Sport on TV: Whatever happens to Gav on the pitch, it'll never be all over

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The most eagerly awaited television contest of the year for sporting personalities is decided by you, the people. And you have spoken. So last weekend Gavin Henson had to pack away his dancing clothes and cans of spray tan after being voted off Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, most nights) in the semi-finals. He now has only an imminent return to rugby union with Saracens and a possible recall to international duty with Wales to look forward to.

They were not long, the sporting days of shine and poses on Strictly, when Darren Gough, Mark Ramprakash and, last year, Chris Hollins sashayed to the title. Considering the relatively poor showing of competitors from other athletic endeavours, maybe sport would fare better in future by entering a cricketer every year (and before you ask, Hollins, apart from being a useful footballer, played first-class cricket for Oxford University).

Granted, Phil Tufnell didn't last the course, but that was hardly a surprise to anyone who had seen his footwork on a cricket field. And the gurning former England spinner did win I'm a Celebrity... so he's had his on-screen success.

Before that he was a team captain on They Think It's All Over, a role he's reprising on the granddaddy of them all, A Question of Sport (BBC1, Monday), first broadcast over 40 years ago and Britain's longest-running quiz show of any description. It's been a nice little earner for squadrons of ex-athletes over the decades, and last week's contestants included yet another former Strictly contestant, the swimmer Mark Foster. His TV form also includes Superstars and Beat the Star, and the other week his wide shoulders popped up on yet another quiz show, Mark Watson Kicks Off (ITV4, Tuesday).

Neatly endorsing the proposition that there's nothing new under the sun, this is compèred by a comedian who's a football fan (cf Nick Hancock, Frank Skinner, David Baddiel), and features guest panellists who were possibly not all at the top of the original "Who do we want in an ideal world ?" list (cf practically every panel game).

Last week the British/Canadian tennis player Greg Rusedski (previously seen on Dancing on Ice and Beat the Star, plus a host ofone-off appearances) took on an obsessive/compulsive comedian called John Richardson and the boxing journalist Steve Bunce, sometimes of this parish and known to all, including his name plate on Mark Watson Kicks Off, as Buncie.

It's not that there's anything wrong with this show, it's just that there isn't much right with it either, as it grinds on through deeply derivative rounds such as "Draw Your Own Conclusions" and "Mystery Sports Personality". And it was surely cruel, and not particularly amusing either, to ask the question "If the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award really was about personality, which sports star would get your vote?" of the less-than-charismatic Rusedski (the winner in 1997).

It's entirely possible that every person mentioned here will be present at tonight's SPOTY extravaganza in Birmingham, but if you miss it, worry not; you're bound to be watching all the contestants on television again and again in the years to come, especially after they've retired.

Comments