Chris Maume: Sport on TV

A 'national treasure' revealed as being a load of old rubbish

I remember being shocked - taken aback rather than scandalised- when ITV ended 20 years of World of Sport in 1985, but in fact it was almost entirely rubbish. Hamstrung by the BBC's near monopoly of any meaningful pursuit not involving little chaps on horseback, ITV tried to make a virtue of their rival's vicelike grip. So on one side we had the Challenge Cup, Five Nations, Boat Race and Wimbledon; on the other, artistic cycling, caravan destruction derbies, log-sawing and canal-vaulting. Now we're expected to subscribe to an addled version of history in which it was all good knockabout fun.

Can I say it again? World of Sport was rubbish. And Fifty Years of World of Sport (ITV1, Tuesday), part of ITV's jubilee celebrations, was the perfect way to remember it. Not for them the simple route - a funny, affectionate but meaty documentary telling the story of how it became, in Davies' words at least, a "national treasure". Nah. Far better to string together a few clips, resurrect Davies - whose white streak now covers his whole head - feed him a few feeble jokes in a mock-up of the old studio, and you're nearly there. As the pièce de résistance, bring in Frank Skinner to reminisce and the dog's dinner is complete.

There was one funny bit, when Eric Morecambe, a friend of Davies, came on and spent an afternoon on air with him, mostly trying to corpse the former Cunard purser. He had told Davies beforehand, "I'll do the funnies - you just carry on as if I'm not there," but as Davies tried to introduce a bowls final, Morecambe rested his head on Davies' shoulder and examined his friend's facial hair.

"It's real!" he shouted. "The last time I saw anything like that top lip, the whole herd had to be destroyed."

But it was a lazy film full of missed chances. After painful footage of Kidd sending a pack of blokes literally spinning through the air following another record leap, there was a caption stating that no one had been seriously hurt. Couldn't they have tracked down at least one of the victims? And one of the pundits, talking about the theme tune, wondered who wrote it. Any film made with a sliver of intelligence would have informed us - and told us something interesting about it as well. From this farrago, nothing.

They also ran through the (alleged) greatest sporting moments on ITV. Some of them were fine: snooker's first televised maximum break, by Steve Davis in 1982, Sebastian Coe breaking the mile record in Brussels in 1981. But what about the 1998 Canadian Grand Prix, when an overrun due to two false starts meant that fans of Coronation Street had to watch the end of the race? That's a Great Sporting Moment? Coronation Street viewers mildly inconvenienced?

And as for the "legendary" occasion Davies said "cocksucker" on air instead of "Cup soccer" - well, he didn't. He said "Cop sucker". You can tell on the clip. But that didn't matter to the makers of this awful, tawdry mess.

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