TV REVIEW: Ultimate Diver Challenge–good concept, poorly executed

To keep to our motto of providing readers with “deep background on scuba,” after we wrote our opinion on the Ultimate Diver Challenge TV show (UDC) I contacted and interviewed the shows developer and executive director, Pam Bertrand to get the facts and background.

OPINION (after watching first 6 episodes)

We are ever hopeful and excited to hear about another dive TV show popping up. In Ultimate Diver Challenge divers swim various obstacle courses and perform dive skills to demonstrate their proficiency. But unlike the new masterpiece of dive travel TV, “Into the Drink” (see our article INTO the DRINK: The Best Dive TV since Nelson and Cousteau), the UDC show seems to have taken a good concept for TV show and edited out all the best parts. It was a struggle to watch. If we were not reviewing the show we both would have given up by the second episode. While watching we “assumed” (more below) that the show’s concept was modeled after the many other land based, reality/obstacle course, challenge shows; one example being G4 TV’s popular “American Ninja Challenge”. However unlike those shows, which keep viewers engaged as they follow the competitors through the full course run, UDC shows only a mishmash of snippets of the course runs along with interviews and disconnected other bits. The scores were shown regularly, but it was hard to relate them to what little we saw of the competition. We started to wonder if someone took all the footage from the shoot, edited it into a really good show, then the UDC editors came along, picked-up up the reject footage and taped it together willy-nilly to create Ultimate Diver Challenge.

BACKGROUND

It seems clear that Executive Director and shows creator, Pam Bertrand has passion and drive. She talked about being inspired to do UDC by

her love of reality TV and her desire to help the scuba industry. Contrary to our assumption above, she had never seen any of the ninja challenge type of shows and was more inspired by the Survivor type shows. Although, she wanted to make sure that winning on her show was instead based on points and not voting someone off the island. Her passion and hard work is equally evident in her defensive reply’s to critics (and some of my questions) with responses like this one from ScubaBoard:  “…most have NO IDEA how difficult it was for me to even get this launched!…” and to us, “..if people would come see us filming they would understand..”

If you have every watched a few episodes of the entrepreneur pitch show “Dragon’s Den”(CBC – Canada) or “Shark Tank”(ABC – USA) and you quickly learn why passion, inspiration and good causes are not enough when it comes to turning a concept into a success. Financial success and getting a mass market viewer base, takes that which seems to be lacking here: talent and an understanding about what the viewers want to see. The “dragons” and “sharks” are often shocked but compassionate when they have to tell the entrepreneur to stop wasting all that money on their failing product. One of the quickest pitfalls to success, they point out, is an emotional attachment to your business. Bertrand admitted she is attached after she said, “When someone attacks it (the show) they attack me.” Additionally, she admitted having no experience beyond being a nurse and mother. She claimed to have wasted some of the $500,000 funding on learning experiences. During our discussion when the topic of critics was raised, she (Bertrand) kept expressing her belief that she should only value the opinion of people who have seen the show produced and that casual viewers did not know enough to give worthy critique.

When I repeated the forum responses that asked for more underwater scenes, she further complained that she did not have the time because her show, unlike other reality successful programs is only an half-hour format. “That only leaves me only 21 minutes and 26 seconds of actual show time.” I asked, if all other successful reality shows were one hour long, why she did not not make six one hours shows instead of 13 half-hours episodes; for the same cost. In spite of many examples of series the ran six shows their first season, she adamantly claimed it had to be 13 shows. And she could not afford that many one hour shows.

Our impressions of the show and the interview were validated when we spoke with a TV professional with experience and success in reality programing genre. She had previously spoken to Bertrand and offered her advice on a few changes that could make the show a success. But Bertrand quickly discounted the advice from this experienced professional.

GREAT POTENTIAL – Don’t Give Up:

We applaud Pam and her crew for a valid first attempt and realize that it has been a learning experience. We and others we have interviewed believe that the concept behind UDC has many proven successes and it with some changes could become a show that would entertain viewers, inspire current divers to dive safely and new divers to try scuba. We encourage our readers to check-in on the show and draw your own conclusions. We are happy to be wrong. We also urge previous viewers to check back to see if the next season is improved. If you have praise for the show or suggestions on improving it, you can contact Pam via their website (http://www.ultimatediverchallenge.com/).