Chris Maume: Sport on TV

BBC grovels after Castle makes mess of Murray

This world exclusive, minus any record of Murray's response, came from Andrew Castle during the third set of the young Scot's win over Tim Henman in Basle (BBC2, Wednesday). "He came here to a recording this week," Castle said, giving away the fact that from the Indy offices near Canary Wharf, I was slightly nearer Basle than he was "here" at Television Centre.

"He was last seen wandering the corridors looking for food," Castle continued. He was probably looking for a drink as well, though probably not alcopops.

Castle, whose main claim to fame will always be his poll tax protest at the National Championships, knows something about the brashness of youth.

"This is just so urban," he waxed. "He is skinny up top with nasty little sideburns. He looks scruffy the whole time, which I think is marvellous, in total contrast to the gent he is playing. It's the streetwise Scot against middle England... It's alcopops versus a good red wine."

They can get a bit sensitive north of the border, and in a strange postscript, The Scotsman newspaper must have rung up the BBC about it, for the next day they carried what amounted, bizarrely, to an apology.

"Andrew Castle was trying to be descriptive and not disparaging," a spokeswoman simpered. "He is a huge Andrew Murray fan and was simply trying to capture the moment and the differences between the two players. Sometimes on a live broadcast comments made do not come out entirely as they were intended."

The fuss was more than the match deserved. "It hasn't been the best tennis, but sometimes it never is," Chris Bailey ventured, bearing out that last bit of the Beeb's apology. In fact, the whole programme started badly. You can always rely on the tennis department to flog a dead cliché, so it was odds-on that someone was going to utter the words, "Battle of Britain", and Sue Barker quickly obliged.

Still, at least the BBC cleared the decks. The first set saw off House Invaders, the second Castle in the Country. The decider took out Flog It, and even Ready Steady Cook - sacred ground in the daytime schedules - slimmed down to an anorexic 15 minutes. "I hope you're happy to bear with us on this," Castle apologised, not for the first time. "I know that Ainsley Harriott absolutely adores his tennis."

In his pomp Boris Becker would probably have beaten Henman and Murray more or less at will, not to mention Harriott. Nowadays, having cut his teeth on the German They Think It's All Over, he's performing the same kind of salvage job on the English version (BBC1, Monday) that Jonathan Ross managed a few series ago.

Replacing Phil Tufnell - a big improvement - Becker is relaxed, dry, and sharp. He knew it wasn't going to be long before the subject arose of his broom cupboard quickie so he got there first, seizing on Nasser Hussain's remark about one of his innings that "I wasn't in long enough". Becker didn't miss a beat. "You were not in long enough?"

Another big improvement is Lee Mack taking over as quizmaster from Nick Hancock - a professional comedian instead of a right comedian. His comic flights perk up a clapped-out formula, and he had probably the best line of the night when he said the German version is called "Geoff Hurst has scored again, the lucky bastard".

If Murray has truly arrived, as a sportsman and a star, Becker has certainly made a grand entrance into the world of light entertainment. Though probably no one told him he'd have to negotiate the vast expanses of the darter Andy Fordham, in the "Feel the Sportsman" round.

"What?" he asked in wonderment. "This is a sportsman?"

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