Robin Scott-Elliot: So far outside the box that it moves the goalposts, in a post-ironic way
View From The Sofa: The Euros' Most Shocking Moments, BBC 3 / Test Cricket Highlights, Channel 5
Monday 28 May 2012
I've clearly not been watching my zeitgeist tapes closely enough. As is the norm for these best/worst/ most shockingest programmes, a succession of comedians, actors, TV types and so on pretend to have seen the Czech Republic and Faroe Islands play a European Championship qualifier in the fog as well as the usual England penalty debacles. It was easier to identify the Czech players through Faroese fog than it was most of those making post-ironic – BBC 3 is, I believe, the home of post-ironism – remarks about the football.
Chris Martin, it turned out, was not only not Paltrow's other half, not the Norwich City player, not the New Zealand cricketer and not the former Port Vale goalkeeper, but a comedian who has also contributed to The Most Annoying People of 2009, The Most Annoying People of 2010 and The World Cup's Most Shocking Moments. They were all on BBC 3, ironically.
It is cheap TV, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but this was: a tired formula, poorly done and so bad it's a shoo-in for the No 2 slot (nothing beats In a League of Their Own – because it is) in BBC 3's recently commissioned Most Shockingly Bad TV Programmes of 2012. The commissioning editor's idea is to push the envelope so far outside the box that it would ironically take post-irony to a new staging post.
The Euros' etc etc compilation had jokes, in the sense that the intent was there, about bottoms, benders, farts, pulling off and schlongs. A knob gag was always within reach. The 15th most shocking moment was Zinedine Zidane's penis peaking out of his shorts during Euro 2000. At No 11 was the Spanish player Miguel Nadal getting hit in the groin during Euro 96. And, of course, there was Stefan Kuntz, purely for the name.
For the record, the most shocking moment was Paul Gascoigne failing to score a golden goal against Germany in Euro '96, a chance that Geoffrey Boycott's mother would have tucked away with aplomb, simultaneously berating Geoffrey for not clearing his plate and whisking the batter for Sunday's Yorkshire puddings.
Geoffrey's matriarchy has long played a key role in his commentary. Usually it is his grandmother's name called upon but on Saturday it was his mother who was held up as fancying Marlon Samuels' gentle off-spin. Which raises the question, who was the better cricketer in Geoffrey's family, his mother or his grandmother? If a player is judged to be worse than Geoff's granny, is that more of a slap down than being worse than his mum? Or perhaps, like all cricketers, they had their own areas of specialism: mum a handy slip fielder, hard-hitting lower-order batswoman and medium-pacer; granny an opening bat with a lethal arm.
Boycott's take on the game remains ever worth listening to, although he is better suited to radio than TV. Packaging a cricket highlights show to prevent it becoming a succession of wickets and boundaries is a challenge that Channel 5 does its best to overcome. It also means that Boycott becomes at times a straight commentator, a role for which he is not ideal, not least because his voice is too strident. Test Match Special is his ideal home, not least to hear how long it takes Jonathan Agnew's gentle stirring to provoke a reaction, which, when it comes from Geoffrey, is never anything other than pre-ironic.
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