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Euro 2012: did CBBC have the best commentary?

July 2, 2012


Pressing the red button during last night’s final gave you children commentating, phone-ins and analysis from a puppet dog

Televisi on coverage of Euro 2012 taught us all an incredible amount. We discovered, for example, that the ITV set designer has access to some unbelievably horrible sofas, and that Gary Lineker can only use urban slang a maximum of two times before it gets boring. But most of all, we discovered that the state of British commentary is lamentable.

ITV’s Clive Tyldesley has no shortage of detractors, and the Euros offered little to change their minds. Mark Lawrenson, over on the BBC meanwhile, gradually and audibly lost the will to live as the tournament progressed. By the end, his despondency became so overbearing that you have to assume he spent half-time huddled in a corner with his thumb in his mouth and a comfort blanket clutched to his chest. Whichever option the audience took, they were denied a truly thrilling commentary experience.

Until last night. Because last night, red button viewers were able to hear an alternative commentary performed by CBBC staff. I couldn’t face another 90 minutes of Lawrenson and I don’t hate myself enough to willingly endure ITV’s advertisments, so CBBC commentary seemed like the only sensible option left. It was my best decision of the entire tournament.

Ditching the traditional two-voice style of commentary, the CBBC lot essentially threw everything they had at the wall. There were CBBC stars Chris Johnson and Sonali Shah and their friends. There were analytical interludes from Hacker T Dog (a puppet of a dog) and The Mystic Toad (presumably a puppet of a mystic toad). There were quizzes. There was, from time to time, circus music. And, best of all, there were phone-in segments where children got to commentate on the action.

It probably wasn’t the best place to hear an authoritative evaluation of the match itself. But what it lacked in analytical nous, it made up for with cartloads of technicolour giddiness. A traditional commentary wouldn’t be primarily concerned with which of the players had the best haircut, nor would it descend into an argument about which of the commentators had the most friends. And it’s probably fair to assume that if, say, Lawrenson revealed that he had an Italian girlfriend, Guy Mowbray wouldn’t spend the next minute going “OOOH, Mark’s got a GIRLFRIEND” until Lawrenson pleaded with him to shut up. But these are the areas where the CBBC commentary excelled.

In retrospect, yes, perhaps CBBC should have noticed Spain’s third goal instead of goading a child to chant “Spain” again and again. And maybe they shouldn’t have let another child commentate on a key piece of action with the words “The guy with the hair just had a shot! I don’t care! WOO!”. And, really, it wouldn’t have killed them to keep their eye on the ball enough to notice that it was half-time. But, in a way, none of that mattered. The whole thing was a breathless rush in about 18 directions at once.

If it was meant as a low-key experiment, there’s a fairly good chan ce that it didn’t work – at times, “CBBC” was trending higher on Twitter than “Spain” or “Italy”, and it’s likely that the number of children listening was dwarfed by all the adults bored of the usual fare. But nevertheless, it should be seen as a success. Hopefully we’ll hear more of the CBBC commentary team again. I’d like to see them having a go at the Olympics. In fact, I’d be perfectly happy to let them follow me around and commentate on my day to day life. Especially if they let me have a go. Read More


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