productions THE GAMES Starts Monday 9th May 2022 on ITV Pictured: Freddie Flintoff, Holly Willoughby, Chris Kamara and Alex Scott Hosted live by Holly Willoughby and Freddie Flintoff, The Games will also see former professional footballer and presenter as trackside reporter and former professional football player and presenter Chris Kamara as commentator. Photographer Nicky Johnston For further information please contact Peter Gray Mob 07831460662 / [email protected] This photograph is (C) ITV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme PAUL O'GRADY FOR THE LOVE OF DOGS or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com

Once you’ve waded through all that, and an awkward chat with a pundit, you might get a VT of an Emmerdale actor falling off a bike before the first ad break.

There’s still time for some off-colour gags from Flintoff in the studio ‘pod’, and then you might get an event – most of which are recorded, which makes you wonder why show it live at all when it could just have been edited into two one-hour shows to be flung on at a bank holiday weekend.

For me, the appeal of Superstars was seeing sportspeople who seemed so sure of themselves, so adept in their chosen fields, being woefully inadequate in another; whether it was Kevin Keegan falling off a bike, or Daley Thompson being squat-thrusted into oblivion by blonde dynamo Brian Jacks.

With these celebs, you just feel proud of them for finishing. Which is how I felt when I got through five episodes.

These days, you can get your DNA tested to see where – way back in mists of time – you may have come from. DNA Family Secrets (BBC2, Weds, 9pm) is just that, with added Stacey Dooley. You don’t get the time to become invested in the people’s stories, and any revelations seem personal, rather than universal.

Back when I was young, just after the Falklands War, a couple of programmes made an impression on my malleable mind – The Paras, and Royal Marines: Behind the Lines. Commando: Britain’s Ocean Warriors (BBC2, Sun, 8pm) covers much the same ground, but is fascinating, nonetheless.