Essays: Football funnies |
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Football funnies

THE viewing week got off to a flying start with the Cup Final (BBC1). David Coleman was in charge of the preliminaries. ‘I tell you these boys are very, very aware they’re leaving the lucky hotel.’ These boys being Arsenal.

After leaving the lucky hotel, these boys climbed into the lucky coach. Still looking very, very aware, they were interviewed en route to Wembley by someone called Tony, or it could have been Terry. ‘Arsenal are now very much on the final leg of their journey to Wembley,’ said Tony/Terry, very much weighed down by the magnitude of his responsibility. One by one he probed the hopes and fears of these boys. ‘Did you sleep very well?’ ‘Nervous.’ But Pat Jennings was more eloquent, ‘How do you feel?’ ‘Just the usual you know.’ Short of saying that he felt like sticking a lampshade on his head and doing the twist, Jennings could hardly have been more forthcoming.

Tony/Terry was last seen asking another player a technical question. ‘Sounds as if the pitch is ideal for strikers.’ ‘I’m not a striker.’ Then it was back to David and over to Wembley, where Bob Wilson was set to interview these boys all over again as they came out — still looking very, very aware — to inspect the pitch. ‘Any little amusing things happen during the week, or ... any little funnies? Any little incidents perhaps?’ ‘No, not really.’ But by this time your reporter had very much succumbed to Wembley fever. All the symptoms were there: heavy eyelids, slack mouth, fog in the brain. When I woke up again it was very much all over. These boys had won.

In Tuesday’s episode of Crossroads (ATV) the sound conked out for the first five minutes. SORRY WE’VE LOST THE SOUND. WE’LL CONTINUE WITH PICTURES FOR NOW. There was a deep awareness here that depriving ‘Crossroads’ of its dialogue makes not a blind bit of difference — or in this case a deaf bit of difference. Lip-readers, of course, would not have noticed anyway.

A Family Affair (BBC1) is a new series by N. J. Crisp, which is another way of saying that it is ‘Crossroads’ with better furniture. Barry Foster plays a middle-aged executive who has an affair. His daughter accuses him. ‘Look Jane, I didn’t want this to happen.’ Everybody else accuses him. He accuses himself. The Word (ITV) is better value. A stinker imported from America, it at least has a few exotic locations: Rome, Amsterdam, etc. Although it should be remembered that these are not exotic to the Italians, Dutch, etc.

‘The Word’ is otherwise known as ‘Irving Wallace’s “The Word”,’ meaning that it is adapted from a novel by Irving Wallace. David Janssen is the star. There are some tantalising ladies, including Florinda Bolkan and the excellent Janice Rule. Nicol Williamson plays a heavy called Maertin de Vroome. He sounds like the voice of doome. All concerned do their best to look interested in the plot, which as far as I can make out concerns some sort of holy book. ‘There was a time ... when I thought I knew all the answers. Now I’m not even sure of the questions.’ But not much of the dialogue is as exciting as that.

With The Fifties (BBC2) René Cutforth treated himself to another instalment of the cushy number by which he sorts through a decade’s worth of film archives and writes a commentary around the plums. For a front-man of his experience, it’s a doddle. Young presenters suffering from nerves should look at Cutforth and take lessons about how to hang loose. But the old maestro has more than relaxation going for him. He also has a knack for vivid reminiscence. In Korea, he said, it was so cold that the anti-freeze froze in its drums. There were no pictures of that, but there didn’t need to be.

An ‘Horizon’ called Journey Through the Human Body (BBC2) was like ‘Fantastic Voyage’ without Raquel Welch. Fans of Raquel will remember that as the tiny submarine journeyed along arteries and negotiated the pulsating maelstrom of the left ventricle, their heroine stood courageously on the bridge, her special submariner’s outfit zipped open to the waist so as not to constrict her breathing.

There was none of that here. But you still felt that you were about a millimetre high and in danger of being knocked down by a speeding corpuscle. Dr Lennart Nilsson’s tiny cameras went skin-diving through tunnels of blood, watched insatiable phagocytes scoff debris, and contemplated dead red blood cells stacked up like poker chips. All of this was accomplished without any animals being cut up. Now that the BBC executives seem to he taking a rest from the exhausting business of banning their own plays, perhaps it is time for them to quietly get together and lay down a simple ruling which would deny air-time to the kind of scientist — he is usually a psychologist — who has to cut off a cat’s front legs in order to find out that it needs them to stay upright.

Belief in phenomena that defy likelihood usually has little to do with intelligence or the lack of it. If you have a psychological need to think that Uri Geller really bends those spoons with mental waves, then no amount of contrary evidence from professional magicians will persuade you otherwise. The Clone Affair (BBC1) dealt with an American journalist called David Rorvik, who has written a book in which he claims that a millionaire has successfully been cloned. ‘I have been under tremendous pressure. If I had made this book up, I would have broken down long ago.’

The inevitable professor was on hand to insist that he himself could clone a human being with his bare hands, no sweat. But another professor who had actually cloned frogs said that he had had to gear down his hand movements 800 times; that a human egg was a hundred times smaller than a frog’s; and that to clone a human with one’s bare hands would therefore be out of the question. A lady specialist in science journalism put the lid on it by pointing out that David Rorvik’s purportedly factual book bore a distinct resemblance to an earlier, obscure work of fiction which had been written by — but you guessed — David Rorvik.

Omnibus (BBC1) showed fragments of Joseph Papp’s Central Park production of ‘The Taming of the Shrew.’ Meryl Streep was a bundle of energy as Kate, but Raul Julia, playing Petruchio, was the one who knew how to speak. Both stars were interviewed in the dressing-room on the subject of the characters they were portraying. It was hard to avoid the conclusion that Shakespeare expressed himself better.

Millions of readers have written in to protest about my political views. They think I am picking on Margaret Thatcher because I am sour about Labour losing. Labour deserved to lose, and I am not picking on Margaret Thatcher: she is picking on herself by talking like the Bible instead of like an ordinary human being. The gentleman who wants to refer me to the Press Council is welcome to go ahead, but I thought that the central plank of the Tory platform was the intention to create more freedom, not less.

The Observer, 20th May 1979