It was billed as an alternative to Newsnight. With much trumpeting on our airwaves, billboards and computer screens, Channel 4’s new satirical television show, 10 o’clock Live made its debut last Thursday night promising much. Attempting to harness the creative and celebrated talents of presenters, comedians and cultural commentators such as The Guardian’s Charlie Brooker and Peep Show’s David Mitchell what we were infact subjected to was a series of hackneyed one-liners, sneering asides and lazy tub-thumping aimed at utilising the partisan audience’s pre-existing disdain for authority. It all came across as an exercise in smugness by all involved. How sad.
Meanwhile, over on the BBC, political heavyweights George Galloway and Alastair Campbell locked horns yet again over the definition of New Labour and the Iraq conflict. Galloway as ever using the full arsenal of his considerable vitriolic rhetoric to liken the former spin doctor to Lord Haw-Haw and Goebbels whilst his adversary retaliated with accusations of sycophancy on Galloway’s part with his dealings with Saddam Hussein. And lo and behold, there was Tony Blair giving another unrepentant and shameful defence of his actions to the Chilcot Inquiry yet again on Friday. Oh dear. It’s like 2003 all over again.
Everywhere you looked this week, it seemed as if you were watching the same old faces doing their same old schtick on a sticky loop. And as a result, all that we were watching were bad photocopies of bad photocopies diminishing with increasing rapidity. How many more times can we see Jimmy Carr deliver one of his stilted and ‘close-to-the bone’ quips? Can you really separate Mitchell from his Peep Show alter-ego anymore? And seriously, who looks at Campbell and doesn’t think Malcolm Tucker these days?
And then a chink of light shone through the fug of hot air in the form of the Burnley central defender and chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association, Clarke Carlisle. His appearance on Question Time was the first made by a professional footballer and while not setting the world alight, he came across as an articulate and thoughtful man who was not afraid to speak his mind and challenge the stereotypical notions that footballers are only concerned with material pursuits.
Carlisle spoke with eloquence on the subject of the war in Iraq, questioning the transparency of the attorney general’s advice to Blair in the run-up to the conflict. He astutely brought the audience with him as he told the story of his cousin who is currently serving in Afghanistan that garnered a far more considered and humane response from Campbell. He might have been prone to leaning a little too heavily upon footballing analogies and his views were not always going to carry favour with everybody who watched the show, but nevertheless, his quiet, thoughtful and refreshing presence on the panel highlighted the Punch and Judy show that Galloway, Campbell and all their contemporaries have subjected us all to for years.
The same can be said of Match of the Day; a show that is fast-becoming an anachronistic remnant of an era in which football was not as highly saturated as it is now. Everybody on the show looks either bored or tired. There was a time when Gary Lineker’s stewardship of the show was viewed as a breath of fresh air. The bad puns were amusing and his casual charm seemed to break away from the behind-desk stiffness of the Jimmy Hill/Des Lynam era. Alan Hansen, though never one of the world’s great raconteurs, provided intelligent tactical analysis and even Mark Lawrenson had something to say. Last night’s show confirmed that it either needs to be drastically re-vamped or put out of its misery once and for all. The much-maligned Alan Shearer once again spoke in nothing other than clichés and couldn’t even deliver the phrase ‘fought for one another’ with any degree of cogency. Lineker made a cringe-inducing Shakespearean link using Romeo Beckham and the word ‘hitherto’ and despite Dimitar Berbatov’s third hat-trick of the season for Manchester United, the analysis centred and obsessed once again around the apparent return to form of Wayne Rooney. Even a mainstay like Goal of the Month has lost its appeal, with no prize on offer for predicting the right order. Seems as though everybody’s going through the motions.
And then finally, the news broke today of an off-mic tirade delivered by Sky’s anchorman Richard Keys and chief pundit Andy Gray, disparaging the involvement of a female assistant referee at the televised match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool yesterday afternoon. Commenting on Sian Massey, Keys remarked: “Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her.” Added to this, the pair also went on to belittle West Ham managing director Karren Brady’s observations on sexism that she had made in a newspaper article on the same day. Keys said:
“The game’s gone mad. Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favour, love.”
It seems as though it’s time that many of these ‘old’ faces were put out to pasture. There appears to be an ever-growing disconnection with the way the world works beyond the safe and innocuous cocoon of back-slapping. As a consumer, I do not have to accept willingly the diet of casual laziness and sloganeering offered up to me on a daily basis. And neither should you. There are other ways to stay informed as The Guardians Top 100 Football Blogs To Follow in 2011 proves. I am discovering more and more astute, original and thoughtful writers as my own blog has developed. It’s not too much to demand something new. After all, if we didn’t, we’d still be swinging in trees. So Ruud Gullit managing in Chechnya is a good thing. Tottenham and West Ham wanting to move to Stratford is a good thing. And who knows? Maybe even staging a World Cup in Qatar might be a good thing. Just don’t get Jimmy Carr to deliver the gag…
Further Reading: The Revolution Must Be Televised by Juliet Jacques