Saturday, June 17, 2006


Summarise This

Paul B has returned, and offers his thoughts on the BBC and ITV's coverage of the World Cup in this thought-provoking post. I've been meaning to weigh in on the BBC v ITV debate for a while, and so now seems as good an opportunity as any.

Paul opines that ITV have, for the first time, surpassed the BBC in terms of the quality of their coverage, and I think he's on to something. ITV has, of course, the inevitable, inexorable problem that much of the half-time interval and post-game summary has to be taken up by adverts. However, this disadvantage can be turned around if, and increasingly when, the BBC pundits find themselves on air for ages with nothing much to say.

Because of the sheer weight of games, and the fact that they are all on terrestrial telly of one channel or the other, some frankly amatuer pundits have been sent over to Germany to pontificate, and some just aren't making the mark. So, let's compare some of the main players, and see who is guilty and who innocent.

First, the presenters: when Gary Lineker started, everyone thought he was clueless, but he's gotten much better, and he brings the right level of humour to the proceedings. Over on ITV, they have managed to catch a very big fish indeed in the personage of Steve Ryder, who I notice is getting all the big games., as well as Formula 1. Jim Rosenthal, who was number 1, has been shunted down one, and is presumably spitting tacks behind the scenes. He's got quite a supercilious manner, and although I don't hate him - prepare to be shocked - I actually prefer Gabby Logan, who has been shunted even further.

Paul makes a good point regarding commentators:

'In addition, I think John Motson's finally crossed the line between unique and irritating. Clive Tyldesley and Peter Drury have now entered the nation's subconscious sufficiently to be an acceptable alternative, and not some strange young upstarts taking over from Motson and former BBC favourite Barry 'oh I say!' Davies. This serves to highlight Motty's mistakes and slightly odd commentary style as negatives rather than positives, and actually makes me prefer ITV's approach . . .'

I don't really feel the need to add much to that. On a personal level, my housemate plays the FIFA Playstation game a lot, and Motty the real man has started to sound irritatingly like Motty the computer joke. The computer game is blighted with Mottyisms, which appear during quiet periods in the play, such as:

'Of course, most of the senior teams have sponsors now, in order to increase revenue . . .'

And the dozy fellow is starting to turn up lines like this in the commentary. Diversions are great in slow paced commentary for games like cricket - 'Test Match Special' would be nothing without Blowers wittering about pigeons and red buses and people leaning out of windows half a mile from the ground - but in a fast-paced game like football, I don't see the point. On telly, you can just be quiet during these momentary pauses, or pass over for a bit of summarising.

Which leads me nicely on to the follwing statement: The summarisers are where the problems lie for both channels. There really is a serious dearth of quality punditry. Paul points especially to the BBC bringing in Marcel Desailly and Leonardo, both of whom I've seen little of but have been pretty helpless when I have. The BBC seem to have changed their line-ups quite a bit: I haven't seen all the games by any means, but I've yet to see Peter Schmeichel or Ian Wright at all. Wrighty can be really annoying, but he does at least have a certain infectious enthusiasm. Schmeichel was excellent during Euro 2004. Of the rest, Mick McCarthy is just grating, and pretty clueless, but it's the stalwarts, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson, who are particularly bad. Hansen's grumpy, dour Calvinist persona just starts to make him seem a twat after a time, and anyway I'll never forgive him for how he bullied Adrian Chiles on MOTD2, but it's Lawro who disappoints the most. Bland generality follows bland generality. He continually states the obvious when doing the in-game summarising, and partnered with Motty, they make an increasingly unattractive team. ITV's coverage of the second England game was better than the BBC's of the first; as Paul says, who would have thought we'd be saying that even five years ago?

ITV have traditionally had summarisers who are BBC rejects, but increasingly, they look at least a match, and maybe have their noses out in front. Gareth Southgate appears to have that rare thing for a footballer, a sense of humour, and is slowly turning into a decent in-game summariser. In the studio, they fare a little better than the Beeb. Terry Venables is funny, but unintentionally so - he offers some serious analysis, but he's never looked more like his old tabloid persona of used car salesman. Andy Townsend and Ally McCoist are about passable. Stuart Pearce is really good. I'm not sold on Sam Allardyce, who is presumably on ITV because of his bust-up with Five Live, and Jay-Jay Okocha yesterday talked like Stephen Hawking. Their main problem is David Pleat, doing the in-game stuff, because he is so so so so so bad. I've already mentioned Pleat's disease, that habit of his of stating the bleeding obvious, but his voice is like nails down a blackboard too. They need to ditch him.

Paul offers this in conclusion:

'Having said all this, I still find the best all-round football experience is to either mute the sound on ITV, or use the fabled 'red button' on BBC, and watch the video feed on the TV and listen to the commentary on BBC Radio Five Live, particularly if the God-like Jimmy Armfield is summarising. He could teach all of these young whippsnappers a thing or two about how to talk about the beautiful game.'

Agreed. Jimmy Armfield is indeed God-like, as has been discussed here before. Together with the two other summarisers at the tournament who stand out head and shoulders above the rest, Jim Beglin and, believe it or not, Graham Taylor, what he offers is actual analysis. Not just generalities. Not just simply stating facts that could be divined by anyone watching the game. Not just quoting statistics that have appeared at the bottom of the screen. Not just repeating what the commentator has just said. Above all, actually suggesting ways the managers could change things, substitutions and formations, and providing reasons for those assertions. Of course, the job is somewhat easier for the radio summariser, particularly if you as the viewer haven't a telly with you, because you have to take their word for it, but even when you do mix the radio commentary with the telly picture, the radio summarisers get it right more often than the telly ones.

I really have been impressed with Graham Taylor this tournament, and nobody is more surprised to hear me say that than I am.

Are all England pundits just bitter and twisted has beens who have fuck all else to do but slag off a team, which have the best chance to go the distance since this because the fuckers werent up to the grade when they most of the twats on tv arent even ENGLISH.....................
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