Does Splash have the worst judges ever?

Reality TV show competition judges can be frustrating. Sometimes judges don’t do a good job of identifying their criteria, or explaining what they’re seeing/tasting, or exploring what they value and what they don’t.

That’s part of what makes reality competition shows entertaining, agreeing or disagreeing with the judges, whether it’s questioning their taste or bemoaning when they destroy their own credibility by sending home the wrong person. All of that is to be expected.

Unexpected is how much the judges on Splash suck. Steve Foley and David Boudia are both accomplished divers, but they are probably the worst judges reality TV has ever seen.

I’ve praised the show for being surprisingly good, with its great set and spectacular cold opens (last week’s: wow!), and for the absurd joy of watching celebrities dive/tumble off the platform. It’s a lot of fun.

But the show instantly goes to shit when the judging begins.

I cannot recall a single evaluation of David Boudia’s in which he did not talk about himself. It’s one thing to be empathetic and personalize; it’s another to let one’s ego rule. The first week, he was out of his chair constantly, allegedly demonstrating but really just showing off, and it was obnoxious. Look, I can do a hand stand! Look at me! Look at me!

Steve Foley’s judging seems to be based not on the actual dives, but on the person’s story. He’s like the worst kind of teacher, grading based on who he likes and who he doesn’t.

But they are such terrible judges that not only do we fail to learn much of anything about diving, but they’re not even predictable in their lameness.

It’s so absurd. Last week, deciding who to keep and who to send home, David voted for Brandy because, he said, “I see more potential” and “I really liked the fact that you improved.”

Their lack of consistent or even comprehensible criteria is maddening; they’re the Dr. Sean of reality TV judges, absolutely arbitrary. Eliminating the judging would only improve Splash, because right now they add nothing and actually detract from the show.

Dancing with the Stars‘ judges hold the celebrities to high standards that may be too high, and they’ve been criticized for being overly critical about the smallest things, or for criticizing but still awarding everyone roughly the same, relatively high score.

But watching Splash makes you appreciate how well they do their jobs.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.