Rooney: The Man Behind the Goals, Monday 5th October, 9pm, BBC One
You know who Wayne Rooney is. Everyone knows who he is. Even my mum, who ranks football somewhere between arson and GBH in terms of pastimes, knows who Wayne Rooney is. But, says the premise of this programme, do we actually know him? Sure, we know the Wayne Rooney who performs out on the pitch, but do we know the private Wayne Rooney? The family man?
No of course we flippin’ don’t. A Sky Sports Subscription and having Match of the Day on series link doesn’t get you an invite to Christmas chez Rooney. How would we know the family Rooney? Last time I looked, we weren’t closely related – as anyone who has ever seen me on the football pitch will confirm. We don’t know Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard or Theo Walcott either. We don’t know David Beck- oh, hang on. Yeah, we do know pretty much every aspect of David Beckham’s life, come to think of it. I probably know him better than I do my own cousins.
Anyway, the fact that we don’t really know Wayne Rooney was deemed sufficiently unacceptable for the BBC to commission a one-hour documentary about the striker’s career and life, on and off the field. Of course, with a programme such as this, which has likely been carefully scrutinised by Rooney’s legal and PR team, and whose contents have probably been agreed in advance by his agent, there is a danger that it will turn into some sort of hagiography. Luckily, the BBC sought to avoid this by sending in their most hard-nosed, cutting edge reporter, the thinking man’s Paxman, the Rottweiler himself, um, Gary Lineker.
So, in truth, what you end up is a rather gentle, unsurprisingly flattering portrait of Wayne Rooney. But it is actually a thoroughly good watch (unless you agree with my mum about football…) It’s fascinating watching Rooney’s career develop, seeing him progress from a schoolboy to the captain of England, with some belting goals en route.
But it is the domestic stuff that really intrigues. Seeing Rooney with his family. Watching how he interacts with the people from his childhood neighbourhood of Croxteth. Discovering he writes poetry to Colleen. “Shall I compare thee to an away trip to Anfield? Thou art more lovely, and less prone to man-marking.”
It’s always nice to see the interior of someone’s house, all the more so if they have more money than Croesus, Bill Gates and King Midas combined. And their pad is very nice. It’s got a games room and a bar. Both things to which I aspire. And a museum to the man of the house – another thing I want, though rather than signed England shirts and guitars from superstars, mine would have a couple of mouldy cuttings from articles nobody read, and a Scrabble trophy I won aged 11.
Million Pound Properties, Wednesday 7th October, 10pm, Channel 4
I don’t really understand economics, as my old economics A-level teacher would readily testify, if he wasn’t currently locked in a padded cell in Broadmoor rocking backwards and forwards, muttering through clenched teeth “supply and demand, Goodhart, you idiot boy!”
But really, I challenge anyone to watch this programme (the first of two, looking at what you can get for £1 million in different parts of the country) and make any sort of sense of the unfathomable world in which we live. I mean, we all know that property in London is freakishly expensive, as if it were made out of platinum, and full of diamond-encrusted toilet seats (ow!), while you can buy most of Scotland for the price of a Twix. But to actually see it laid bare on TV brings home the absurdity of the situation in the starkest of terms.
In West London, an estate agent called Toby (I think most estate agents are called Toby) has been charged with selling a flat the size of a doll’s house for a cool seven figures. I imagine the particulars would read “Would suit small family (ie max. height 4ft3ins) or a Star Wars mini-figure made good.” The kitchen is literally the size of a cupboard.
Meanwhile, self-made businessman Dwayne and his wife Katie are looking at a nine-bedroom stately home and estate in southern Scotland for a similar price. The couple currently live in a Lancashire home that is all zebra-print wallpaper and diamante-studded sofas. It is, in short, unspeakable. In the stately home, Dwayne remarks “I like the old feel,” but you just know he’s already imagining it with a disco ball and pink velvet wallpaper.
In North Wales, Robin and Iona have had their property on the market for five years, in which time they’ve had ten viewings. It’s a lighthouse, described as having panoramic views over the sea. Well, duh! It’s a lighthouse. I don’t expect it to have extensive views of the spires of Oxford. For some reason, we’re shown Robin and Iona having a large cooked breakfast. They eat their toast horribly burned. I wouldn’t buy a house from such bread-incinerating savages.
Dwayne and Katie might build their own property instead of acquiring their Scottish idyll. They want it to look old but feel new. “It won’t be too modern. It’ll be tasteful,” says Katie, looking nervously across at Dwayne, wearing a shirt that would make Noel Edmonds blush.
Stand Up to Cancer 2015, Friday 9th October, from 8pm
Since Channel 4 first introduced Stand Up to Cancer, in 2012, it has raised £23.8 million for Cancer Research, an organisation at the front line of the fight against this pernicious and relentless disease. Anything that raises money for such a vital cause has to be a good thing. But the joy is that Channel 4 is not asking you to sit in a bath of beans or sprint up Snowdon or sing Westlife songs in a nightmarish non-stop karaoke for 24 hours. They’re just asking you to sit at home, watch some ruddy good telly and, if you feel so inspired, pick up the phone and make a donation. Any form of fundraising that involves my sofa and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc is alright by me.
This year’s SU2C does not feature the live mega-event (that’s every other year) but will instead feature a night of special programmes in Friday 9th October.
Programmes include The Last Leg, Gogglebox, and Alan Carr: Chatty Man. At the time of writing, absolutely no details are available about who will feature on any of these shows. This is almost certainly because nobody ever has a clue who’s going to make themselves available, when and for how long. So, if they’re not in a position to name any guests, I’m going to make it up as I’d like to see it pan out.
At 8pm, the Last Leg Boys will be interviewing QPR’s surprise new signings, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, before taking a look at why being bald has suddenly become the height of fashion. After that, the Goggleboxers will give their thoughts on a recent documentary about how the river Thames has turned into dry cider, and a news report on why TV bloggers are the new rock’n’roll stars. And finally, at 10pm, Alan Carr will have as his guests Doctor Who’s Jenna Colman and her new husband, Benjie Goodhart, who will talk about their whirlwind romance.
Okay, I can’t promise any of that, but I can guarantee a night of hugely entertaining telly, in the name of a very, very good cause.
Eternal Glory, Tuesday 6th October, 9pm, ITV
It’s a feature of the modern world that hyperbole seems to be writ large everywhere you turn. Nothing is ‘nice’ or ‘quite good’, any more. Instead, if you pass someone a pencil, you’re ‘amazing’. If you make someone a cup of tea, you’re a superstar. However, even by today’s standards, ITV seem to have gone a touch overboard in the marketing of their latest entertainment show, Eternal Glory.
According to the blurb accompanying the show, eight ‘sporting legends’ are to do battle across four challenges each episode, before the loser goes home, until, at the end of the series, Eternal Glory awaits for one lucky winner.
Let’s take the first part of that sentence. Eight ‘sporting legends’. They are as follows: James Cracknell, Matt Le Tissier, Fatima Whitbread, Jade Johnson, Liz McColgan, Shane Williams, Gail Emms and Christian Malcolm. Imagine someone in 50 years’ time looking back at this era. How many of those named will be remembered as legends then? Will we still talk, in hushed tones, about the Commonwealth Games silver medal that Jade Johnson won? Or Christian Malcolm’s 100m relay bronze at the World Championships? (Indeed, ITV are guilty of a certain amount of wilful misdirection with regards to Malcolm, with an onscreen graphic claiming he was world champion at 100m and 200m – missing out the rather crucial word “junior”).
Then there is the idea that winning an entertainment/game show on ITV will earn you ‘eternal glory’. I’m sure that, when triple Olympic Gold Medal winner James Cracknell looks back at his glittering career, he will consider the moment he achieved true immortality was when he beat Liz McColgan in a tennis-ball-catching game.
All of this is a shame, because the show is (to use an underused phrase these days) quite good. The games are cleverly put together, the athletes seem like a likeable bunch, and some of the incidental stuff is excellent. One scene, in particular, where Fatima Whitbread talks about her life, is genuinely moving.
The World at War – box set
In the winter of 1973 and spring of 1974, British television showed what is indisputably the definitive documentary series about the most significant and cataclysmic event in human history. The World at War, a 26-part series, was made with care bordering on reverence, as befitting the subject matter.
Jeremy Isaacs, the producer, who would go on to be Channel 4’s first CEO, asked Noble Frankland, the director of the Imperial War Museum, to name the 15 most significant campaigns of the war. He then made a programme about each one. The remainder were dedicated to subjects including the rise of the Third Reich, wartime life in Britain, and in Germany, life under occupation in Holland and, of course, the unspeakable genocide of the Holocaust. This latter programme was shown without adverts.
Yes, adverts. I’d always assumed the World at War was a BBC production, but it turns out that it was made by ITV. What price today the broadcaster investing in a 26-part factual series that didn’t feature Bear Grylls or someone from Corrie.
The World at War took four years to make, and at the time was the most expensive TV series ever made, clocking in at a then-whopping £900,000. In today’s terms, that’s around £14 million..
The series boasted exceptional archive footage, portentous and sombre music, and the sonorous tones of Laurence Olivier narrating with appropriate gravitas. But what really stands out is the quality of interviewee of the programme. They included Albert Speer, Karl Dönitz, JB Priestley, Arthur “Bomber” Harris, Anthony Eden, Lord Mountbatten, Michael Foot, Vera Lynn and the actor Jimmy Stewart (a hugely-decorated pilot).
While in no way revolutionary or particularly ground-breaking, in many ways, the World at War is the most significant and important documentary series ever made.
The DVD box set also includes a fascinating look at the making of the series.
The World at War 11-disc box set is available from Amazon.co.uk for £20.39.
Episodes are also available on YouTube.
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