Magazine article The Spectator

Housework on Ice

Magazine article The Spectator

Housework on Ice

Article excerpt

Where do the commentators on the Winter Olympics (BBC2) go for the other three years and 50 weeks? I imagine them living in caves. Then, just after Christmas, BBC executives drop haunches of roast venison outside the caves and when the commentators are tempted out by the irresistible smell they are scooped up into Land Rovers, locked in the back with the dogs, then crated out to the venue. There they can deploy the expert knowledge only they possess: 'At 1.15.87 she is just 1.42 off the pace!', or, 'She wants to follow that great second place in Milwaukee last year, and Italy is expecting a lot of her.' Or, in the curling, 'That really is a beautiful stone', and you ask yourself, 'Why?' To these people, Rhona Martin and Joel Retornaz are as familiar as Wayne Rooney or Freddie Flintoff to the rest of us. Presumably, copies of Curling Monthly and What Two-Man Bob? are occasionally dropped off at the cave mouth, so they can say things like, 'Of course his third heat at Salt Lake in '02 was a massive disappointment for him. . .' Actually, I have enjoyed the curling.

Once you stop listening to people who know far too much about it, you can appreciate the artful strategy and the tactics. Even the frantic brushing -- the housework on ice -- is skilful, speeding or slowing the stone, edging it in the required direction. It is a little like snooker on ice, and once every four years is just enough to satisfy my appetite for the game.

Many of the most successful television shows go through four stages: cult status, mass popularity, self-parody and, finally, decadence. A classic example was Little Britain. Ricky Gervais skipped the last two stages by making only two series of The Office. Footballers' Wives (ITV, Thursday) is now at the final stage, signalled when we learnt that Amber, the grieving widow of Earls Park star and Beckham-lookalike Conrad Gates, has had his remains carbonised into a huge fake diamond and mounted on a gangsta rapper-style ring. I bet that had them hugging themselves at the script meeting. Oh, and there was also murder, bigamy, lesbianism, a cat fight, a lingerie model in scanty lingerie, and some serious GBH. None of the cast from the first series of the show is left, except, amazingly, Gillian Taylforth in a guest appearance, a faint reminder of a forgotten past, as if Stanley Matthews's widow were to turn up at a Blackpool reunion. …

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