Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Paul Dickenson. David Coleman. Why?

A few years back I powered up my OnDigital box and decided to watch me some tennis. I was flicking through the BBC Wimbledon service which had video feeds of other matches. I started watching one, and for once when watching sport, I felt soothed and mildly interested what had changed?

Then I realised the BBCi feed didn't have a commentator. TV commentators occupy a precarious position, as the viewer is more than capable of seeing what is actually happening on the screen, so they're forced to rely on occasional observations and lengthy discussion with studio experts. So why do we have them?

Are we actually saying that the sporting action is not enough for people, that they need a continuous conversation to give them entertained? Few people watch sport by themselves; couldn't they reach similar (and equally informed conclusions) talking amongst themselves, or do TV companies just feel they *have* to be the centre of attention? Or is this just a needless tradition we picked up from radio, and now people are so used to not having to think about what they're seeing, they actually now need a commentator to spoonfeed them observations which aren't exactly rocket science.

A whole edifice has been built on this need- every sporting event has an associated series of personalities, studios and graphics. For every minute of football, there will be at least a minute of build up or post-match analysis in that slow, barked voice people in suits on television seem to reserve solely for sports fans.

The embodiment of this is Superstars; a sports programme which is almost continuous analysis/buildup, with just a few seconds of actual sporting action. It's essentially a group of amateurs taking part in sporting events- like some mates having a kickaround in the park (in La Manga). But add in a commentator and some slow motion replays and, hey presto, an instant sporting event.

Maybe I don't have a problem with sport- just the continuous yapping of a commentator telling me things I either don't want to know, or can see with my own eyes so don't need to be told.

I've never seen a sporting event on TV since without a commentator. Coincidently, I haven't watched one since.

OK, so this is because it's Wednesday, and Brother is watching Superstars, when between the commentator (called Paul Dickenson, apparently), Johnny Vaughan- both people who have made a living out of never shutting up- the token female presenter and that annoying little jingle, never shuts up. Continuous talk and analysis, the occasional vaguely sporting themed moment. I hate it.


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