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Weekend TV Review: Looking At BT's Ridiculous Rival To Soccer Saturday And Gary Lineker's Majestic Body

Weekend TV Review: Looking At BT's Ridiculous Rival To Soccer Saturday And Gary Lineker's Majestic Body
By Gavin Cooney Updated

This slot will not solely focus in football, but with the return of the Premier League and the Stripping of Gary Lineker, it was hard to ignore:

On Saturday night, millions of people tuned into Match of the Day in the hope that a man would show the looseness of body and spirit needed to actually appear on live television in nothing but his pants. It was all a bit reminiscent of the supposed-to-be-horrified-but-really-quite-excited mood that gripped this country when Gay Byrne showed the nation how to use a condom on the Late Late Show.

(Ireland left this kind of behaviour behind some time ago, and the show is now confident that we are beings of reasonable sexual understanding, if not experience. Instead, the Late Late Show will now turn the O'Donovan brothers into the 'I didn't do it' kid from The Simpsons).

Gary Lineker, however, made Britain gasp at the sheer confidence of the modern man, by introducing Match of the Day wearing nothing but a pair of Leicester shorts and a cheesy grin.

Lineker remained in his shorts until after the analysis of the Leicester/Hull, saying at the end that he felt ridiculous. He did end with a customarily shit pun: "the Champions have had their pants pulled down".

With such childish humour rife, the BBC decided to select a panel typical of the stuffy, stiff-upper-lip Victorian Englishman as balance. Sadly, that person evidently cancelled, and they went with the schoolyard's Ian Wright instead. As a counter-point to the exuberances of Wright - who looked like he was having a great time - Alan Shearer wore an incredibly plain shirt.

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More top-notch underwear b****r followed, with Gary Lineker handing Alan Shearer a pair of briefs with his picture on it as a birthday present.

Aside from that, the faultless format was retained. The studio remained the same, the commentators were as expected, with the main surprise being that Stoke weren't last in the running order. (They were second last).

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A couple of concerns remained: that commentator who keeps calling Everton's centre-back Phil Yaaaa-gielka was back, and Alan Shearer may be in danger of slipping back into dull mode without Newcastle around to cause him great emotional strife.

***

As Match of the Day remained the same, it was all change over on BT Sport, as they launched their own bombastic rival to Soccer Saturday. The success of Soccer Saturday is bewildering: the viewer simply watches other men watching football. It is a simple idea that works because of the brilliance of Jeff Stelling - the depth of his research is remarkable, his sense of humour razor sharp - and the chemistry of the panelists.

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BT Sport launched a rival show at the weekend, taking the Michael Bay approach to delivering timely updates to Morecambe v Blackpool. They essentially took the Soccer Saturday format and made it wildly bigger, aiming to dazzle the viewer by giving them loads of bright colours and different things to look at.

The scale of it is frankly ludicrous. Host Mark Pougatch took to meandering around the studio, with pundits sitting in various states of slouch on a couple of couches like a group of aspiring singers told for the first time they were to form a boy-band  as part of a contrivance in a reality TV show.

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About 38% of the plan to differentiate the show from Soccer Saturday consists of people looking at things from different angles. Host Mark Pougatch looks down on the pundits looking down on TVs, presumably as Sky look down on their opposition. This does have some benefits: we can see Harry Kewell pretending to take notes like a clueless student pretending he understands what's going on.

Lower-league updates come via a female presenter - Jules Breach - shoved over to the side of the studio as a metaphor for the importance the show places on the lower-leagues. Instead, pundits are encouraged to break away from their games to argue over incidents in the Premier League, with one incredibly forced and desultory conversation lasting almost three minutes regarding Hugo Lloris position for Everton's first goal proof that this is a stupid idea that provides nothing but empty noise.

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This constant debating incidents across all games means that pundits cannot focus on their assigned games, with Harry Kewell forced to admit that he had missed Middlesborough's opener against Stoke because he was "talking about Watford", a quote which is oddly profound.

This is the main problem: why should we watch a man watching a game if he isn't even paying attention?

Elsewhere, host Mark Pougatch spent the first half sitting a frankly sarcastic distance from the pundits on the couch:

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Following the mercy killing of Fletch and Sav, BT are funneling their Robbie Savage resources into this show, with Savage playing the jocular Paul Merson role. He refers to host Mark Pougatch as 'Poogers', evidently the most remarkable nickname in the history of televised football.

The show doesn't throw to reporters at grounds via video link, so the only other guests are Howard Webb, who looms over the studio like a kid of Sauron's Eye for slightly contentious free-kick decisions:

The show also follows BT's obsession with customers/fans "getting involved" with their coverage. Rather than, say, lowering subscription prices to aid this, instead they read tweets by reactionary fans: these are the kind of fans who's sole goal in life is to see their manager changed. It's hosted by Ian Stone and Mark Webster on a balcony to the left of the studio, as a kind of uber-modern Statler and Waldorf: so disgusted and angry they've turned away from the action and just find people who agree with their anger online:

 

This is the problem with modern TV: showing contempt for the viewer by thinking they can entertain by making the spectacle bigger, gaudier, flashier and more dynamic than ever before. Sky's format is tried, tested and trusted, and works because it has allowed personalities to bloom. BT's format will never work because the personalities won't have the chance to develop, dwarfed as they are by the gargantuan studio. Nobody can come into their own with a seventy-foot Howard Webb looming over them.

Lineker provides a nice metaphor for his show's success: Match of the Day is football stripped bare. BT proves the emperor can have too many clothes.

Best-dressed pundit of the week - Graeme Souness

Having already blitzed him in terms of analytical insight, Souness is now coming for Jamie Redknapp's dress sense. Look at that jacket.

Worst-dressed pundit of the week - Robbie Savage

That denim shirt and all that eye-shadow: Savage is belatedly acting out.

Commentator of the week - Brendan Cummins 

To break away from football (despite the return of Gary Neville and the ascension of Jamie Carragher to the gantry), Brendan Cummins added hugely to the coverage of the manic hurling semi-final between Kilkenny and Waterford. He has mastered the trick of adding to the atmosphere of a game in as small a time as possible. Gets extra marks for his use of 'lorry it in' near the end of the game.

Garth Crooks' absurd comment of the week 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is not averse to spending money if the talent is available. Having spent it wisely on Mane, he should seriously think about selling striker Christian Benteke - as he is surplus to requirements - and buying a decent left-back. If he keeps Alberto Moreno in the team, he can forget the top four - he'll get relegated.

See Also: Rooney And Ibrahimovic's Post-Match Interview Featured A Moment Of Silent Awkwardness

See Also: Transfer Rumour Roundup: Arsenal Set To Panic Buy As Everton Look To Take Hart

 

 

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