Sport on TV: When the men in white coats finally came for Dickie Bird

Even though Big Brother has finally been kicked out of your house, it has spawned so many incestuous siblings that reality TV may soon be more believable than reality itself. But The Young Ones (BBC1, Tuesday to Thursday) at least had a purpose beyond simple voyeurism. Six former public figures approaching their dotage were brought together in a Seventies house to remind them of the way they were in their prime in 1975, and bring them out of the helplessness which has eroded their own sense of reality. The trouble is that some of them, like Dickie Bird, weren't all there in the first place.

He was the world's most famous umpire, principally because he was a "character" rather than really good at his job. He has always lived alone and his sister used to bring his dinner round every day. Though very popular on the field, he probably didn't get asked on too many nights out with the lads. "I used to be a bubbly character but I've lost all that," he says, welling up at Lord's after being brought back there to relive the 1975 World Cup final in his mind's eternally watery eye. "But I think it's come back."

Cricket was his life, as he admits: "When I crossed this [boundary] rope, I thought the world was mine." Yet it probably wasn't just Lord's that brings it all back but the company of his housemates too, especially the general hilarity that ensues every time Lionel Blair opens his mouth.

Though he doesn't seem the sort to ever get married, Blair is even more divorced from the real world than Dickie. According to the doctor who is running the experiment, Michael Morley, if you laugh for three minutes your heart rate rises to the point where you could have been rowing for the same amount of time. As Blair prances and twirls, Dickie guffaws so hard that he's in danger of turning into Steve Redgrave. "If I keep making the progress that I am, I shall be a new man," he says.

Then a group of carers come round so the doctors can see if any genuine progress has been made and, apart from Blair, they all revert to shuffling shadows again. Dickie even has someone to peel his banana for him. So he's soon back to being bananas again, like he always was.

If there was one place where Gavin Henson might not take his shirt off, you'd think it was the Arctic Circle. But there he was in the first episode of 71 Degrees North (ITV1, Tuesday), another celebrity "reality" triviality, emerging semi-naked from a freezing lake with the words "The tan didn't go off then". He had won the first challenge, cold-water swimming, and so became immune to being voted off by his fellow contestants. It must have been a strange feeling for him, not being able to be dropped.

In the harsh physical contests they have to undertake, he's bound to get picked by one team or another. But then he worries that his rivals for the overall title will vote him off. "I hope they like my personality," he gushes.

Life is so confusing at the moment for the boyo. Either everyone wants him or no one wants him. So will he come to terms with his real self on this programme? Or is he more likely to find his true calling while twirling around in skintight sequins on Strictly Come Dancing? Perhaps Lionel Blair isn't such a fool after all.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continuous expansion and growth o...

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive - West London - £35,000

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A luxury fashion retailer based in W...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Engineer - East Riding of Yorkshire

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Systems Engineer - East Riding of...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable