Though we’ve got a variety of programming this week I thought I’d start by looking back at how TV has covered this year’s World Cup as we saw the final play out on Sunday.
Let’s journey back to Friday 11th June which saw the start of the tournament itself with the kick-off match between hosts South Africa and Mexico. In a nice start to proceedings the South Africans were the first team to score a goal which resulted in one of the best celebrations in World Cup history, unfortunately the Mexicans equalised ending the first match in a draw. I’ll talk about the England team in a bit, but of the rest of the first round I’d found my favourite team in New Zealand. This was mainly due to the fact that most of them were semi-professional players one guy even had to bring his laptop out with him because he couldn’t afford to stop working completely while he was out playing in the World Cup. Another fairly amusing highlight of the tournament was the North Korean team who no-one knew that much about. They did fairly well in their opening match against Brazil even being able to score only being defeated by 2 goals to 1. However they then lost to Portugal by 7 goals to 0, this is mainly amusing because the North Korean T.V. channels were only allowed to show their national team doing well so they couldn’t only pick out about a minute of this match. The big casualties of the first round were current champions Italy who couldn’t even beat the New Zealand team and 1998 champions France who also failed to win any matches.
In terms of the British TV airing this was meant to be the big year for ITV1, after being seen as the secondary channel as opposed to the more professional BBC they’d gone all out in their methods to secure a big audience. First of all they lured Adrian Chiles away from his comfy One Chair sofa by offering him to head up the world cup coverage and they also got James Corden to host an after-game late night show. This was meant to make the old team of Gary Lineker and Alans Hansen and Shearer look old and irrelevant compared to the ITV line-up. However there was then the incident where viewers on ITV HD lost their first five minutes of the opening England game and things went downhill from there. With both channels screening the final, ITV ultimately lost the battle as the BBC got a much larger audience than their commercial rivals, which made me think that maybe if they’d have gone with some counter-programming they may have ultimately done better. As for the James Corden show itself, it was okay although if I’m honest I would’ve preferred the channel to try and reunite Frank Skinner and David Baddiel for a Fantasy Football World Cup show. As it was Corden tried his best combining in-show guests with segments in which he took on the England squad at various other sporting endeavours. I have to say though I don’t think hosting is particularly Corden forte’, although he is a very funny guy at the same time he had to anchor the show and it sometimes felt like it was going a little of course. Although I’m guessing it got a big audience of middle-aged men thanks to the inclusion of perennial WAG Abigail Clancy as a regular feature.
But whether it was on BBC or ITV what most people were interested in were England’s fortunes. Again not being a football fan I only picked up on other people’s conversations that this was meant to be ‘their year’ and that we probably had our best team. Even I knew we kind of lucked out in our group having Algeria, Slovenia and USA as our opponents and as I was aware only the latter proved any threat to us. The first game was the one that pitted us against the Yanks and saw Steven Gerrard score in the third minute a sight seen around the world, unless you were watching on ITV HD of course. Everyone thought that that was the start of something special England’s big winning streak had started. And then there was no other goals scored and thanks to a keeping error we drew 1-1. But that was okay because that Friday we would trample all over the Algerians, who knew anything about them anyway? Well the one thing I realised was that we didn’t really play well against them and a 0-0 draw was mainly thanks to David James’ goal-keeping abilities. Thankfully the team redeemed themselves to an extent thanks to a 1-0 win over Slovenia but that wasn’t enough to guarantee us first place and when the Americans beat Algeria they finished top and the English had to take on the Germans. We then all know what happened on that fateful Sunday afternoon there was the disallowed goal in the first half and then total demolition of England in the second half, by that time I’d decided to cut my losses and switch over to BBC2 to watch Ray Davies at Glastonbury. I know as a country we like to sling blame around but I think if Peter Crouch was trotted out a little bit more then we could’ve done a little better. And I don’t know what Wayne Rooney was doing half of the time he almost seemed to be running away from the ball.
Anyway after the England defeat and the kookier teams being eliminated in round one I was less interested in the airings and only watched them briefly mainly to see what the score was so I could write it up on my World Cup wallchart. There were surprises in the quarter finals as Brazil and Argentina were both knocked out but that was about it. The team I’d been backing were Holland who did make it to the finals but played the dirtiest game of football I’ve ever seen. The refereeing was also shocking in that game but I couldn’t tell my mum that because she’s a little bit in love with the ref Howard Webb. In the end it was Spain’s first ever World Cup win which was much deserved even if they did lose their first match of the tournament to Switzerland. But despite some good performances from some players in particular the star of the 2010 World Cup was undoubtedly the vuvuzela. Yes the plastic trumpet-shaped instrument became a constant talking point from the South African game onwards. The traditional instrument made a lot of fans very angry and they complained to the BBC about it interfering with their watching. The BBC contemplated going to South African and melting all the Vuvuzelas but in the end decided to give viewers an option to watch the World Cup without any noise at all. I have to say the instruments didn’t bother me that much and added some liveliness to games which were lacking in entertainment elsewhere. I think that if you’re going to watch a World Cup played in a certain country then you have to get used to their traditions.
Elsewhere this week TV carried on as normal with the BBC presenting another new game show where people fall off things with 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow. The programme is a kind of Total Wipeout show with more of a quiz element and a larger cash prize and is presented by the poor man’s Vernon Kay and Welsh hunk Steve Jones. All these shows now have to have a glamorous female assistant The Whole 19 Yards had Caroline Flack while Kirsty Gallagher helped out on Sky One’s Gladiators however the budget seemed to have gone on the equipment so the female co-host is BBC 6Music’s afternoon DJ Nemone. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Nemone but I think she’d rather be introducing obscure indie songs on the radio than chatting to 40-something housewives after they just bungee jumped into a massive swimming pool. The basic concept sees seven people competing for £100,000 each round begins in a studio where Jones presents the contestants with seven answers to a question, six of which are correct and one of which is wrong. Everyone has to pick one so essentially someone is wrong every time, the USP of the show is that the contestants find out how they’ve done while strapped to bungee cords or strapped into exploding cars, with the loser having to face a horrific stunt. It goes on till only three are left then the question only has one right answer with the contestant who picks this victorious. In essence 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow is a fine 45 minute format however the show is stretched out to an hour which means that Jones has to pad for at least 15 minutes. He does this by reiterating what has gone on before, cracking horrendous jokes (the show has a writing team which includes Jones himself) and doing a 5 minute countdown before each wrong answer is revealed. Overall the programme is an admirable attempt but a show that outstays its welcome every week.
Last year Channel 4 presented a three week series about getting people off benefits and back into employment, although it was fairly engaging Benefit Busters had one star that being Hayley Taylor who tried to help a group of young mums back to work. She was full of clichés and catchphrases but had a likeable nature and seemed to really care about the girls she was dealing with. The response to her was so favourable Channel 4 have given her her own show entitled The Fairy Jobmother in which she journeys around the country helping individuals, couples or families off the dole and into full time employment. First up were Middlesbrough couple Dean and Maxine, he hasn’t worked for two years and she has never really worked after falling pregnant at the age of 16. Hayley feels the need to actually move in with the couple for a night to observe their routine and is horrified to find very little in the fridge and then wonders what the couple spend their money on. Personally I did see three boxes of cereal but no milk in the fridge which made me think if this seen had been engineered specifically for Hayley to look a little bit horrified. After criticising them for being on the dreaded ‘system’, a word she used an awful lot, Hayley set about finding things for Dean and Maxine to do. First off they both got work experience on the bins and on the Boots Beauty Counter respectively while Hayley was busy finding them jobs. Dean got an interview with a kitchen fitting company while Maxine had an interview with a beauty salon then fell through at the last minute. Throughout Hayley was criticising their nature – Dean’s fear and reluctance to go back to work, Maxine’s self-confidence issues, their lack of interview skills and even Dean’s walk. Dean had his job interview filmed with Hayley watching in the next room and shockingly he got the job and as we were told he is still enjoying it. The Fairy Jobmother does try and make serious points about employment but really if you have someone constantly helping you, getting you interviews and even paying for your dodgy teeth to be fixed then it’d be a lot easier to find employment. Although as a piece just about Hayley then it’s fantastic, she is a character who you could actually describe as being larger than life and is incredibly quotable my favourite being ‘if the job market is a road map then I see myself as the Satellite Navigational System’. So an enjoyable show but not one that should be taken at all as seriously as it thinks it should.
Also this week ITV2 are continuing to fund Katie Price’s lifestyle with yet another show centred around her vacuous existence. We had Katie when she was with Peter, Katie when she was on her own and now Katie with new husband Alex. I feel that Katie was worried that Alex was getting a bit more famous than her after winning Celebrity Big Brother and then getting his own series about training for Cage Fights on Bravo. Luckily she whisked him off to the Caribbean for a quickie marriage and then realised that no-one was around to give her any money for it. So of course now we get ‘the blessing’ something that Katie and Alex are doing for their family and friends and also for the ITV2 camera crew. As Katie told Alan Carr on his show, we’re not doing this for a magazine deal or anything, to which he retorted ‘yes but you are putting it on T.V. Katie and Alex: For Better, For Worse followed the couple planning the blessing, it actually happening and then going on their honeymoon. From very early on it was clear that Kerry actually hated ‘the paps’ the people who had given her early fame and exposure were now the enemy. This built up until the blessing itself when the whole world’s press seemed to be outside the church and Katie’s car was only shielded by a small barrier made of a flimsy bed sheet. If they really wanted to keep the paparazzi away they could’ve constructed a large structure but instead this was a lot more dramatic, the drama was amped up even more when the press got in through another door in the church but in the end the two were married. There’s no doubting that Katie is a media-machine and I’m not sure if she genuinely loves Alex, but the one thing I think is real is Alex’s love for her. Alex to me comes across as an earnest, if slightly dim, young man while Katie is incredibly sly and almost built up a defence against her haters. A perfect example of this is where the pair met the priest that is to bless them while Alex is listening intently, Katie is smiling at the camera that has just panned around to her. If I didn’t write this piece then I wouldn’t have watched the programme but there is still a market for people who are fans of Katie Price so this obviously satisfied their needs.
Finishing off this week is a programme that the Price-Reids would get completely ripped on if they appeared on it that being the return of Shooting Stars There’s a bit of a shake-up as Matt Lucas has left the show and replacing George Dawes as score-keeper is Angelos Epithemiou who last season was a permanent fixture on Ulrika’s team. Angelos is the undoubted star of this series and as score-keeper is more involved than Lucas ever was and has been given more to do. His one-liners, performance pieces and the regular ‘what’s in your bag?’ segments have been the focal point of the new series. Otherwise its business as usual as Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer prey on unsuspecting C-List celebs with a series of antics. Vic still does his leg rub to the lady celebrities who this year have bizarrely included both Shirley and Heather from Eastenders and we still have the dove from above and the club singer round. The team captains don’t get away lightly either with Ulrika constantly berated by Mortimer for her many sexual partners and Jack Dee’s face a constant point of scrutiny for Reeves. Although some find it juvenile, I always like Shooting Stars and I have to say that it is possibly the most surreal programme around on T.V.