Henry Swarbrick's View From the Sofa: Back with a whimper, the 'pink elephant' is hidden behind the red button
Final Score, BBC1: The last seconds of the countdown were ignored, which was just as well
Monday 20 August 2012
If last year's Premier League ended with a bang, this season started with a whimper. With the Olympics casting a shadow over pre-season, it seems somehow fitting that, when the clock struck 3pm on Saturday, BBC 1 should be showing a rerun of the opening ceremony.
England's top flight is never going to compete with the wholesome image of London 2012, but here was its chance to remind us of the kind of entertainment that has made it such a commercial monster. And yet its return was greeted by a frosty red-button billing, with Garth Crooks, Robbie Savage and Gabby Logan (or "Gabs" as she now seems to be referred to) there to herald in the new campaign. Attempts were made to jazz up the coverage to make up for the terrestrial snub: Gabs's leopard-skin blouse, Garth's pink shirt – the perfect marriage of subject and medium – and a clock counting down to kick-off.
The last seconds of the countdown were not accompanied with any New Year's Eve relish by the trio but were instead ignored, which is just as well, as the following half-hour was considerably bereft of action. With only two goals and a Carlton Cole miskick to report, an underwhelmed Savage was left to remark: "It's all started quite quietly, there's not much happening, to be honest."
With a format so reliant on remote live action, it pays to have an entertainer in your midst. Like him or loathe him, it is impossible to deny that Crooks is that man. He is the closest thing the Beeb has to SkySports' Soccer Saturday staff of overzealous pundits. When he speaks, or rather huffs and puffs, the highs, lows and all forthcoming emotion of the football season are etched upon his face. The "pink elephant" certainly had Logan and Savage tickled when he produced an impromptu hiccough. It really was a slow half-hour.
But as Sir Paul was singing "Hey Jude" for, hopefully, the final time on BBC 1, the goals started flying in and life was instantly easier for Gabs and Co. As if by magic, at the promise of a return to its place as the fulcrum of the television schedule, the Premier League responded like a flower to sunlight. Before we knew it, there were red cards, goalkeeping howlers, the old cries of "you just have to watch that on Match of the Day!" and a horrendous penalty miss from West Bromwich Albion striker Shane Long.
Savage informed us that he had recently been on holiday with Long – God knows why – when a child had inadvertently kicked a beach ball on to the sunbathing Irishman, who reacted furiously. "So today's penalty miss is karma for that," Savage said.
And when Savage produces his first anecdotal insult, you know the season has begun in earnest.
Latest in Sport
Frank Lampard was RIGHT not to celebrate Manchester City's equaliser against Chelsea
All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
WWE Raw results: Dean Ambrose and John Cena hunt down Seth Rollins but The Authority stand firmly in their way
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Five reasons why Louis van Gaal is a worse Manchester United manager than David Moyes
- 1 Cyclist in Russia narrowly misses being hit by car and lorry
- 2 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 3 What are your fingerprint words?
- 4 Gary Lineker involved in Twitter row after presenter rubbishes claims he will be warned by BBC over foul-mouthed tweets
- 5 Pink Floyd new album: Band unveil cover art for first record in 20 years
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God