They're always telling you that anything can happen on live television. Of course, it usually doesn't. They put that line about in order to make the shambolic spectacle seem more like high-risk, thrill-seeking brinkmanship. Euro 96 (ITV, Sat) started nearly two hours before the actual kick-off with coverage of the opening ceremony at Wembley. This was one of those cringe-making things in which everyone dresses up in national costume and runs around trailing streamers. Of course, England doesn't have a national costume as such, so they made do with an approximation of medieval costume: cloaks with sticks in the seams for added flappability, jerkins and pointy hats with veils coming out of the top. Which meant that the long-awaited tournament opened not so much with a bang as a wimple.
Meantime, Bob Wilson mustered a crew of commentators in his glass room. He grinned over the closing bars of the rearranged "Jerusalem", which looks likely to qualify for the Most Irritating Noise award over the next three weeks, and introduced the first suspects: Jack Charlton and John Barnes. "Jack," he said, "does this remind you of 1966?" "Not particularly," replied the luminary. Meanwhile, Jack Rosenthal was outside the stadium talking to celebs. First up were Kevin Keegan and Alex Ferguson, giving a creditable impression of being on good terms, which was only slightly marred by the fact that they both had knives to each other's throats. Ferguson announced that he'd had twin granddaughters at 10am that morning. Everyone joked about double doubles. Later, Lee Hurst turned up. Made a couple of hooligan cracks and did a puff for Saturday Live. Highlight of the day was Mick Hucknall, "an international superstar who's football mad", singing the official song, "We're in this Together", a rather tragic Euro-attempt to inject a note of touchy-feely camaraderie into what is, after all, nothing more than old-fashioned international rivalry. "I'm here to stay," he crooned with the help of a gospel choir, "and it will always be that way", and "My eyes are open, just like the ocean", proving the theory that official theme songs get all the best lyrics. Hundreds of schoolchildren dressed in white waved their hands in time. I begged God to give me amnesia.
Lee Hurst made it back to the studio in time to host the second edition of Saturday Live (ITV, Sat), and - surprise - the theme was football. Lee was wearing a check shirt with a number nine on the back. Gazza, he informed us, has been removed from the Subbuteo team because he's got so fat kids kept breaking their fingers. That was the good joke. The rest of Lee's footie-related material didn't reach such dizzy heights. Special guest of the evening was John Barnes. If he can get on the Lottery before the end of the month, he'll have made a hat-trick.
Alistair McGowan saved the day. The startling impressionist treated us to some genuinely funny gags: his take on Jo Brand on Question Time and his staring-eyed, tongue-waving Paul Gascoigne had me out of my seat. Top joke of the evening came from Mike Flowers of Mike Flowers Pops. Regaling us with an easy-listening version of Prince's "1999", he broke off to exhort us to let our hair down. "And if you can't let your hair down, take it off."Reuse content