REVIEW / Get on with the (expletive deleted) match

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The Independent Culture
DES LYNAM promised us a report on dairy farming as part of the BBC's build- up to the FA Cup Final. It was only a joke, prompted by a glimpse of a bovine squad behind Ken Bates, the Chelsea chairman (none of them were wearing lilac blazers so it is safe to assume they were part of Ken's dairy herd). But frankly it wouldn't have been very surprising if we had been shown milk yield plotted against Chelsea's weekly performance. With some three hours to traverse before reaching the safe haven of kick-off, the warm-up coverage is marked by a certain manic ingenuity - like desperate stokers who know they're about to run out of coal, those responsible are prepared to feed anything into the boiler to make it across the divide - furniture, panelling, the clothes the players stand up in.

There are some faithful standbys, it's true, the anthracite of pre-match broadcasting - the great jigsaw puzzle of the Wembley stands slowly being completed behind Des's back as he murders time with a murmur; a comprehensive history of the finalists' progression to the sacred turf; player profiles which are little masterpieces of the dubber's and cutter's art and which could convert even the most ball-blind viewer to the magic of the game. Watching Ryan Giggs flicker his way through a flailing defence, you need the slow motion to prove that he doesn't actually possess an extra joint between ankle and knee. Cantona accelerates past another hapless player like a Porsche overtaking a Robin Reliant and you forget for a moment that the Robin Reliant is probably paid pounds 5,000 a week for its speed off the mark.

None of this is quite enough, though - the clock consumes it all and is still hungry for more - which is why you learn things in a pre-match warm-up. You learn that the hotel where the Manchester team stayed overnight has been used as a location for Hammer horror movies (cue gothic angles and spooky music). You learn that Chelsea's Jacob Kjeldbjerg can play the piano. You learn that a Chelsea Pensioner used to feature on the cover of the club's programmes and that employing foreign players can rack up your telephone bills. You learn that, when it comes to past goals, all fans seem to possess an eidetic memory - the ability to see that shining moment as if it was projected in front of them, without the assistance of the BBC's archive or the aimiably silly reconstructions of David Baddiel and Frank Skinner. The result, even for a viewer who isn't quite sure which team is which, is rather intoxicating - a fever of blokeish humour and excitement and infatuation which raises your temperature - a real warm-up.

For those of us who spent our youth staying up late to watch the live relays of the Watergate hearings, Fred Emery's lovingly detailed history (Sunday, BBC 2) provides a political equivalent to obsessive football nostalgia. The names we thrill to aren't Best and Bonetti but Magruder and Mitchell, Haldeman and Hunt - and here they all are, oddly transformed in some cases (Magruder now draped in the vestments of a minister), wonderfully unchanged in others. Gordon Liddy, gleeful and unseeing, recounts his deeds with military precision. You might describe him as the loose cannon of Watergate but for the fact that 'loose' doesn't begin to do justice to his purposeful insanity. This is a man who, when engaged in a furtive break-in, shoots out the lights one by one to cover his entrance.

Some have suggested that Emery was lucky in his timing with the series, the death of Nixon providing a little push of publicity. Personally, I wish the old rogue was still alive so that, however distantly, he might be discomfited by this forensic piece of storytelling. The moral shock has faded a little now (we live in more jaded times) but the bleak black comedy of it all survives. '75 grand, you know, is quite a bit of lettuce,' said one of Nixon's bagmen, a detective called Tony Ulasewicz, bringing a bit of Damon Runyon right into the Oval Office.

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