Simon Tyers reviews the BBC's change of studio and whether it has made any difference to Match of the Day
Whisper it, for fear of TV columnists suddenly finding themselves surplus to requirements in these financially straitened times, but viewers of highlights shows don't really care about what happens for much of each programme. As long as the action is plentiful and well edited – and the bits in between don't inspire mass acts of seppuku – you can by and large get away with it.
Television doesn't think of itself like that, though. Match of the Day moved into the new Salford Media City complex at the start of October and, my, were the BBC keen to tell us at every given opportunity. An MOTD2 montage paid special tribute to the many years of shows we had never connected with a London broadcast centre. Dan Walker pointed to Television Centre as an example of what was being left behind. Gary Lineker sought to connect the current Manchester Premier League domination with their coming to town.
When Lineker later highlighted Gabriel Agbonlahor's movement off the ball, Mark Lawrenson even suggested this must be down to "the Manchester air". Incidentally, Lawrenson appeared to have misunderstood the rules of Movember. His straggly beard, along with his whitening hair and eye bags, made it look like he had been woken up under a bridge just before 10pm.
All this activity implied that viewers of Match of the Day would be affected by the changes, but it wasn't clear how. After all, the Football League Show is staying put. Presumably they either don't want to let the studio go to waste or want to send the implicit message that this is now the old-fashioned way to broadcast highlights.
Were we expected to imagine that the move was fraught with emotion – that the director general and governors gathered at the exit gate fretfully waving tearstained hankies? Of course not. Apart from some unnecessary graphs, split screens and rotating stadium graphics you would be hard pressed to notice any difference.
Given that Alan Hansen, Alan Shearer and Lawrenson all live in the north, the money saved from moving only one onscreen talent – Lineker – halfway across the country every Saturday might prove to be the best outcome of the relocation. After the licence fee freeze, every little helps.
Is there a reason Lineker sits on the left of the screen in the new studio set-up but Colin Murray sits on the right? Rather than having a comfortable in-the-round sofa to lounge on, Murray now has to perch on what looks like a deluxe office chair, which gives him the unfortunate look of an intern messing around while the boss is out.
As the first week up north coincided with Sir Alex's 25th anniversary at Old Trafford, Lee Dixon was put in charge of selecting a representative United XI of the period, which he warned in advance would be "a bit controversial". He said this twice more while running down the team, his keenness seeming to overwhelm some of his immediate thought processes as he called both David Beckham and Ryan Giggs "Mr Manchester United" in the space of ten seconds. The controversies involved picking Nemanja Vidic and – grab the green ink pen for this one – Eric Cantona. Murray might have pulled him up on this had he not been required, once Dixon finished, to bring up a graphic of the show's own compiled second XI, like it mattered.
Everyone has an opinion, but some are too ready to share it before their full attention is fully engaged. Jamie Carragher was ITV's star pundit for England's friendly against Spain, acting as nationalistic backup to Gareth Southgate, whose new position as the station's number-one studio pundit is a handy low benchmark for other guests to aim at. Carragher, it became clear, is one of those who believes the sun has yet to set on the golden generation. Having seen a team-sheet that set out a defensive midfield, then watched a half in which England had clearly been told to sit back, Carragher picked out the crucial flaw in Phil Jones's game – he hadn't got forward enough. Carragher's antidote? "You'd love to see Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard in that position", both of whom he went on to mention in conjunction three times to get his message cross. As well as revealing that a centre-back isn't as good at attacking as an advanced midfielder, Carragher went some way to proving why the national team never seem to learn.
From WSC 299 January 2012