TELEVISION / Hitting fever pitch: James Rampton on the connection between Stan Bowles, Hitler and art

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The Independent Culture
Millions will have been disappointed that the version of The Final Score screened last night featured not a whisker of Desmond Lynam. Instead Michael Nyman's musical tribute to Queen's Park Rangers for Without Walls (C4) offered a starring role to Brian Moore, Lynam's rival on ITV.

It must be the first time that a football commentator has played a significant role in a piece of serious music (subtitled 'A Concerto for Football', no less). But after last week's music video about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (The Cry), perhaps nothing should surprise us. Nyman's trademark doodling was sporadically interrupted by Moore's barely suppressed hysteria. 'That's there, that's two, and that's Bowles . . . Could this be the fourth? Yeees. Stanley Bowles.'

Fanzines, like QPR's A Kick Up the R's (credited at the end of The Final Score), have helped make it legitimate for arties to show off their blokey credentials by declaring an undying love for football. (Just this week, Michael Grade, cigar in hand, was waxing lyrical about Charlton Athletic in the Guardian). But in case we hadn't grasped the connection between art and the Arsenal, the camera pulled back to show a football match on a telly perched next to Nyman's score on top of his piano.

The pace seemed mysteriously to flag whenever Ray Wilkins appeared (from the kick-off against Spurs, he passed backwards). But, because it devoted large chunks to the highlights of Bowles' career (which, if the headlines are to be believed, seemed to involve as much sex 'n' drugs as goalmouth action), the rest of The Final Score was much more exciting.

With his editing, the director, Matthew Whiteman, showed a discipline not always manifest in the subject himself. He came up with several moments designed to set armchair spectators roaring: a pan across the home dressing- Room at Loftus Road alighting on the hallowed Number 10 jersey hanging from a peg; and Bowles dancing past defenders before slotting the ball underneath a Leeds goalie whose vision cannot have been helped by a hairdo remaindered from that year's Castle Donington festival. All the while, Nyman's soundtrack spurred on the action like an enthusiastic fan.

As the film showed, Bowles's displays prompted some of the naffest cliches since 'sick as a parrot' - 'Play It Again, Stan', for instance. But, at the same time, he inspired quasi-religious devotion; QPR supporters in The Final Score dashed on to the pitch brandishing a Union Flag emblazoned with the legend, 'Bowles Is God'. After all that profane stuff with Peter Greenaway, Nyman has finally written something sacred. For all the delightful reverence of Nyman's work, though, there is a sad postscript. A couple of years ago, Bowles was spotted playing on a less exalted stage: for a London Transport XI.

The eclectic agenda of Without Walls has caused some wags to dub this arts slot Without Arts. But where else would 'A Concerto for Football' be preceded by an analysis of the artistic influence of Adolf Hitler? In The Great Dictator, the Jewish actor Linal Haft (Melvin from the BT ads, to you and me) tried to explain the abiding attraction of 'the lunatic fringe'. Aided by copious clips and interviews, he produced some challenging ideas - such as the innate campness of the Sieg Heil salute, and the dangers of trivialising Nazism by portraying Hitler as a buffoon (Freddie Starr, Mel Brooks.)

Judging from Stuart Cosgrove's admirably comprehensive survey, only one representation of Hitler remains undone: Concerto for a Fuhrer.