Television Review

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The Independent Culture
ENVY IS, it's true, never an attractive quality, but it can sometimes be forgiven. The Football Millionaires (BBC1) sent Alan Hansen off to meet the new superstars of the Premiership. When Hansen started his career he was paid pounds 12 a week, and eight years after he retired he still has to make ends meet with football punditry and advertising football boots on Saturday morning children's TV ("Every one is signed by me - Alan Hansen": and what seven-year-old wouldn't find that an intensely desirable object?). He's hardly on the bread line, but his earnings look paltry next to those of David Beckham and Michael Owen. Even the relative failures are doing all right these days: Robbie Savage, rejected by Man United after a career in their youth team, pulls in around pounds 200,000 a year playing for Leicester, and reckons that after five or six years he will be set up for life.

So if, at times, in this rather over-stretched 50 minutes Hansen seemed a little strained, you could see his point. The strain was most obvious when he spent a morning with Michael Owen. First they strode around the golf course, where Owen blithely sank a 15ft putt. "Is there anything you're bad at?" Hansen quipped. Then Owen thrashed him at snooker, and he said it again. And again. And again. Elsewhere, he was watching David Beckham practising his goal kicks: "That was a fluke," Hansen announced after a perfect chip into the top corner. His smile was starting to look rather fixed.

Mind you, Hansen's smile always does look fixed (he models his on-camera make-up on his boyhood idols Scott and Virgil Tracy, pilots of Thunderbirds 1 and 2 respectively), and the effort we observed here may have had less to do with being born 10 years too early than with having to sound bright and witty. Hansen cracks a joke with the carefree air of a man who has woken up to find a rattlesnake coiled on his chest. To be fair to him, though, if Groucho Marx and Maggie Smith had had a love-child, it couldn't have added much zest to this dull script, with its barely comprehensible platitudes ("One thing is certain - wherever there are heroes, there will always be football").

At some stage in the production process, the purpose of this programme had slipped away. Instead of analysis, we got a pile of bland trivia. Did anybody really not know that Jamie Redknapp is married to the chipmunkish popster Louise, or not suspect that David Beckham is a bit of a smug git? If this programme proved a point, it was that practically anything can get on television if it has "football" in the title.

As I say, envy can sometimes be forgiven. But not always. Wonderful You (ITV) stars Richard Lumsden as Henry, who is more a kind of Pitiful Him - hitting 30, sans girlfriend, sans career, sans mortgage and consumed with self-pity. Last week, his pathetic prospects were brought into focus by an encounter with the gorgeous Clare (Lucy Akhurst), formerly the object of his unrequited slavering. She was happily ensconced in a relationship with Marshall - successful, charming, good-looking (and played by Greg Wise). But this week, the relationship fell apart, and Clare sought consolation from Henry, gawky bag of tears that he is.

Naturally, we're all in favour of the underdog, but there is a limit to just how far under I'm prepared to go, and Henry exceeds it by a country mile. The problem is partly with Lumsden, who is perfectly capable of keeping his mouth closed when he wants to, but who just doesn't seem prepared to take the trouble. It's plausible that a woman would overlook this defect if he had a pleasant personality, but the script even denies him that (Lumsden co-wrote it, incidentally, so I'm not letting him off the hook). The usual curve of drama is to make the protagonist sadder and wiser; but since Henry already is sadder, and shows absolutely no propensity to learn, it's hard to see where this can take us.

All this reminds me of a bad continuity slip-up that has been preying on me since last week, when Henry was seen on a bus - the exterior was a modern, driver-only operation, the interior was an old- fashioned Routemaster. Can you believe it? I offer this purely in a spirit of constructive criticism, by the way. I wouldn't want you to think I'm a sad person or anything.