Cameron Carter bemoans shallow and immature football programmes

Some day, all programmes will be made this way. 20 Football Transfers That Shocked The World (ITV4, October 18) was a list programme that raised several questions. Was Manchester City's acquisition of Steve Daley the worst business of the 1970s? How did Brazil's World Cup-winning captain Socrates come to play for Garforth Town? Has Fabio Capello nothing better to do than add his comments on a list programme? Surely if he were at a loose end between qualifiers, the FA could give him an experimental side project, such as trying to kill white mice simply by scowling at them from a technical area.

Watching 20 brief, nostalgia-inducing clips of long-haired players signing contracts at press conferences and fluffing half-chances, it is hard to decide if this programme is easier to make or easier to watch. Because it is incredibly easy to watch. This is Powerpoint television. There is no opening premise, no sustained focus on any single element and no conclusion – just a procession of glimpses of similar-looking material with state the obvious bullet-point annotation. And it is conveniently easy to make. As budgets are slashed across the BBC and commercial stations, we will probably be seeing more of this kind of output: 20 Rare-Breed Culls That Shook Countryfile, for example, or Top 50 News-to-Weather Handovers.

Meanwhile, ITV4 have painstakingly developed a new programme, Greatest FA Cup Finals, featuring the goals – just the goals – from randomly generated finals from the 1970s to the present. Here one can thrill to shorn-of-context footage of Lawrie Sanchez heading past Bruce Grobbelaar, Steve Mackenzie's 1981 volley and Alan Sunderland's apparent sexual catharsis upon scoring the winner in 1979. There is little time to process anything nearing sentient thought as the goals and games flip by, except perhaps to compare players from the 1970s and 80s to their current counterparts.

Only a generation has passed, but it is almost impossible to visualise Keith Houchen, Gary Mabbutt or Brian Kilcline performing the swagger and pose to camera demanded of the modern professional for the Sky Sports visual teamsheet, or the Football Focus pre-interview mood shot. It would surely have taken the best part of a morning to get usable footage of Pat Jennings pimp-daddying up to his mark to stare out the unseen viewer. The gulf in media maturity between the players of Jennings's era and those of today is as marked as that between early 20th century mill workers, superstitiously circling the cinematograph set up outside the factory gate, and mind-speaking reality television participants in 2011. One yearns for the forever-departed embarrassed smile of the self-conscious 1970s.

The heated debates between Steve Claridge and Garth Crooks that occasionally enliven Final Score can look puerile and staged on cursory inspection, but a force two squall between them on October 15 regarding Carlos Tévez's refusal to take to the pitch against Bayern Munich showed how mature a debater Crooks truly is. Claridge, taking Tévez's side, argued that he was Manchester City's best player last season "by a cricket mile" and had every right to feel ill-treated as a substitute. At this point, had Crooks truly been childishly arguing just for the sake of it, he would have retorted "What's a ‘cricket mile'? Does anyone know what a ‘cricket mile' is?" and squeaked off to upload the clip on YouTube. Instead, he took the more adult route of using Claridge's recovery time to shout "You can't have it both ways" again and again until Gabby Logan had to step in to peel Claridge off the ropes.

The BBC team's keen-ness to cover the Tévez Refusal from all angles resulted in the maladroit duplication of a swiftly produced topical joke. Mark Lawrenson and Crooks comically refused to leave the greenroom when called by Dan Walker into the Football Focus studio in the morning. Later the same day, Gary Lineker performed a one-man version of the joke, quipping upon an imagined refusal of Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer to get up off the MOTD sofa. This broke the second rule of comedy, namely, do not repeat a joke you believe may have been missed by your audience the first time. The first rule of comedy, incidentally, is to never use Lineker in comedy.

From WSC 298 December 2011

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