Sport on TV : Quiz men behaving more badly than ever

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The Independent Online
Lock up your daughters, especially if they are sports fans: They Think It's All Over (BBC 1) is back for a new series, and it's more like a poor man's Men Behaving Badly than ever. In fact, the only difference is that the blond one in the sports quiz has considerably less hair than Martin Clunes.

Nick Hancock is in charge once more, and he hasn't lost that maniacal stare directed straight over the viewer's head. It's as if he is talking to you, but has just noticed someone more interesting, and slightly taller, behind you. Suggested remedies: give him a cushion, or lower the autocue slightly.

The lads have been told to clean up their act, according to the following exchange, which also illustrates their response to the request. David Gower: "We were actually asked before the show to try and, sort of, tone it down a bit after complaints from the last series. Weren't we, Nick?"

Hancock: "I wasn't. Who the f*** said that?"

Ian Walker was guesting on David Gower's team, and he should have known better than to show up on a programme like this with a haircut like that. Once the team had given his floppy coiffure a roasting, they moved on to Walker's interlude as a nude male model. Now the fringe came in handy: the giggling goalie let it flop forward over his face, like curtains, but it was too late. He should have taken cover when he posed for For Women, or as Lee Hurst retitled it: "Phwoar! Women!"

Once Walker was brave enough to peep out from behind his hair, his facial gymnastics revealed an anatomical quirk which may or may not have been vouchsafed to the readers of For Women (I missed that issue): he has a remarkably long and agile tongue. The next time he is beaten by a swerving curler into the top corner, he can look up and lick it over the bar.

All good lads-in-the-locker-room fun, but what a shame that the programme persists in treating sportswomen so shabbily. Poor Jane Sixsmith had only a hockey stick to protect herself from the groping hands of Gary Lineker and Rory McGrath. Fatima Whitbread, as she wasn't there, had no defence against the cruel jibes of Hancock. On Men Behaving Badly women at least get a chance to answer back.

Woman trouble was at the heart of Holed (Channel 4), a made-for-TV drama in the Talentspotting series. Jeff Povey's screenplay concerned a regular golf foursome. Young Nick (Rick Warden) and old Hugh (Tony Robinson) play regularly against gadget-obsessed Slim Jim (Duncan Preston) and wealthy Henry (Richard O'Sullivan). In the vital sub-plot, disclosed during a hard-fought round, Nick wishes to marry Henry's daughter, and Slim Jim is having an affair with Hugh's wife.

The characters in this simple morality tale were deftly drawn. The good guys were poor but honest: Nick fuelled with righteous anger and armed with his late father's golf clubs. Hugh beset with gout, allergies, skin disease and a frustrated craving for tobacco. He has "Loser" written all over him, so the addition of the words "and Cuckold" halfway round the course is no great surprise.

The cheating villains were delightfully nasty. Henry shouts at cows for moving when he is about to play, then records a memo on his dictaphone to take the matter up with the committee. Slim Jim is obsessed with Seve Ballesteros: they share a shirt size and a liking for pure silk-substitute garments.

Jim's affair with Hugh's wife is revealed when he lets the cat out of the bag: Hugh's cat, out of Jim's golf-bag. Hugh takes the revelation calmly: "The rules are clear: you can't carry small domestic animals in your golf bag. We win the hole." But it is the beginning of the end for him. He takes up smoking, snaffles and drains Slim Jim's hipflask, and expires before he can achieve the longed-for victory.

But the baddies meet nasty ends, one impaled on an iron, the other discovering just how hazardous a water hazard can be, and the virtuous Nick is left to clean up at the final green, just like in real life.

No truck with real life in the new television advertisements for Eurostar, which feature football's most celebrated sage, Eric Cantona. Cantona has made no secret of his thespian ambitions, and on the basis of these moody vignettes, they are well founded.

He reclines in a Business Class seat, a slim volume of Rimbaud to hand, and muses. "Pourquoi suis-je ici? Why am I here? Et pourquoi maintenant? And why now, when Eurostar has so many other trains I could have chosen today? Ah. Before time, it is not the right time. Neither is it the right time after time." Vraiment, cher Eric. After time, you have missed your train.

On another trip, he gazes out of the window and intones: "Je me demande . . . and so I have to ask myself: does a bird in a cage sing as sweetly as a bird who is free?" And we have to ask ourselves: does a berk who is free sing as sweetly as one who is paid many thousands of francs?

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