Production Values: A penalty shoot-out in the schedules

It was the will to win, the urge to be first, presumably, that caused it. Two programmes about 30 June 1998 - When England Played Argentina (ITV, Tuesday) and Where were you? Passion, Pride and Penalties (BBC1, Wednesday) - were each brought forward, despite the protests of the hard- pressed production teams, from their intended Christmas slots to be transmitted this week. This kind of competitive scheduling, inherited from the scoop- hungry newsroom, seems unnecessary in this case. Surely we are grown-up enough to cope with two programmes about the same subject being shown at different times; the result of the match is no longer news, after all.

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.

Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week