Barker hits the target in more ways than one during Wimbledon fortnight
09:50 GMT, 9 July 2012
It has certainly been a long, long time coming. There are going to be people out there reading this who probably thought they’d never see it in their lifetime. But it has happened, and how a nation has cheered.
Mind you, I never imagined that it would be some sort of high tech bazooka that would do the trick! Nevertheless, it was such a weapon that finally put pay to the opera-singing Go Compare man from the series of increasingly irksome adverts. While even more extraordinarily – at the hands of Sue Barker: Ninja Assassin!
Only during Wimbledon fortnight would Sue really hit the spot as a commercial icon, because she – just like the still essentially genteel and polite event from SW19 – makes absolute perfect sense for those two weeks of the year.
Day job: Sue Barker features in the new Go Compare advert
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However, it is not only some rather clever creative types who have spotted that. The BBC also realises that Wimbledon is quintessentially ‘them’. And that’s a ‘them’ in a Tom and Barbara from The Good Life, The Harpers from My Family and The Brockmans in Outnumbered, kind of way.
Therefore they took full advantage of their trip back down to the smoke to fill up both BBC1 and BBC2 with loads of action and give us BBC Breakfast weather from courtside and much of their sport coverage. Indeed, one evening they even managed to cancel a screening of Raiders Of The Lost Ark for an extended trip to the suburbs, so just like Indie with the sword-twirling assassin, there was no messing about.
At one point, this resulted on the first Saturday morning in some real car crash telly as uber coach Nick Bolitierri couldn’t quite find the right place to stand as presenter Mike Bushell was giving us the sport news. Nick shuffled forwards and backwards (probably with a cameraman waving frantically at him) as he waited for his interview, like a player not sure whether to attack the net. Then when he did get started, he was in the darkest of sunglasses and then suddenly, after a brief clip, he wasn’t!
Finally, he finished his chat, only to be seen still lurking in the corner of the picture, this time texting away. Probably asking someone ‘did you see it How did I do’.
The real early drama of this Wimbledon, though, finished on the first Saturday, under the lights and closed roof of Centre Court at 11.02 pm. It seemed to really touch a nerve in the process, reap great praise for the subtle, sparse commentary of David Mercer and, of course, get a nation twitching once more, about Andy Murray.
Under the lights: Andy Murray beat Marcus Baghdatis at 11.02pm last Saturday
Now as Martin Samuel so eloquently put it in his column on Saturday, Andy Murray, to become Andy Murray, has had to be his own man. Now that man, I think it’s fair to say, may be a natural on court, but is not so much on camera.
And why should he be After all, it’s surely his skills as a player that keeps Simon Fuller in conker coloured hair dye, not whether he’s likely to threaten Matt or Tuffers' captains chairs on A Question Of Sport. However, the BBC’s Gary Richardson didn’t seem to accept this. His attempts to continually tug at Murray’s emotional heartstrings in post-match interviews felt more like he was pulling hairs out of his arm.
His conversation after the semi-final victory in which he asked Andy what his mum and dad were feeling, and Murray replied ‘no idea, I’m not bothered. It’s harder for me’ was as dour a moment as surely any Scotsman has ever been part.
Overcome: Murray was in tears after his Wimbledon defeat to Roger Federer
Yet come Sunday afternoon, none of this mattered as the great British hope contributed to a fabulous few hours of televised sport – his efforts only bettered by the mercurial talent on the other side of the net.
This was sheer sporting excellence we were being shown – frequently accompanied by a series of stunning slow motion montages and endless, shots of Mrs Murray; too much, too mum – but if we wanted a tennis ‘personality’, we’d better have been paying attention right at the start of the second set.
The commentary team for the final were the excellent Tim Henman and Andrew Castle – the Mark Nicholas of cat gut (well nylon) against fluff – with Boris Becker. And it was Boris who pointed us out John MCEnroe (‘one of the greatest’, said Becker) in a US commentary box , which was real shame for us, as he had been the star of the BBC show for the two weeks.
Main man: John McEnroe was sorely missed in the commentary box on Sunday
He was part of the genuinely star-studded build up (including a great interview with Rod Laver) to Sunday’s action but it was on commentary that we most missed his insightfulness, wit and sheer joy in being part of the proceedings. Boris has certainly got all of that, but not in ‘Mac’s’ lavish quantities.
So it was those three fellows that brought the men’s singles final home, and in the end the covered Centre Court turned out to be a Temple of Doom for Andy Murray. But all was certainly not gloom, as we enjoyed yet another epic session of sporting action in a summer that may be dead damp, but is starting to get red hot.
WEDGIESMonday morning on Eurosport from the Tour De France and ending up in a pile on the floor in a spectacular crash, the aptly named Vladimir Karpets.Thursday night on Channel 4, with his usual good grace and class, Michael Johnson traced his own family’s slave roots in an attempt to find the truth behind a provocative theory in Survival Of The Fastest.
Saturday night live, and Channel 5 continued to develop their potential boxing box office hit, Tyson Fury. But they might want to do a bit of work on those shorts.