Television: LAST NIGHT

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The Independent Culture
My own footballing dreams didn't survive five minutes exposure to the game itself. After an own goal in a schoolboys' weekend league I decided that the humiliation/reward ratio was unsatisfactory and hung up my Green Flashes. So it may be that I'm not the best person to review Malcolm Brinkworth's film for True Stories (C4), the latest offering in the "young hopefuls" documentary genre. This form has already been applied to policemen, doctors, vets, actors, Wimbledon ballboys and more units of the armed forces than you'd find at a Royal Tattoo. But this film was about footballers - more specifically the pounds 37 a week apprentices who hope to ascend from scouring the splash bath grouting to dating soap stars and signing charity footballs. What was striking about the film was how closely it conformed to its many predecessors.

This was largely down to Graham Rix, the likeable coach, whose essential charity was detectable in the unvarying epithet he attached to criticism, like an anaesthetic before the dentist's drill - "smashing kid - nervous wreck", "smashing kid - and rather immature". He was also a dressing-room sermoniser, pointing up the morality tale of application and will-to-win which always emerges at some point in these films. Perhaps a more accurate term would be "dropout docs" since they are powered as much by the threat of failure as by the promise of achievement. And here the subject matter did offer a new twist - one that was likely to augment the pain if the hurdles eventually proved too high. When you watch young students competing for a place at medical school they will not generally have been able to show off a playground flair for diagnostics or open-heart surgery. Here, though, the apprentices have already tasted the stardom at which they aim. The Bergkamps of the leisure centre, the Coles of the park pitches suddenly find themselves in a place where their talents are considerably more routine - and where casual ability alone won't serve to lift them above the crowd.

Apprentices have to be able to endure the drudgery of "duties" - a range of notionally character-building chores which gave Brinkworth ample scope for tut-tutting inspections and sulky mutters of discontent. They also have to be able to swallow awesome quantities of sweaty sentiment about the game. "That's got to be your best mate this year" said Graham, pointing to a football as the apprentices honed their skills. On tour in Europe, unfortunately, the best mate seemed to have palled up with the opposition, regularly diving into the back of the Chelsea net. "Anyone else need ice" asked the physio in the dressing room later, before adding his own contribution to the programme's anthology of jockstrap philosophy - "Ice doesn't mend a broken heart".

Ainsley Harriott is so strenuously extrovert that it's a wonder he doesn't turn inside out. Eyes rolling and body popping he has now applied his skills (limitless ebullience in the face of raw ingredients) to the world of the charred sausage and the cinder-dusted chicken thigh. Ainsley's Barbecue Bible (BBC2) is one of those moveable feast series where the presenter gallops around the globe for fab barbie recipes from five continents, but the first programme kicked off on the quintessentially British ground of the allotment - a happily variegated community which offered a microcosm of Ainsley's forthcoming travels. He tested out various forms of barbecue - including a lawnmower cuttings box covered with chicken wire - and shimmied through some recipes - literally in the case of hot dogs with sweetcorn salsa, which was cut together as a dance sequence to the sound of Aretha Franklin's "Think". Personally I find Ainsley a little too pungently jolly for my tastes - he is the sort of presenter who is quite unable to say the word "spicy" without preceding it with a little lizard flicker of the tongue - God alone knows what he will do when he gets round to "spatchcocked". Still, if enough people pay attention, the incidences of food poisoning and second degree burns should be a little down this summer.