INSIDE THE TUBE

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The Independent Culture
Many thought Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch an exaggeration of just how obsessed football fans can be, but if a new documentary from Channel 4 is anything to go by, the bestselling book was in fact an understatement. To coincide with the network TV premiere of the film version of Fever Pitch (above) on 29 November, It's Only A Game, homes in on a family that brings new meaning to the former Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly's famous phrase: "Football isn't a matter of life or death - it's far more important than that."

The featured clan of Arsenal fanatics is headed by 85-year-old Tom Jales, who has been following the Gunners for more than 70 years. Tom's grand- daughter, Dawn Turner, has even managed to reverse the Fever Pitch story by turning her football-loathing husband into a Highbury season-ticket holder. Greater love hath no man, you might think.

As the clan gathers for pre-match rituals, the film wonders if football has replaced the church and the pub as a focus of family bonding. Is football what the Government needs to use to bring families closer together?

The programme is peppered with vignettes of even more devoted footy fans. There is the painting-and-decorating Leeds United fan who cannot bring himself to utter the words "Manchester United" - many will understand the sentiment - and who gives special discounts to clients wanting to remove red paint. Also featured is a Nottingham Forest supporter who lives with a life-size cardboard cut-out of her hero Stuart Pearce (it would be interesting to learn how she feels now he has moved to Newcastle United). When Pearce was injured, she would apply bandages and balm to the affected parts of the cut-out. What, one wonders, does her husband make of this obsession?

Lenny Henry's own life provided the inspiration for The Man, a new BBC1 film written by Jon Canter and currently shooting in London and Tenerife. In his spare time, Henry (above) plays in an R'n'B band - as does his character in the film. By day, Dennis Jackson is a nominee for Midlands Travel Agent of the Year; by night, he has a regular spot with his band, Satisfaction, at the Fox and Goose. He is convinced that he is going to be very big, very soon. Marianne Jean-Baptiste - Oscar-nominated for her stand-out performance in Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies - makes a welcome return as his tolerant partner Michelle, who reckons that Dennis has more far-fetched dreams than sense.

"Return of the Ba Ba Zee", a Channel 4 season examining black culture, starts on 16 November with Crazy, Sexy, Cool. In this documentary, celebrities such as Neneh Cherry, Des'ree, Shola Ama (left) and Mica Paris discuss the myths of black sexuality.

JR

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