REVIEW / These football boots are made for talking

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The Independent Culture
THE CABLE channel I'm waiting for is the Factory Channel. All it would consist of would be film of things being made - biscuits, television sets, armchairs, toothpaste tubes, nail-clippers, bicycle chains, biros. Anything, in fact, because the fascination of what you see has nothing to do with the glamour or desirability of the finished product. I still have fond memories of an Open University programme about the development of plastic mesh netting, a film which combined ingenuity and nerdish technical detail in almost perfect proportions. It may be that I'm peculiarly susceptible here to the enchantment of processes (I think I could probably even watch paint dry, if it was handled properly) but I doubt if I'm alone - the ratings success of How Do They Do That? is built on just such an appetite for explanation.

The great advantage of the Factory Channel is that it will be relatively cheap to run. Most manufacturers will be happy to let you look at their production line in return for a bit of publicity, and if you editorialise a bit - stuff about the lonely, late-night persistence of the innovator and the technical expertise of the engineers - they might even chip in with a monetary contribution. It should be a cinch to work up decent sponsorship for the Extruded Mouldings Showcase or Diecast Digest.

The BBC wouldn't engage in such deals, of course, but QED (BBC 1) gave you a good idea of what a Factory Channel special might look like. 'Craig's Boot' followed the development of Adidas's new Predator football boot, a story which took you from a hobbyist tinkering with glue and carpet underlay to a multi-million pound production line. The boot was the brainchild of Craig Johnston, a former Liverpool player who reasoned that if the curve of the boot matched the curve of ball it would be easier for young players to learn basic skills. His dream was a cheap boot for beginners, one that he was prepared to shore up with considerable amounts of his own money. After months of handyman research and unsatisfactory prototypes (his most important research device was his own right foot), he managed to interest Adidas, who turned his dream into reality, a very expensive boot for professionals.

This transformation was as interesting as the Boy's Own stuff with superballs and dentist's drills, but was only glancingly referred to in Mike Tomlinson's film. The narrative wasn't one of betrayal or commercial compromise but of manufacturing expertise, and the film shared with sportswear advertising a passion for technical smallprint - 23 per cent more swerve, 7 per cent more velocity - as if ball sense could be sold in a box. I enjoyed it, because Johnston was likeable and I now know something of how you make a football boot, but I couldn't help but feel somebody had made a bish in the final credits. The makers, they said, would like to thank Adidas for their help. Other way round, surely.

Screen Two's 'Dirtysomething' was a cautionary tale for crusties, a stylish fable which opened with a small child shocking a group of Travellers by announcing that he wanted to live in 'a proper house'. Peter Salmi and Carl Prechezer's genial script offered you a nicely inverted version of a conventional morality tale: Dog and Becca, impeccably dishevelled and indolent to begin with, slide by degrees into domesticity, cleanliness and industry. Before you know it, she's being promoted and he's doing DIY into the small hours.

It was a scavenging sort of film, as unconcerned as a down-and-out about wearing matching clothes. So you moved rapidly from dopey jokes about prescient dogs to a much more sophisticated social comedy, from a stylish fabulism in the visual style to trippy little outbursts that looked more like a music video. It also very sensibly laughed both with and at its subjects, an easy-going approach which made it possible to enjoy its account of the dangerous addiction of householding without ever feeling you were being coerced to buy a decommissioned ambulance and hit the open road.