Robin Scott-Elliot: Round-ball punditry turns on its Axis and stands still
View From The Sofa: The Premier League, ESPN/Gary & Danielle's Northern Exposure, BBC1 NI
Monday 17 August 2009
With that line-up they'd only gone to Goodison for one thing, to do a job, get a result. At the end of the day that's all you can ask. And that's what Stubbsy, Reidy, Royley and Wrighty did on Saturday. ESPN's debut was as ordinary as it had promised to be since they unveiled their line-up. It was their good fortune to be blessed with a result that was extraordinary, which gave them a chance to play with their new toy, the Axis, more times than they could have dared hope for.
"We've got a machine," said Stubbsy at half-time introducing the Axis (of evil?), which freezes the action and swivels round to give the viewer a different angle. But that wasn't the only machine they had up their sleeve; they also had the Rebecca Lowe, an interviewing machine, who prowled the corridors of Goodison Park in search of people to share her pair of ESPN-branded mics. She showed us the room where she dragged her prey. "So you know what it looks like," she added helpfully before holding the teams in the tunnel moments before kick off to perform just one more piece to camera. "Here I am in the tunnel – it has walls, some doors and even a ceiling. And look, lucky viewers, players..."
The tunnel did produce the highlight of ESPN's debut when Marouane Fellaini and Andrei Arshavin stood side by side waiting for the off. It was a double take moment... there was Sideshow Bob and Bart Simpson. Which probably makes David Moyes Groundskeeper Willie.
Presenting the Premier League offers no problems for an old pro like Stubbs, a man schooled on Grandstand, so equipped to enthuse about anything and nothing and able to fill better than Senator Strom Thurmond with a head on. Opposite Stubbs, around the wiggle of ESPN's shimmering new desk, Reid and Wright (there's a joke in there somewhere) are a dull choice. Is there some sort of punditry cabal which leads to the same old faces popping up time after time? On Match of the Day Gary Lineker promised "incisive punditry" and soon Alan Hansen was speaking of someone turning on a sixpence. Alan Shearer nodded incisively alongside him. It's going to be a long season on the sofa.
Not that that prospect seems to worry Gary. And not surprisingly, as anyone who's had the pleasure of watching Gary and Danielle's Northern Exposure knows too well, the eponymous Gary is walking on air at the moment. The reason for that, unless he's stumbled on something remarkable in the BBC props dept, appears to be Danielle. The programme has the pair touring Northern Ireland plugging various activities – Gary horse-riding wearing a black cowboy hat (and white trainers), restaurants – Gary losing count in a seven-course tasting menu, and hotels – Gary sleeping, in what is some sort of unashamed infomercial. Troy McClure, to maintain this week's theme, might have thought twice before accepting this gig.
It doesn't bother the happy couple though, who, to stick my neck out, possibly saw it as a launch pad for Danielle's TV career. While she put on her best TV presenting face, Gary gambolled around, giggling and gurning like a lovestruck teenager. At one point the happy couple drove through rain, the hood of their sports car firmly down and the windscreen wipers working furiously.
"It's great to be here," is ESPN's religiously repeated mantra and G&D were in the same ball park, albeit a bit on the damp side.
By defeating Everton 6-1 at Goodison Park on Saturday, Arsenal recorded the joint highest-scoring opening day victory in the Premier League since its inception in 1992, equalling Liverpool's 6-1 win against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park at the start of the 1994-95 season.
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