Sport on TV: Loos talk costs viewers in war of voice coaches

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The Independent Online

Obviously, not everyone can present television programmes, though everyone seems to think they can. Rebecca Loos fronted a countdown of best chat show moments on Five this week and was so wooden she was illegally logged and shipped out to Siberia, where she's shoring up a salt mine.

Obviously, not everyone can present television programmes, though everyone seems to think they can. Rebecca Loos fronted a countdown of best chat show moments on Five this week and was so wooden she was illegally logged and shipped out to Siberia, where she's shoring up a salt mine.

But media training can work wonders: in a kind of celebrity speech therapy (there's a programme pitch in there somewhere), monotoned dullards learn to fracture their vocal patterns with random stresses and pauses, speedingrightUP then slowing... right... down, beaming and twinkling, mugging and gurning, all in the name of keeping us from changing channels. Gary Lineker's the best example, a Loos cannon when he started out but now with an extensive repertoire of tricks at his disposal (most of them copyright Des Lynam).

The gamut of camera-friendly horrors can best be experienced, of course, in the über-ham efforts of the nation's weather presenters, for whom a bloodstream full of Class As is clearly standard working practice.

At the other end of the spectrum, a flatliner compared to the mad dogs at the Met Office, is Sky Sports' tennis anchor, Chris Bailey, seen in "action" this week at the US Open. I guess there must be two schools of thought regarding his delivery. For those who think Peter Alliss is about as racy as it should get, Bailey's probably a welcome antidote to the bright-eyed brigade. For those who cleave more to Jonathan Pearce, the former world No 126 presents like someone who's just been told his dog has been kicked to death.

What he says is fine (and in an ideal world perhaps that's all that would matter). It's just that by midway through his second sentence the audience must be on a massive collective downer, contemplating the awfulness of their lives. What's with the long face (as the barman said to the horse)? Did something very bad indeed happen to Bailey at a formative stage of his life? Was he locked in a cupboard for extended periods of his childhood?

In fact on Tuesday (Sky Sports 2), Bailey's mutterings matched perfectly the tone at Flushing Meadows as Tim Henman opened his tournament against the ridiculously tall Croatian, Ivo Karlovic. They were first up on Louis Armstrong Court, admittedly - and New Yorkers are notoriously late risers, the summariser Peter Fleming observed, presumably by way of apology - but the stadium was nearly empty.

The US Open is supposed to sound like a darts tournament at Purfleet Tavern, played out against a cacophony of burger-munching, fizz-slurping and inane chatter, but this had all the atmosphere of an OAPs' bowls match in Eastbourne. After some points you could actually count the number of people applauding. Gradually the stadium did fill up, and by the end of the second set it resembled the gymnastics qualifying at the Athens Olympics - and that was one man and his feral stray dog.

Over what feels like aeons I've dished out a tidy number of kickings to They Think It's All Over, which returned for its nine millionth series on Thursday (BBC1), but when something has been going that long, there comes a point at which you have to say that, like a bonkers old aunt, it has earned the right to be left to its own devices, to fade away in its own time. Ian Wright is a new captain - not so much fresh meat as old ham - but really, I could find little on which to wield the critical switchblade.

Best value was Tommy Docherty, who memorably described Nancy Dell'Olio as "Jack Palance in boots". Asked if he might be able to help out the Scotland international set-up, he growled, "Aye. As a player."

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