From hope through despair, then laughter, with some dodgy performances in between, TV’s World Cup journey mirrored our ownby Peter Bazalgette / July 21, 2010 / Leave a comment
James Corden’s live World Cup show was car crash television
In the traditional British summer of sport there are eight stages that the mood of the nation goes through before its eventual catharsis. These are: 1. Optimism (despite evidence to the contrary). 2. Raging nationalism (flags, T-shirts and the rest). 3. Early disappointment (resolutely ignored). 4. Blaming the referee (as our performance crumbles). 5. Disbelief. 6. Depression. 7. Naming the guilty men (FA, Lawn Tennis Association, Gordon Brown and so on). 8. Laughing it off. How has British telly been performing in pandering to this ritual? Magnificently.
As we approach a major international football tournament, it is de rigueur for ITV desperately to poach a BBC anchor. This time round it stole Adrian Chiles. But, as with Des Lynam before him, it didn’t really work. Hosting ITV’s World Cup coverage Chiles seemed laid-back to the point of sedation, his schoolboy irony denying ITV’s coverage of England vs USA and England vs Algeria any sense of occasion. Indeed, these two appalling draws almost seemed to take their cue from Chiles’s lounge lizardry. The casting of the expert panel is also very important, particularly the foreigner who’s going to fawn about England’s prospects. Frenchman Patrick Vieira realised what he had to do and rose to the occasion, confidently predicting an England victory over the USA and, as doubts surfaced about Wayne Rooney, opining: “There’s nothing to worry about.”
ITV also fell short with the now obligatory video packages which are meant to ameliorate the experts droning on for an hour before the match. These were perfunctory and unimaginative. Before England vs Algeria they even resorted to playing the pop video of James Corden and Dizzee Rascal’s unfeasible footie anthem (more about Corden later). Whereas the BBC’s video shorts were stylish, witty and even a touch surreal. These culminated in a “Perfect Day” chain-letter style presentation of Henry V’s St Crispin’s Day speech before the England vs Germany game. The dramatis personae included sporting champs such as Jenson Button (not a natural orator) tied together with the irresistible, gale-force bluster of Brian Blessed.
So once again the BBC proved that for national events it has no rival. Gary Lineker was an admirable anchor who, in the preamble to the Germany game, knew what was required. The truth was that a dysfunctional England team had by this time put in performances that…