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: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'