An insultingly lowbrow formula in a breakneck parade of meaningless soundbites

CHRIS MAUME SPORT ON TV

ITV DOCUMENTARIES are atrocious by and large, the on-screen equivalent of some trashy old free sheet shoved through your letterbox. The Truth About Footballers certainly maintained standards with its insultingly lowbrow formula of finding out what a bunch of minor celebrities think about the game, in a breakneck parade of mostly meaningless soundbites.

One of the first topics up for discussion was the burning issue of whether players should have sex before a match, which gives you some idea of the agenda. And when one of the celebs actually said, seconds into the programme, that "football is the new rock 'n' roll", it was nearly switch-off time there and then.

With its hint at behind-the-scenes exposes, the title was disgracefully misleading, the biggest (and most disturbing) revelation being that Uri Geller is on England's side for the World Cup. "I held it in my hands, I energised it for England," he said of the trophy. "I even twisted it, just a little bit to the right."

The utensil-mangling crackpot even took credit for Scotland's penalty miss against England in Euro 96. In a helicopter overhead as Gary McAllister shaped up to take the kick, he concentrated on the ball, he says, just enough to make it wobble on the spot. The final proof that he's a few bent spoons short of a cutlery drawer was when he asserted that in 10 years' time, psychologists and "people like me" will be sitting on the bench with the manager. Psychologists, possibly. People like Geller (are there any people like Geller?), never. As one of the "personalities", the lottery host Patrick Kielty, observed, the Israeli's attachment to Reading was not quite enough to prevent them finishing bottom of the First Division earlier this month.

The fundamental weakness with The Truth... was the notion that what some B-list bozo has to say about football - about anything - is interesting. So, for example, Eamonn Holmes expatiated on players' wages, Angus Deayton on violence on the pitch and Matthew Lorenzo on life after retirement. Hardly a think tank at work there (Chris Evans, irritatingly, was easily the best informed, but then he appears to have got drunk with most Premiership players at one time or another).

There were some good lines, like Mark Radcliffe's belief that when they stop playing, "all footballers should go fat and bald and open a pub on the Wirral." And there were one or two fab cameos, particularly Lauren and Leah, who put on their gladdest rags and head off to Charlie Chan's night-club every weekend in pursuit of big game. "My whore outfit," said Lauren as she held up a pink rubber creation designed to bring the entire West Ham back four to its knees begging for mercy. Leah had been offered money by a red-top to seduce Rio Ferdinand but has eyes only for Frankie Lampard - "he's gorgeous," she sighed.

There was a modicum of heavy breathing, too, in My Summer With Des (BBC1), Arthur Smith's film created in the image of his own An Evening With Gary Lineker, a slight, charming tale about a love affair between Martin (Neil Morrissey) and the magical Rosie, played by the magical Rachel Weisz.

There was a feeling at the beginning of "not another play about football with a famous name in the title", but the engaging Morrissey captured the nuances of being a football fan during a major tournament - the way most other aspects of human existence cease to exist. "Unfortunately, someone had the stupid idea of putting gaps between games," he said.

The story was intercut with scenes from the BBC's coverage that commented wittily on the main plot, Des and Co being the Greek chorus as the progress of the love affair mirrored England's through the tournament. Martin and Rosie watched the Dutch game with mounting excitement, orgasming simultaneously as the fourth goal went in. And you just knew that, as they sat at Wembley during the shoot-out against Germany and Southgate's effort went over the bar, he was going to turn and find her gone.

It would take Rosie's magical powers to get Martin into France 98, if Dispatches: Supertouts (Channel 4) has it right. Callum Macrae, wearing his best Roger Cook suit, doorstepped his way through one English touting operation that handled more tickets than the Football Association's entire allocation for England games - and all of them, despite the touts' best assurances, unauthorised and therefore useless.

The most enjoyable scene came at the end, when Macrae bearded the boys in the lobby of the Paris Hilton as they had a drink-up to celebrate a lucrative week. As he entered with his camera crew, they all scarpered sharpish, the lobby emptying like a Wild West saloon when Jack Palance walks in. One man stayed, though, the head of the operation, David Spanton. Predictably, he had come across as a piece of low life, but he dealt with Macrae perfectly politely, and even shook his hand at the end, asking when the programme was going out. I hate to say it, but he seemed like quite a nice bloke.

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