Sport On TV: Staying ahead of the game at Madame Tussaud's

THERE IS only one true barometer of fame: Madame Tussaud's. If you're one of the 400 dummies on show, you're in the loop. Beyond lies the abyss to which has-beens are consigned. Or at least the head room. In Modern Times: Waxworks of the Rich and Famous (BBC2, Wednesday), assorted celebs ruminated on being in with the wax crowd - and what it feels like when your time is up.

The programme was particularly cruel to Geoffrey Boycott, who was removed following his recent run-in with the French legal system.

"Do you know what happens when you're deselected?" the interviewer asks him. "Deselected?" he replies. "Is that a political term or diplomatic term? What you mean is they melt them down and use them again."

"They don't actually do that," she tells him, slightly hesitantly. "They behead them." "Ah, that's not very nice," he says, looking hurt.

The camera pans across the shelves of severed heads: Nureyev next to Kruschev, Frost snuggled up to Hope, Davis Jnr whispering sweet nothings to Cilla Black, Tom Baker and Meglos the Cactus locked into a fierce staring contest, Goering and Laurence Olivier wondering what they've done to deserve each other, Gagarin, Ann of Bohemia ... and Boycott. As the camera moves up his face he looks deeply offended by his fate. "Oh, thank you very much," he says when told his head is still on the shelf. "Like Henry VIII, is it? Locked up all his wives' heads and put them in a corner, or a cupboard. Thank you very much." It's not clear whether he's being serious or sarcastic.

There is a star chamber that meets in secret to decide who's in and who's out. For every newcomer, someone must die. Fame's like that. After vigorous lobbying from the women on the staff, Michael Owen gets the nod, though we don't find out who he replaced. And the other big news is that Paul Gascoigne, still trapped inside his, er, svelte 1990 guise, needs a major refit. Terry Venables is still there, down in what they call the Garden Party. "Oh no," he says when told he's next to Gazza. "Can't I even have a bit of peace and quiet in there?"

Venables evinces weird views when reflecting on the ceruminous afterlife. Beyond the shelves of heads there is somewhere even worse, beyond public view. The cupboard. "That's how life normally is at the end, isn't it?" he chuckles. "You go in a big cupboard." You'll never be England manager again with ideas like that, Terry.

Speaking of dummies, the less fortunate among you may, for reasons probably best kept to yourself, have been up at 6.30 on Saturday mornings watching BBC's digital venture News 24, whose domestic terrestrial viewing figures have apparently numbered, ooh, in the dozens. For some misguided reason they wheel on a hack to discourse on the weekend sport, and one of their regulars is Chris Maume, usually described as "Sports Editor of the Independent", which is a laugh (I'm told he corrected the error the first time he was on but has strangely failed to on subsequent appearances). When I taped his performance last Saturday he was on his usual gabbling form.

Generally, when the camera alights on his ashen, waxy, lifeless face he obviously sees himself on the monitor and realises with a horrid shock that he has all the vim and vigour of a body recently dragged from the Thames and hurriedly dried out. The insane grin he quickly adopts doesn't come close to compensating for the sense of impending rigor mortis. Then, once he opens his mouth, sense gives in without a fight and is borne out of the studio on his prodigious wafts of hot air.

Fortunately for him, he usually has the patient and amiable David Robertson leading him by the hand through the headlines. A curious and irritating feature of Maume's style is his habit of talking over the questions - "Yes. Yes. Yes. Right. Yes. No, that's right. Yes. Yes. Absolutely" as if Robertson needs the coaxing rather than himself. Shut it! I wanted to scream at the screen (in fact, did scream at the screen).

Robertson kicked off with the Charlton floodlights affair, Maume's contribution amounting mainly to the fact that match-fixing is "systematic and endemic" in the Far East (thanks for that) and that one of the most threatening aspects is how "we're being infiltrated in such a directly invasive manner." How utterly fascinating.

Desperate to claw back credibility, he attempted to convey an air of authority over the England succession issue. "My information is that [Keegan] can be wooed," he said at one point - "my information" consisting mainly of what his newspaper had printed that morning. Well, at least he can read.

Maume must also learn to keep his hands to himself. Clearly believing that if you wave them round enough, people won't listen to what you're saying, he came on all Magnus Pike - to the apparent accompaniment of gunfire as he slapped his microphone at one stage.

As they say down Television Centre, don't give up the day job.

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