Sport on TV: Sue the drama queen as the Beeb goes native

It was clear within a moment or two of Friday's Davis Cup coverage (BBC2) that it was not going to be one of the Corporation's subtler productions. There was a blast of Fatboy Slim over the titles, a few clips of Tim and Greg grunting and grinning, and then a cut straight to Sue Barker, draped in the Union flag like a blonde Britannia. The colours were not just nailed to the mast, but to the floor and ceiling too.

They probably reasoned that if they were going to act like Sky Sports and schedule almost seven whole hours of non-stop tennis, they might as well include all the populist froth as well. And just in case there were some pedants out there pointing out that three of the first four players on court would do their swearing at the umpire with a transatlantic twang, they had Mark Cox in the studio as well.

This was a cunning reminder of how laughably one-sided the tie would have been in the days before Greg Rusedski donned the red, white and blue, with a youthful heir to Cox's record of lifelong underachievement providing the back-up for Henman. Recalling his days in the Davis Cup team in the 1970s, Cox talked about the extremes of emotion that came with representing your country. There was the desperate depression when you were beaten and, apparently, the "ecstasy" which followed success, though how he would know about that is anyone's guess. Perhaps he has read a book by someone who has experienced it.

Once the action got under way, of course, the current crop could not do much better, and the hot air started to leak from the BBC's balloon at an alarming rate. There will probably not be a better match in Britain all year than the one between Henman and Jim Courier which opened the tie, but both broadcaster and audience would have settled for a serve- volley insomnia-cure if the Brit could have emerged victorious.

Yet amid all the patriotic fervour, there was one small haven of vague neutrality. Up in the commentary box, John Barrett was doing his level best to be fair to everyone, including the boorish spectators. "Not too hostile," was his description of the 9,000 people packed into the hall, when if they had been any more hostile, Courier's head would have been on a spike before the end of the second set.

The occasion had also, Barrett felt, "brought out the best of national pride", which must mean that cheering every Courier double-fault like Paul Scholes' hat-trick for England, and booing the American when he queried some shocking line calls, is now something to be proud of. Dan Maskell, you feel, might have begged to differ.

The tone did not improve during the break between matches. Part of the filler was a pop-video of top players doing their thing, designed to persuade British youth to swap its football boots for tennis rackets. The sound- track was "Would You...", the recent hit which included the fairly direct lyric, "Would you go to bed with me?" Perversely, this was the only three minutes in the first four hours of coverage which did not include a cut-away shot of Henman's girlfriend.

Things went from bad to worse when Rusedski arrived on court, but at least the BBC passed one test, by staying with live coverage way beyond the scheduled end of the transmission. The thought of the headlines in the next day's Sun had they done anything else probably stiffened their resolve.

That said, Sky also brought us some marvellous moments last week, from events which would have been lucky to make it as far as Ceefax back in the old pre-satellite days. There was the Test match from the West Indies, which was one of the finest ever played, and the TPC golf at Sawgrass, where Sky had even gone to the trouble of taking some of their own cameras to broadcast through at least some of the American network's incessant ad-breaks.

No matter how many times, or from how many different angles, you see the 17th hole at Sawgrass, it never loses its excitement. We can be sure of this, because in the course of four days, they showed it at least 200 times, and from a dozen points of view. The 17th, for the dwindling minority of Sky holdouts, is like a sixth Great Lake, with about 10 square yards of sloping, lightning-fast green somewhere in its very distant middle. David Duval, the leader by a stroke, stepped up on the final day and put his tee shot within five yards of the flag, which in its way was even more awesome than Brian Lara's innings in Barbados.

Lennox Lewis had a little less polish in An Audience With Lennox Lewis (ITV) last night, although he was always going to struggle to equal the professional raconteurs who normally fill this slot. He is, after all, paid for the punch in his fists, not in his conversation. And while An Audience With Lennox Lewis was not the most entertaining show ever made, it was still a damn sight funnier than the one with Victoria Wood.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world