Cameron Carter on an attempt to get the UK watching MLS
There used to be a time when a chap’s name in the programme title meant he was central to the project. Ellery Queen, Dempsey & Makepeace, The Sooty Show – they all featured the eponymous protagonists plum in the middle of the fray. Nowadays we live in more complex times, as illustrated by Macca’s Monday Night (Setanta) and David Beckham’s Soccer USA (Five). The former was in fact presented by Angus Scott, with Steve “Macca” McManaman and Tim Sherwood invited along as pundits to mull over the weekend’s games. Now, if my name were Macca and someone told me I was going to be on a programme called Macca’s Monday Night, I’d turn up in my best jacket and trousers expecting to be introducing the thing from the master chair. While it did appear that Scott’s questions were mainly directed to McManaman and then by trickle-down effect on to Tim Sherwood to add a supplementary point, it didn’t seem that Monday Night was owned by Macca as the title suggests. At best you could say he co-owned Monday Night as a sleeping partner.
David Beckham’s Soccer USA is presented by Tim Lovejoy and interrupted by approximately one minute of David Beckham’s floating head, recorded in a Los Angeles studio between massages, giving an account of his last game. So, more accurately, it should be called “Tim Lovejoy’s Football USA – As Endorsed Between Massages By The Official David Beckham”. While David got off to a decent start at LA Galaxy between injuries, Tim Lovejoy’s opening performances have been unsettling. He addresses the camerafrom the gun-slinger standing position and stumbles back and forth throughout like an awkwardly facetious sixth-former called out front of class to give an oral account of the Peasants’ Revolt.
Perhaps this fidgeting step-dance is the new thing for presenters – as previously walking towards the camera replaced sitting on a box stroking a collie – but it does speak of a high degree of self-consciousness. In a presenter of Lovejoy’s experience and obvious capabilities, self-consciousness bespeaks a lack of faith in the programme’s content. The content – goal action from the week’s MLS games, a couple of interviews, a jokey feature on the US commentary vernacular – is predictable enough, but would be perfectly acceptable if it weren’t for the perpetual braying of the production crew at Lovejoy’s patter.
After Adrian Chiles, Tim Lovejoy is the second most likeable man in televisual football, but his power is to summon the wry smile, launch the knowing nod, perhaps even provoke a sniff-laugh – his every utterance certainly does not merit the kind of heart-wrenching guffaws practised by the boys behind the camera. Where this laughter on Soccer AM seemed natural, here it comes across as frantic and, worse still, suggestive of Chris Evans. Incidentally, the feature on US commentary asked British pedestrians to translate such phrases as “he’s in real estate” (it means the player is in lots of space, apparently) into the English equivalent. One man, asked to makes sense of “the upper 90” (the top corner of the goal), chewed the cud a while before replying: “Dunno... time of the month?” In case you were beginning to think it’s safe to walk Britain’s streets again – it’s not.
August 25’s Football Focus featured a wonderful example of the passive-aggressive style when Graham Poll, a studio guest, was asked to comment on a clip of the Roy Keane-Patrick Vieira tunnel spat. Poll said he wouldn’t pick a fight with either of them. Back in the studio, after the subject had moved on, Lee Dixon half-turned to Poll and said “I’ll have a fight with you”, breaking into bronchial laughter only after leaving an ambiguous pause for people to be uncomfortable in.
The same Focus also contained the old fall-back of stunted imaginations when asked to invent something quirky to enliven a dull report: the film noir parody. An interview with Newcastle’s Geremi was preceded by grainy footage of a man in a raincoat and trilby investigating a “mystery man” in “the case of the missing trophies”. Halfway through the bog-standard interview it was revealed that Geremi likes whodunnits. Of course it is always nice to know what players get up to in their spare time (with the possible exception of Dwight Yorke), but surely watching crime drama on television is not idiosyncratic enough to warrant a call to the costume department? When asked who his favourite detective was, Geremi laughed, a little embarrassed, and replied “Me”. Just as well they didn’t ask him the “upper 90” question.
From WSC 248 October 2007