Sport on TV: Slap and tickle as man in tights finds himself in a tight corner
Sunday 16 August 2009
The comedian Justin Lee Collins made a programme for Sky last year in which he tried to become a professional darts player. It was hardly the most Herculean of tasks – about as demanding as growing a beer belly. His latest quest was far more formidable, to become a "luchador" or Mexican wrestler in Justin Lee Collins: The Wrestler (Sky One, Thursday).
The hairy West Country lad had a head start. He would go to watch the wrestling "every Saturday with my grans". In such a matriarchal household it's hardly surprising that he's "as aggressive as a newborn kitten". But he already has long, shaggy hair, a beard and a paunch, like some media-groomed Giant Haystacks.
After being goaded in the crowd by female wrestler Sweet Saria, he meets former British champion Jon Ritchie, who gives him a "slapping masterclass" at the International Wrestling School in Purfleet. You have to learn the right way to slap someone or else you can cause blood clots. It was proving rather hard to cultivate a macho image.
Then he has 10 days' training in Mexico City before returning to London to feature in a "lucha libre" showcase at the Roundhouse. He is taken in hand by Cassandra, a transvestite or "luchador exotico". "We haven't even got into the ring yet but already I'm out of my comfort zone," says Collins but at least he's still talking about wrestling. He simply cannot bring himself to perform a backflip. "You know what 'fear' stands for?" asks Cassandra. "Fuck everything and run." And she might just be talking literally.
Lucha libre is as camp as its British equivalent, only with masks for a little added kinkiness. Collins was well on the way to two falls and utter submission. But "El Glorioso", as Cassandra christens him, does not have to grapple with big men and wrestle with his sexuality for very long.
Soon he is being battered around the ring in London with the crowd jeering: "You suck! You suck!" But it's all over long before he has to do anything like that.
The BBC were well and truly caught with their pants down when they screened the first Football League Show (BBC1, Saturday). Midway through the highlights of Torquay versus Chesterfield, the screen was filled with footage of a woman going to the toilet. No, it wasn't a case of "U-Bend It Like Beckham"; apparently it was a technical glitch that caused ITV's girlie surf movie 'Blue Crush' to gatecrash the Beeb's football launch party.
It was just like ITV's sudden switch to a Tictac advert at the climactic moment of last season's Merseyside derby in the Cup. Intentional or not, it was a sweet piece of revenge in a week when Gary Lineker admitted he still enjoyed a chuckle over the Tictac fiasco. But the BBC's new interest in the nether regions of the League doesn't deserved to be panned just yet.
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