Production Values: A penalty shoot-out in the schedules
Sunday 06 December 1998
Still, it is refreshing nowadays to find two whole documentaries in one week that are not about sex. I am beginning to think that programmes just work better when their subject matter is more fun to watch than to do. For me, football qualifies.
Phil Day, for the BBC, concentrated on recreating the experience of the match. Celebrities and players recalled their reaction to that penalty; that other penalty; Owen's brilliant goal; that third penalty; Beckham's petulant flop of the leg; and, of course, the nail-biting, penalty shoot out. The programme had its centre of gravity squarely inside the stadium; in fact, the catalogue of events on the pitch was in danger sometimes of looking like a, beautifully illustrated, post match interview. Wide- screen footage shot by FIFA and dramatically lit interviews gave it visual class. It luxuriated so much in music and slow motion that it seemed at times that the ghost of Leni Riefenstahl was stalking Day's St Etienne stadium. If the celebrated filmer of the 1936 Olympics was there, she was welcome for her monumental talent, but less so for her patent inability to have a good laugh with the lads.
John Piper, for Granada, was left to provide the humour the BBC forgot. Sol Campbell had the best line about the l'affaire Beckham: "It was all a misunderstanding. I don't think he knew the referee was so close." Piper's programme found its sustenance outside the stadium. Match footage was intercut with stories of people in Britain and Argentina: the man in the power station waiting for the surge, the funny vicar, the police, the bridge club. Some were predictable, but others were linked to the match only by simultaneity. The garden shed burning in Falkland Road as Argentina scored for the second time; the man whose daughter was in the school production of The Tempest; the outrageous juxtaposition with the woman giving birth during the game (her waters broke as Owen scored): uninterpreted and unremarked by narration, these anecdotes actually provided a commentary of a richness and originality that will always elude Brian Moore.
Half hidden in a hurriedly put together documentary with hasty, overlit interviews and dodgy edits, where the rhythm was uncertain and ideas were not given time to breathe, were the elements of great literature. If only they had had more time.
It is tempting to wonder what would happen if the filmic values of the one had been combined with the structural wit of the other to make one super-programme. Why don't the England and Scotland teams combine to play as Britain? The answer is probably something about competition being good for you.
This, however, is a story of the triumph of the human spirit over the nastiness of conflict. What started as a grudge match ended with credit and honour for all. Both sides played bravely and the event generated much more pleasure than it did pain. That is all we have a right to ask for, from any pair of televsion programmes.
Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
- 2 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 3 Woman blinded as a child can see again after hitting her head on a coffee table
- 4 Paul Hollywood: Police asked if I wanted them to arrest Mary Berry for vandalism after she 'defaced' my car
- 5 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
JK Rowling's Harry Potter Halloween stories: Dolores Umbridge was based on real person she 'disliked intensely'
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Cumberbacklash: Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange riles Marvel fans
Best horror films of all time
Downton Abbey season 5 episode 6 - review: Thomas and Lady Edith show sad signs of the times
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything