I’ve seen some real celebrity crap in my time. Glued, without any real reason, to the box, watching third rate celebrities happily whoring themselves out to the highest bidder to take part in some dreadful challenge or experience; sometimes for a bit of fun and sometimes for something someone in a board room thought would be more profound – “to find themselves”, that kind of rubbish. It seems so very excessive to spend a fortune on travel and crew and expenses just to help, oh I don’t know, Dean Gaffney find himself. Surely he’s right there, every time he looks in the mirror. We’ve seen gangs of soap opera non-events and failed comedians and knackered sports personalities fighting through jungles just to impress Bear Grylls, or baking cakes for cancer (not what I would call a fair exchange) or trying to hide from the police for as long as possible. That last one is particularly intriguing, as hiding away from sight is entirely counterintuitive for your below average celebrity: how could they ever succeed when they are so desperate for the tiniest morsel of attention? Point is – watchable or not, it’s all utter crap.
But now the lines have been redrawn and we have a new steaming pile of celebrity challenge horseshit to digest: Freeze the Fear with Wim Hof. Well, quite. First of all we have Wim Hof, a Dutchman who is considered a world expert on, er, being cold. He has painstakingly created the Wim Hof Method, which includes yoga, meditation and breathing techniques, but is mainly about throwing yourself willingly at the coldest thing you can find and staying there for as long as possible. In doing this he believes we are able to connect better with nature, our environment and, naturally, ourselves. It fails to mention on his Wikipedia page that his balls have spent most of the last thirty years lodged half way up his spine, but why care; he doesn’t seem to mind. And now that Mr Hof has made a name for himself for being able to sit on a very cold thing for longer than anyone else (we are left in the dark as to how much competition there is out there for him) he is the star of this new show, and who better to freeze to death than a gaggle of gulping celebs?
It starts with a stark warning about the events to come and basically suggests that only complete idiots would ever possibly do this kind of thing. Which is handy. It then takes us to the mountains of northern Italy (presumably the Dutch mountains are a little less lofty) and our hosts Holly Willoughby and Lee Mack, two celebrities that really don’t need to be doing this, for either the money or the screen time. But they clearly do want the cash and the fame, and they’re also there because they get a free holiday in northern Italy and they don’t have to do any of the stupid stuff that everyone else will be doing, namely a series of extreme challenges, almost all of which are united by the theme of freezing their tits off. Mr Hof is at pains to explain that this is not about being tough but rather about taking ownership of your own mind, which will be useful to know when someone is having their blackened toes cut off with a penknife.
The celebrities range from the familiar to the “who the fuck are you”: singer Alfie Boe OBE, singer/songwriter, TV presenter and footballer Chelcee Grimes (a name which asks more questions than it can ever answer), Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer Dianne Buswell (because being on Strictly clearly isn’t enough), Gabby Logan MBE, Welsh weatherman Owain Wyn Evans (does it matter that he’s Welsh?), former footballer Patrice Evra (who is French, not Welsh and so doesn’t need to be introduced as Welsh, or French), rapper and mental health advocate Professor Green (note – he is not necessarily a professor of mental health, don’t be fooled by the neck tattoos common is this branch of academia) and actress Tamzin Outhwaite. They’re all there to find themselves or face their fears or simply to experience something new. Outhwaite says lots of her friends have cold showers and she feels she’s missing out; I would like to assure he she is most definitely not, unless she’s on fire. Really it doesn’t matter why they’re here, because we all know they just need a bit of spending money, a bit of media gratification and the chance for millions of people to feel sorry for them. Just wait as we find that taking an ice bath suddenly helps someone remember they should really give their mum a call, or that eating ice cubes for dinner reminds them that their pet hamster is still in the freezer. This is a pointless world that only celebrities can populate, otherwise nobody would give a tiny shit about any of it.
Mr Hof repeatedly explains just how powerful the cold is and that exposing ourselves to it can lead to a sharper mind, tougher body, more self awareness and lower heating bills. To demonstrate he’s dug a hole in the ice over a frozen lake and jumped in to show how dunking your body into freezing water can refresh you and drive away all unnecessary, peripheral and trivial thoughts. Yes, of course it can, but so can many other things: if someone jabbed a knitting needle in my eye or repeatedly hit my kneecaps with a hammer I expect I would easily forget about soaring petrol prices and the crisis in Ukraine for a while. Clearly big old Wim had no problem jumping in but the celebs were less keen, as if they had only come to the mountains of northern Italy for a pedicure and a haircut. But one by one they took the plunge and as they disappeared beneath the surface you could clearly see them thinking very hard about their careers and their dignity. It would have been heart warming if it didn’t look so damn cold.
All the while Mr Hof was shouting words of encouragement, Holly was being her usual lovely self and Lee Mack fired off endless quips, a few of which were quite funny. Next up they had to abseil face first down a steep cliff face (they could have just gone for a spa weekend and a PGL for this), which isn’t strictly anything to do with the cold but instead is helping you to focus your mind because you’re shitting yourself with fear of falling 400 feet to your death. After all that the celebs were taken to their luxury chalet complex to settle in and got to sit around a fire and talk the usual bollocks, safe in the knowledge that even without a mirror they would at some point almost certainly find themselves and then have a good cry about it on the toilet. Freeze the Fear with Wim Hof is at best a mild distraction, like watching a hedgehog cross a busy road safely. For all the big talk it’s just a crazy, affable Dutchman trying to convince some celebrities that they still have some value in the world. As for the celebrities, well they might be scared of doing stupid stuff in the snow but the thing that scares them most is not being a celebrity any more. They should be grateful to Wim Hof; without him there is a distinct danger they’ll be left out in the cold. All alone. I might watch it next week. Or I might not.
G B Hewitt. 13.04.2022