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
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
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.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick