review

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One thing we can be sure of after the first episode of the new sporting quiz They Think It's All Over (BBC2): Gary Lineker is not the new Paul Merton. Sudden, unexpected flights of surreal extemporisation about giraffes in court or the number 37 bus are not the Lineker onion bag. His humour is more of the pulling-pained-faces-at-the-mention-of- Graham-Taylor school.

Nevertheless, he was still party to the funniest television quiz moment since Merton propped a tub of lard alongside himself on the Have I Got News For You? set, to stand in for the absent Roy Hattersley. It occurred when, during a round called "Feel The Sportsman" (a marginally more sophisticated version of the children's parlour game "Grunt Piggy Grunt"), Lineker was obliged to don a blindfold and examine the outer extremities of a sporting figure, in order to guess who it was. On this occasion the figure was Giant Haystacks, a man with more outer extremities than are strictly necessary.

You could sense from the off that Lineker, not a touchy-feely person, was not enjoying himself, recoiling from the prospect of physical contact, anxious to get things over with as quickly as possible (he played the game a bit like he played his football, in other words). As his discomfort grew, so did the humour, until the point when he arrived at the - let's be honest - ill-kempt Haystacks's facial hair, and his hand sprang away in disgust. "Eeeeeeugh," shrieked Lineker, showing more inflection in his voice than in an entire series of Match of the Day. "Beard."

Making a national hero invade the defensible space of national joke quite so ruthlessly was but one of a dozen pleasures of They Think It's All Over. Quite simply, for a new show, it got off from the blocks like Linford Christie when there's big money on offer. Produced by Harry Thompson of Have I Got News, it perfectly tapped the present mood for treating sport with about as much reverence as you might treat David Icke.

Expertly filling the Angus Deayton role as chairman was Nick Hancock, if not quite TV's Mr Sex then at least TV's Mr Haircut-Obsessed: rarely in the field of British comedy has one man made so many apposite gags about other people's barnets in so short a space of time. David Gower and Rory McGrath were fine foils, and in Lee Hurst, Thompson has discovered a gem of a regular panellist: engaging, sharp - and bald enough to keep Hancock in material for an entire series. If only the wonderful Rory Bremner, guesting on the opening show, could appear every week, the Baftas would follow in droves.

Lazing around for weeks, doing nothing, hardly moving, waiting for its moment to strike - but only if its prey happens to be within a couple of feet of where it is lurking: the bush master snake of Amazonia shares many characteristics with Chris Armstrong, Tottenham's new centre-forward. The snake was but one of the stars of Nightmares of Nature (BBC1), a programme designed to make us urbanites soil our garments the moment we step off the tarmac.

This was largely done through a series of artfully arranged recon- structions, in which innocents blithely going about their business were assaulted by a variety of highly toxic, highly volatile, frankly unnecessary reptiles. The fact it was all so obviously contrived (stage blood dripping from a komodo dragon's mouth after a kill, for instance) didn't lessen its impact. It was only a matter of time, after all, before nature programmes caught the reconstruction bug currently infecting television reporting of true crimes, but you can't help feeling they've latched onto this particular genre late. With the galloping march of the camcorder remaining unchecked, it won't be long before, in exchange for a tenner, we are invited to send in our recordings of dangerous encounters with nature: Jeremy Beadle presents You've Been Bitten.

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