Posts Tagged ‘television’
This has been zipping around social media for a while now I dare say so you’ve probably seen it. But if there’s one person who views it for the first time on here then I consider my duty done. Before watching I presumed it was a kind of knockabout Going Live-style question and answer session with sundry kids asking Ian Botham inane questions like what his favourite flavour of fizzy pop is.
What actually transpires is a little bit like one of those celebrity roasts that are popular in the States at the minute except not played for laughs. Definitely not laughs. Essentially a selection of dour Scottish teenagers have been specially gathered in order to systematically dismantle Beefy’s proto-Partridge sub-UKIP worldview. As a format it’s unimprovable and I’m not sure why it’s not still a staple of primetime television. As Botham pointedly says himself: “I’m an entertainer”. On this evidence, he’s not wrong.
Just to let you know that I’m being released into the community at large tomorrow. And then scooped up again and put back where I’m safest: locked in a room with a television showing cricket and computer that I can write rubbish on.
I’m providing a sort of live caption to the internet streaming of ITV’s IPL coverage. Which might be beyond someone whose average typing speed is around four words per minute, but I’m going to give it a crack anyway.
I could become the first person to develop the keyboard version of a stutter, or I could develop Tourettes, I could refer to silly twat mid-off or Shaun Bollock. So it might be a car crash. Or a computer crash at least.
When ITV announced that they were pulling the plug on the Teletext computer next January, two years before scheduled, it felt a bit like they had set out plans to take it to Switzerland for an assisted suicide. Because Teletext, and its more salubrious BBC cousin Ceefax, has been terminally ill since the onset of the digital age.
I will cherish Teletext and Ceefax in their obselescence. Like a pair of threadbare old teddy bears, they have lived beyond their usefulness but they still retain their charm. The grand old men of televisual information services have also sown an unusual stitch in the sporting fabric.
I imagine that most sportsmen will revel in the demise of Teletext and Ceefax, for only bad tidings live on its pages. I have lost count of the indignant cricketers or footballers or ruggers outraged at discovering they’ve missed out on a Caribbean tour or been sold to Swindon Town or been banned for shoving chang up their schnozz. Finding out rubbish stuff on the BBC red button digital interactive service just isn’t the same.
Musical chairs is an boisterous game mainly played at children’s parties. And, in the recent weeks, the ITV studio. It seems that Steve Rider and Andy Townsend have swapped seats, eschewing the traditional anchor-pundit line-up. During the coverage of Saturday’s Cup Final, Townsend was pushed to operate wide out on the right with Rider taking up a more central role. Which meant that when Rider addressed the other guests on the left of the screen, he could not help but turn his back on his faithful colleague.
Now there was a echo to this unusual tableau, the origins of which became clear to me some time after the final whistle. It resonated with the memories of an infamous occasion in 1981 on the Russell Harty Show, during which the host was attacked by the terrifying disco diva Grace Jones. She complained that he was ignoring her as he swivelled his seat to face his other guest.
I am not suggesting that Townsend was about to start slapping at Rider’s back like a deranged kitten, but I did feel a little sympathy for him: I half-expected him to raise his hand and cough loudly when he wanted to wrestle the easy Rider’s attention back from the other pundits. And it seems unfair on the Rider, a man whose politeness has ascended to legendary status, to force him into the invidious position of freezing out his cohort from the conversation.
Townsend probably doesn’t give a crap: anywhere, including the cobwebbed extremeties of the commentary box, is better than the blessed Tactics Truck. If Townsend was the guinea pig in this hideous football punditry experiment, then the Tactics Truck was his grotty undersized cage.
A rumour went round in television circles that Townsend refused to leave the truck and at one point locked himself in. When worried producers managed to prise the door open they discovered him hiding under his desk, blinking at the natural light. They concluded that he had turned slightly feral and allowed him to stay there, but not before putting old newspaper down on the floor of the truck. Wierdly, the punditry improved.
A world without Woolworths is one thing. But life without Emmerdale is a bleak dystopian vision that even the most pessimistic futurist would have difficulty comprehending. Slightly overdramatic possibly, but news that ITV is closing its Kirkstall Road studios in Leeds will be sending shockwaves through sitting rooms the nation over. But despite the cutbacks, filming continues and the doors of the Woolpack remain open. And the viewing punters keep pouring in.
However the Sunday night staple of Heartbeart has been told go and put its feet up and have a cup of cocoa: production has been suspended. The plan is to broadcast the stockpile of episodes already in the can and then resume filming in sunnier economic climes. But the denizens at ITV should be wary of prolonging the break too much: sometimes absence does not make the collective heart grow fonder.
The Krypton Factor returned to the screen in January after 13 years and ITV sounded the trumpets in fanfare: “we are taking a brilliant format and bringing it bang up to date with state-of-the-art technology.”
Amazing. My first thought was how this new technology was to be applied to the response round: that part of the show where the contestant was required to land a plane or a helicopter or a space shuttle using a flight simulator. I had visions of some whizzo virtual reality concept where competitors fought against evil aliens in a massive intergalactic scrap. Instead we got nothing. The round was scrapped.
I see no reason why the production team couldn’t have removed the tarpaulin off the old simulator and given her another spin: the response round was strangely riveting and had huge comic potential. I remember sobbing with laughter watching one confused contestant ignore the runway completely and career off into the stratosphere perhaps to an attempt a lunar landing. A laudable, if misjudged, game plan.
The observation round was also entertaining. It was usually based on a specially-made skit starring Tony Slattery or Bob Carolgees or some other god of the televisual pantheon. For the new series they have just raided the ITV archives to use clips from favourites shows of the recent past. I’ve heard there’s a few spare episodes of Heartbeat in case you’re interested.
The assault course has returned as well, and was hyped up as “iconic, menacing and 100% entertaining”. Which is true. If you consider a man slowly climbing up a tree to be iconic and menacing. I’d rate it as 47% entertaining. The lack of physical prowess among the contestants makes it feels like you’re watching a team-building weekend for an insurance company.
The essential problem with the Krypton Factor is that it has been brought back on a budget. It makes you wonder why they bothered. I assume that ITV banked on the original magic of the show adding the requisite lustre without having to throw money at it. It’s slightly like renewing your wedding vows at KFC.
And of course the most ingredient was missing: Gordon Burns. Bring him back and the audience ratings would go the same way as that lady in flight simulator: into orbit.
Ah. So it was an evil plot after all. Turns out that Sam Kay, the shambling presence on the left wing of the victorious Corpus Christi University Challenge team, was not all he said he was.
He was in fact an accountant masquerading as a student. Which is a pretty rum do if you ask me.The elders at the college hastily concocted some spurious story about Kay’s failure to get funding for a PhD forcing him to leave the university. But I’ve watched a lot of Morse so I know that more often than not there is something more sinister occuring behind the closed doors of these Oxford colleges.
It’s a plausible theory that Kay was merely a pawn in the machinations of the college: a whey-faced bean counter exploited for his boyish looks, forced to gel his hair up into an artful spike to reinforce the juvenile look.
I’m not sure of the extent of this subterfuge went and how much of a double-life Kay actually led.
But I like to think of him sneaking out of his two-bedroom detached house in leafy Surrey, leaving the wife and kids behind, and heading to the dreaming spires to immerse himself in the student culture. To hit the college bars, steal a traffic cone or two, sample a Pot Noodle, all the stereotypical studenty things: anything to perpetuate the myth.
His bosses at work will have asked questions: why the dark circles under the eyes? Why a sudden passion for Quincy MD? What’s with the faint smell of Snakebite and Black on the breath? It’s little wonder that it all unravelled on him.
And I want to know how wide the conspiracy was: and more importantly was Gail Trimble involved? I hinted in my last post that she may not be all that she seemed. Apparently she was unavailable for interview today – I suspect she may have already absconded. Halfway to South America probably.
Well it’s a good job she’s a whizz at answering questions. She may be hauled in to answer a few more.
There is a definite trend emerging among these early posts. A nostalgic dredge of the broadcasting river bed. It’s a sort of regression therapy for me. A Question of Sport was my womb and I suckled at the teat of David Coleman.
The mid-to-late eighties was the height of QoS popularity. It was an age of legends. Of big personalities and even bigger sweaters. Droves of viewers regularly switched on to gawp at the kings of knit wage trivia war, topping out at a massive 19million in 1987. Admittedly this figure was bloated by a rubbernecking element agog for a bit of car-crash telly: Princess Anne lined up alongside team captain Emlyn Hughes the week after he’d confused her for a male jockey in the picture round. At least it wasn’t the horse.
Of course she wasn’t remotely peeved about the comparison, but Hughes did create minor shockwaves by casually sliding his arm around her Highness like a hopeful adolescent at the back of Cineworld and tearing up the royal protocol manual in the process. God knows what was going through his head. Maybe he had a penchant for jockeys. But the ensuing furore does amply demonstrate the impact of the show of the time.
Hughes was strange and excitable man, forever squealing about the tip of his tongue. Whatever was on the tip of his tongue, it invariably wasn’t the answer.
He was replaced in 1988 by Ian Botham. Beefy was a sporting and celebrity colossus at the time: his cricketing powers were only just beginning to wane. He walked with elephants for charity. And he was friends with Eric Clapton. And he had a movie agent who was touting him around Hollywood as the next James Bond. Wierdly he did miss out on the 007 gig, but in terms of global cultural import the QoS captaincy was more than a consolation.
Botham’s opponent, the Scaramanga to his Bond, was Bill Beaumont. As far as I am aware he did not have a third nipple. Billy was a mainly knowledgeable rugger with an inscrutable air. Inscrutable or vacant, not quite sure. Billy was the stalwart of the QoS golden period, putting in a 14-year shift. I hazard that Beaumont was the most successful skipper of this period. Unfortunately I do not have the stats to back this claim up. If only someone had collated a QoS version of the Wisden Almanack.