Sport on TV: Bishop channels his energies to answer millions of prayers


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The Independent Online

There's a new breed of comedian nowadays. From Eddie Izzard running 43 marathons in 51 days to David Walliams swimming the Channel and the Thames, it's not so much stand-up as "I can barely stand up". Bernard Manning and Roy "Chubby" Brown would have run a mile if Sport Relief came calling – except they wouldn't be able to get that far.

This year it was John Bishop who was performing extraordinary feats of endurance: cycling from Paris to Calais, rowing across the Atlantic and then running three marathons back to back from Dover to Trafalgar Square – that's five days, 295 miles and, at the last count, £3,412,261 raised for Sport Relief.

The first leg of John Bishop's Sport Relief Hell (BBC1, Thursday) was the most dangerous; the French like their cyclists but they like them to go very fast. Following a wobbly Brit and his camera convoy for 185 miles must have caused a lot of Gallic puffing of cheeks – more than Bishop himself. But he does eventually get into Tour de France mode when he collapses from exhaustion halfway across the Channel, whereupon the doctor says: "I'm gonna give him some drugs and see if that works."

It's quite surprising that they got anywhere. Bishop was joined for the Channel crossing by ex-heptathlete Denise Lewis, ex-cricketer Andrew Flintoff and extremely annoying Davina McCall. The line-up in the boat was: Flintoff right oar, Bishop left oar, Lewis right, McCall left. With a formation like that they should have been going round in circles.

The rest of the journey is painful – to watch as well as perform. On the final day Bishop is diagnosed with a stress fracture but he carries on. The jokes dry up fast, though the Scouser manages to hiss through clenched teeth: "You don't want to come in with a big grimace on, do ya? You've got to smile." Fair enough; he would not appreciate it if you came to his gigs and didn't crack a grin or two.

The next comics to try a Channel crossing could be accompanied by a team of synchronised swimmers to do all the smiling for them. Brave Bishop made it back; let's just hope the jokes come back too.

As our comedians become more heroic in the sporting arena, so our sporting heroes turn their chosen fields into a laughing stock. Match-fixing is again stalking the cricket world, but The Mohammad Amir Interview (Sky Sports 1, Monday) by Mike Atherton almost makes you feel sorry for a cheat – almost.

Amir, who was just 18 when he deliberately bowled no-balls at Lord's, could have been one of the children who were handed a sporting chance by Sport Relief, such was his rapid rise from the remote village of Changa Bangyaal. But the fairy tale soon became a lot darker, and like the prince in the tower he has served a three-month sentence in a British young offenders' institute.

He claims he didn't know he would be paid for the no-balls and that he overstepped the line because he was told the International Cricket Council had records of his calls to the fixer and he had better bowl the no-balls if he knew what was good for him. But he did accept £1,500 and he did try to have all the incriminating texts deleted when the cops showed up.

He had not seen his family for 11 months. "I had no idea who to turn to or what to trust," he says. "I don't know what fancy, remote world I was lost in." His captain Salman Butt called him "the innocent one" even as he corrupted him, and without the right role models a hugely promising youngster is forever tarnished.

Hopefully it will serve as an object lesson. We don't want any more kids who have no balls with which to stand up to the fixers.