Monday 10 August ~
The new season brings great joy and excitement for fans everywhere and this year has been no exception. With Newcastle in the Championship, Norwich in League One and Sven in League Two, every tier of the Football League has big stories to tell. So I was looking forward to the BBC’s new Football League Show (11.45pm, Saturdays, BBC1). I had no idea that, alongside Manish Bhasin and co, I would also get to see a woman sitting on the toilet.
The Football League Show opened with our intrepid host striding along the balcony of what appeared to be a city banker’s cavernous batcave. A ticker screen flying by at a hundred miles an hour implored us to text and email our views to a blonde woman in the dark gallery, perched on a desk and bathed in blue light. Manish was joined by the punditry dream team of Steve Claridge and Ian Holloway. Gravedigger-a-like Claridge can be good value, and has impressed me with some considered points of view, but Ian Holloway always seems to be either on the verge of tears or laughter, sometimes both.
The trouble with the show revolved around the studio and the format. Bhasin had a microphone, and yet felt impelled to bellow his links and questions and seemed not to be listening to any of the pundits at all. The far too frequent “have your say” segment was a complete waste of time, with most of the comments seemingly coming direct from the brain of Danny Dyer playing a 14-year-old. This problem was compounded by the way they were read out by poor old Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes, who seemed to have been told to physically put her all into every message. I can safely presume that most football fans like me don’t want to hear the views of people willing to send a text to a TV set being read out in the manner of a children’s entertainer.
It will always be very hard to cram all the goals and highlights into a show of 75 minutes. For a first attempt, they made a good fist of it. The commentary was not always of the highest level which is understandable and will no doubt improve over the season. The most bizarre incident occurred during the round up of the League Two goals minutes after my housemate exclaimed that the show “stinks of ITV”. Momentarily I had thought someone had plonked themself on the remote when the broadcast suddenly changed to scene from a film (which I have now learned was on ITV1 at the time) involving a blonde woman sat on a toilet. How could this have happened? My money is on that perennial joker Steve Rider carrying out another of his elaborate pranks.
The BBC have good formats with MOTD, MOTD2 and Football Focus and although I can understand why they want to differentiate this show, at least try to take some tips from them. Scrap the viewers’ texts and emails and instead devote more time to highlights and analysis, change the studio to something that doesn’t look so empty and cold, and try to encourage the pundits to lighten up a bit. Let’s just hope that the producers resist the temptation to call on Andy Townsend and his tactics truck. Duncan Palmer