Thursday 14 December 2017

'Chiles churning sweat like the paddles of a riverboat churn the Mississippi' - Pat Stacey on ITV's woeful World Cup coverage

ITV anchorman Adrian Chiles is drowning in a pool of his own sweat in the scorching sunshine of Rio.
ITV anchorman Adrian Chiles is drowning in a pool of his own sweat in the scorching sunshine of Rio.

Some of you will be saying, "Oh no, not more bloody World Cup!" Sorry, but it's the biggest single thing on television for the next few weeks (warning sports haters: Wimbledon stars on Monday) and it can't be ignored. So there!

Besides, who would even want to ignore it when there's a catastrophe unfolding before our eyes every day.  We're not referring to the angry public protests, that half-empty stadiums or the half-finished infrastructure; we're talking about ITV's woeful coverage.

As anyone who remembers the days when World Cup presenters and panelists were confined to a studio set made largely of wood and spray-painted styrofoam, ITV has always been the worst of the UK broadcasters.

For Brazil 2014, however, it's somehow managed to drag people's already low expectations even lower.  And the man doing most of the lugging is anchor Adrian Chiles, the unacknowledged offspring of the late Benny Hill and a ball of pizza dough.

While Gary Lineker is doing a solid and dependable job wrangling the BBC's coverage from a different glass-fronted studio further down the Copacabana beach, Chiles is the wobbly centre around which the forces of madness and chaos swirl, like frenzied flies dive-bombing a rack of hickory-smoked ribs at a poolside barbecue.

In hindsight, we probably should have regarded the anti-World Cup protesters who pelted the ITV studio with rocks and cracked the glass panels during the opening game between Brazil and Croatia as a foreshadowing of the disasters to come.

And six days into the tournament, the disasters are coming faster then the goals.

Where to begin?  As good a place as any would be Chiles' attempts to strike some blokey banter with Gus Poyet ("Let's hope you're wearing your swimming trunks under there,"), which are the stuff of tooth-cracking embarrassment.  And yet, they're still by no means the most cringe-inducing aspect of the ITV roadshow.

High on that list would be Glenn Hoddle's choice of shorts, which are a bit like an old-school Italian defence - tight at the back with no loose balls in the middle. Screenshots of the former Spurs midfielder and England manager's 'camel toe' moment have been tweeted around the world.

Gratuitous shots of middle-aged ex footballers' crotches have become something of a defining motif for ITV during this World Cup.

I nearly choked on my tea the other day when the coverage cut to Ian Wright and Lee Dixon chewing the fat while reclining on sun loungers, Dixon's legs opening wider than they ever did during his playing days.

Ah, yes: the beach.  Whoever in ITV thought it would be a good idea to shoo the team out of air-conditioned studio comfort and on to the boiling sand of the Copacabana?  Gus Poyet's comments may be so garbled they make the great Ossie Ardiles on RTE sound like Rex Harrison in 'My Fair Lady' but at least he looked cool in his shades and plain white tee.

Chiles, on the other hand, churning sweat like the paddles of a riverboat churn the Mississippi, resembled a hapless dad who's been dragged by his kids into the scorching sun when he'd much rather be parked at the hotel bar, quaffing cold beer and blowing hot air.

In the background, meanwhile, Ian Wright was jumping up and down in a huddle of Brazilians, like the best man on a stag weekend.  Where's a rock-throwing protester when you need one?



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