World Cup 1966: Alfie’s Boys, Sunday May 22, 8pm, BBC Two
You’re probably unaware that England won the World Cup in 1966. It’s not the sort of thing we harp back to, much.
We’ve probably become blasé about footballing triumphs, such is the litany of successes gilding the England football team’s glittering past. There was the semi-final in the 1990 World Cup. And, um, we ran Costa Rica pretty close in that 0-0 draw in 2014. Also, as you may have noticed, we’re not really a nation prone to nostalgia.
As such, there won’t be many references to the 50th anniversary of the tournament this summer. Possibly one or two TV programmes. The odd radio show. Commemorative mugs. Newspaper interviews. Magazine articles. Commemorative plates. Maybe a few more TV programmes. Actually quite a lot of radio shows. Commemorative salad servers. Tributes from politicians. A parade or two. Some World Cup-themed adverts. Commemorative hamster wheels. Specially-named craft beers (with the tagline Quench your Hurst). A Nobby Stiles doll with removable teeth. T-shirts. Replica 1966 kits. Hats. Pants. Maybe a newly discovered caterpillar to be named after Bobby Moore. A palace reception. Twelve different books, all saying the same thing. A sticker album. Jules Rimet loo paper. Statues, bunting, flags, car stickers, video games, quizzes, plays, poems, paintings, sculptures, footballs, cheeses, themed sandwiches in ASDA, the special edition Renault Charlton, a piece of modern art depicting an apple on a table called Gordon Banks’ Inner Struggle. Like I say, pretty quiet.
It all starts on Sunday with this feature-length documentary presented (slightly hammily) by David Jason, who looks like he’s playing a role throughout. But this is pleasingly straightforward fare, a chronological walk through the tournament, telling the story through the words of the people who were there.
The surviving members of the team are interviewed, plus a few more who are speaking from beyond the grave, courtesy of archive footage. There are also contributions from Bobby Moore’s widow, Tina, from Barry Davies and John Motson, and from, er… Sue Johnston. I have not the foggiest idea why she’s included, but she’s an absolute poppet, so who cares?
It’s one of the eternal football clichés that the game has changed immeasurably over the last five decades. Back in ’66, you could buy tickets on the day for England games. Players had done national service. Many of them smoked. The day before the World Cup Final, they all went to the cinema to see Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.
The real joy of this programme is in the detail. Little nuggets like a tout in a shirt and tie being interviewed before the final (even touts had career standards to maintain back then…) Or the permanently correct Sir Alf Ramsay, telling his coaching staff who had, after all, just won the World Cup, to “sit down – your drawing attention to yourselves.” Even hero Sir Geoff Hurst’s reaction was somewhat muted. The next day, he went home and mowed the lawn.
Thankfully, Jack Charlton was there to bring a certain lack of decorum to proceedings. He woke up the next day in someone else’s garden.
Related: Football for the over 50s
Boris v Dave: The Battle for Europe, Wednesday May 25, 9pm, Channel 4
It’s one of the biggest and most important votes imaginable – a seething cauldron of Euro-politics and intrigue with the most far-reaching of implications. But now Eurovision is out of the way, so let’s all move on.
Thursday June 23 sees Britain (or, at any rate, the 14 of us who can be bothered) go to the polls to decide whether to stay in Europe or to leave. You may already be aware of this, I think it might have featured in a couple of news reports once or twice.
When I started writing this column two years ago (not this actual one, that would be a serious case of writer’s block) I was given one word of advice by Saga’s venerable editor: Steer clear of political discussion. Interestingly, this approach seems to have been adopted by both campaigns during debate so far – instead, they have resorted to scare-mongering of the basest kind. Essentially, we’re faced with Armageddon if we leave the EU, and being crushed under a totalitarian yoke if we remain.
The issue is proving more divisive than commentators had ever imagined. Each party seems to have people campaigning on either side – apart from UKIP. To be fair, you’d be a confused bunny if you were a UKIP member fighting for the Remain cause. But the party seemingly most divided on the issue is the Conservatives, with the two towering figures of Tory politics, Cameron and Johnson, epitomising the struggle for the direction, future and soul of the party.
This enlightening documentary examines the long shared history of the two, through Eton, Oxford, THAT photo, into politics, parliament, and finally government. Channel 4 News’ political correspondent, Michael Crick, talks to the great and good of Conservative politics from the last two decades, to build up a picture of what makes both men tick.
June 23 represents a watershed moment in British history, and marks the culmination of a campaign that has been going on, in one form or another, for years. Or maybe it just feels that way. Who will be left standing when the dust settles in a month’s time? How will the Conservative Party recover from a chastening period of civil war? And, just when you thought all the tension and campaigning was over, we start it all over again. Well, it’s only 331 days until the next Eurovision Song Contest.
The best and the rest
Saturday May 21:
MotD Live: 2016 FA Cup Final BBC One, 4:15pm: Moneybags Man Utd take on relative minnows Crystal Palace in a battle of good and evil to rival Lord of the Rings. Imagine the odds you could have got against a Crystal Palace v Leicester City Charity Shield!
Jutland: WWI’s Greatest Sea Battle, Channel 4, 8pm: A look at the biggest and the deadliest clash between the British and German navies in the 20th century.
Sunday May 22:
England v Turkey: Live International Football, ITV, 4:30pm: The first warm up match for Euro 2016. Because nothing, but nothing, says excitement quite like an England friendly. Apart from watching a potato slowly crisp up in the oven. Or grass grow.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show, BBC One, 5:30pm: Gardens are lovely and that, but they involve an element of outdoorsiness with which I’m not entirely comfortable. This, then, is a right result.
Related: How to get the Chelsea look at home
Penelope Keith’s Favourite Villages, Channel 4, 7pm: Did you ever want to know what small rural communities were Penelope Keith’s favourites? OF COURSE YOU DID! IT’S PENELOPE KEITH! Well, you’re in luck.
Wallander, BBC One, 9pm: All TV cops are miserable, shambling, lonely souls, but Wallander takes the misery biscuit in a competitive field. That doesn’t stop the show from being brilliant, with Kenneth Branagh sublime in the titular role. This three part series will be the last.
Horizon, BBC Two, 9:30pm: E-cigarettes – are they a miracle cure for millions of addicts, or the latest medical time bomb. Or – as is almost certainly the case – somewhere in between?
Monday May 23:
Secrets of the Nazi Occult, Channel 5, 9pm: Where would Channel 5 be without the Nazis? This documentary asks if they were, you know, a bit weird. That’ll be a yes from me.
Tuesday May 24:
Bake a cake. Go dancing. Get some fresh air. The sweet, comforting embrace of telly will still be there for you tomorrow.
Wednesday May 25:
The Making of an Ice Princess, BBC Two, 9pm: 11-year-old Lily’s dreams of figure-skating glory involve daily 4am starts for her mum and huge expense for her dad. This documentary makes me thrilled my kids love TV and computer games.
Secret Life of the Human Pups, Channel 4, 10pm: Good old Channel 4 – they do love exposing our perversions. This, though… well, this is definitely at the unusual end of the scale…
Thursday May 26:
Undercover: Inside Britain’s Children’s Services, Channel 4, 10pm: Dispatches goes undercover inside one of Britain's largest and worst performing children's services departments, where social workers are battling to keep vulnerable children safe.
Friday May 27:
England v Australia: Live International Football, ITV, 7:30pm: For those who didn’t get enough of watching substitutions on Sunday, there’s another chance today. Whoop!