TV review: Why new football comedy by The Inbetweeners creators shows promise

The new comedy from the creators of The Inbetweeners was always going to have a problem: how do you send up something so brilliant at satirising itself?
The First Team. Picture: Colin HuttonThe First Team. Picture: Colin Hutton
The First Team. Picture: Colin Hutton

Among footballer excesses, could The First Team (BBC2) top an England international accidentally shooting a team-mate with an air rifle? A venerable old-school manager like Bobby Robson being made to turn the bus round because a player had left his diamond earring behind? Virtually everything involving David Beckham?

Well, it’s early days, there’s only been one episode but already we’ve had the featured club invest in a big screen bigger than the pitch, the car park and its collection of ridiculously-priced motors being revered like a trophy room and the cocooning from reality of these rich young men resulting in one of them being unable to buy toilet roll for himself so he ends up stealing it from the changing-room.

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Iain Morris and Damon Beesley’s show centres on three of the team. Jack is the most bewildered by the outside world and hardly in the best shape to help the club end their losing streak by being permanently up all night playing Fortnite.

Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats. Picture: John MaguireCitizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats. Picture: John Maguire
Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats. Picture: John Maguire

Benji is the one with the biggest car fetish, always on his phone chatting up influencers, who’s told by his despairing mum: “You only work one hour a day. You could have been a doctor.”

Mattie is the new recruit from America, signed in error and possibly rubbish, who encounters varying degrees of harassment from the club doctor, the media officer and the team captain. Meanwhile the manager is foreign with a brilliant reputation, always scribbling in leather-bound notebooks, but as it turns out he’s only ever playing Sudoku.

For sure, football with its mythologising of managers and the dimwittedness of players living in vast, empty houses makes for an open goal for comedy. Maybe I won’t commit to a season ticket for The First Team just yet but it shows promise, unlike the hopeless club.

There seemed to be a fair bit of mythologising going on in Citizen Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats (BBC2) as authors and academics lined up to draw comparison with Irish giants like Beckett and Joyce and credit Bob Geldof’s band with provoking the first stirrings of the Celtic Tiger.

Really? I thought they were punk carpetbaggers like the Police, dressed in flares on the flight from their native Dublin to London then quickly squeezed into skinny breeks, with a gobby singer and a pronounced poppiness, no bad things in themselves of course.

It was slightly unnerving to have Sinead O’Connor, once ordained as a priest and here wearing a hijab, declare her teenaged lust for the band, before adding: “You would not dream of going to bed with them because you would have been s**t and they were so hot.” But there were some good yarns such as how bad luck and lousy judgment against them making it big in America. Lousiest was when the record company, promoting the single Rat Trap, thought it would be a spiffing idea to purchase 1,000 dead rodents from New York’s sanitation department which were then stapled to copies of the 45 sent out to radio stations.

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Occasionally inspired, often maddening, Geldof had outgrown the band by Live Aid but the documentary didn’t include Midge Ure’s anecdote about how he fiddled with the running order so the Rats would perform for Charles and Di before the Royals exited Wembley, pushing the Scot further down the bill. For having the idea for the great global jukebox, Geldof was allowed the last word. The Rats, he said, had helped change music, Ireland and the world.

Oh, and in case you hadn’t guessed, they’ve reformed.

Pretty Single is a new dating show, broadcast late on a weekday night in the kind of spot where Naked Attraction normally lurks, confronting unsuspecting viewers with full-frontal Brazilians, Brazilian rainforests and more goolies than you can shake a copy of Mary Whitehouse’s memoirs at. But there’s none of that in this BBC Scotland offering; in fact there isn’t really much of anything.

No host, no set, no audience. Just a group of girls watching on a monitor as one of their number meets a selection of lads in a bar. Patricia was naked, though, in the sense that she went without make-up. Her potential clicks – well, that’s what they used to be called when Daphne was on a manhunt in The Broons – included a joiner, an academic and a footballer. When one admitted his previous girlfriend lasted just three weeks, Pamela – hilarious throughout – quipped: “I’ve probably got milk in my fridge that’s hung around for longer.”

Patricia chose a barber from Motherwell who introduced himself as “Martin Bytheway”, although that may not actually be his name.

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