TV WATCH Review of the month on screen
This was a strange month. After Sky’s buildup to the second leg of Arsenal’s Champions League t ie against AC Milan seemed to assume a comeback was inev it able, Rob Hawthorne reckoned Massimiliano Allegri would “put his faith in his team holding onto what they have”, as i f he might have considered letting Arsenal score as many goals as they fancied instead. There was Harry Redknapp on Match of the Day after the league defeat at Everton lett ing his chirpy pragmatist mask s l ip by framing ever y statement as a question – “What can you do? We battered them second half ?” – while considering any query about the game as a personal af front. Inter v iewer Guy Mowbray nearly burst out laughing, which seemed an appropriate reaction.
Then there was Adrian Chiles, before extra t ime in Chelsea’s Champions League t ie against Napoli, putting it to the pundits that “presumably Chelsea are f itter” without offering any explanation, as though accounting for why a non-League team lets in a couple in the f inal minutes of an FA Cup match.
Most of al l there was Jonathan Pearce’s comprehensive abandonment of composure in the closing seconds of Swansea’s defeat of Manchester City. Joe Hart had gone up for a corner in the last minute of injury time, only for the cross to hit the f irst defender and be cleared to Scott Sinclair, who took a shot from ten yards inside his own half. “Is it going, is it going?” Pearce screamed, while, one would l ike to think, leaning fully over the table in front of him waving the ball towards the goal, temple veins bulging. We heard “Is it going,
is it going?” twice more for luck, as the ball trundled to a halt on a trajectory some way wide of the far post.
Pearce was famously t he ver y opposite of toned down in his Capital Radio and Channel 5 days, back when he was creating his public persona. His outburst at Swansea, however, was the sort of thing television has edged towards in the Fanzone era, the matchday commentator as uninhibited onlooker. Men shouting in pubs would have seemed more controlled.
These were just f leeting moments, not prearranged features involving television’s idea of bankable stars. Of course Noel Gallagher would have to be the f irst person selected to interview Mario Balotelli in Britain, the pair brought together for Football Focus. After years of experience of private-members bars, Gallagher is inclined to see things entirely through rock stars’ eyes. Our f irst sight of Gallagher at Manchester Cit y’s t ra in ing ground involved him running into Sergio Aguero. Noel took the opportunity to aff irm both his own place in the world and Aguero’s true standing: “I met your father-in-law once in Buenos Aires, at a party. It was a good party.” Maradona’s parties, yeah? You see what he is getting at there?
A few minutes later, Noel was palpably disappointed to discover someone else had set of f the famous f ireworks for which Balotelli was blamed. Gallagher trotted through the myriad stories about Balotelli, even though h i s inter v iewee was bemused at most of them. Despite his image as a straight-talking deliverer of amusing swearing and meat
and potatoes rock, Gallagher is not a natural interviewer. This became clear when he began l isting Manchester bands Mario had not heard of in a vague attempt to assert some sort of cross-cultural understanding. While he demonstrated a blunt sense of humour (on the relationship between celebr it ies and journalists: “They that go out from the l ine, kill them”), for the most part Balotelli came across as an awkward 21-yearold coerced onto television and left to fend for himself in his second language. Required to have Dan Walker sit next to him for a brief int roduction, he adopted t he downward glance and body slouch most often seen in school dramas where a pupil ends up in the headmaster’s study. Asked i f he had any questions for Noel, Balotelli had just one: “Why do you l ike me?” BBC Sport could have saved so much t ime and ef fort just by broadcasting that clip.
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