Eight games into Euro 2012, it is ITV winning the punditry duel
Much-mocked broadcasters producing more entertaining TV so far
The excessive ad breaks, Adrian Chiles’ overplayed real fan shtick, the semi-scripted commentators and often overegged pro-England coverage often see ITV used as a criticism sponge to soak up much of the dismay directed at British football coverage.
Over a quarter of the way into Euro 2012 though, the reality is that their broadcasts have been far more enjoyable than the BBC’s, without really altering the formula that has attracted scorn before.
One key reason has been that the pundits picked to be paired with the usual duo of Roy Keane and Gareth Southgate have proven fairly inspired.
Roberto Martinez is easy-on-the-ear even when not imparting wisdom, Patrick Vieira has shown far more enthusiasm than ITV’s World Cup wildcard Edgar Davids, Jamie Carragher is far more willing to offer an opinion than most modern footballers (even if it is a spiky “France, pft, not that good”) and Gordon Strachan much more fun and self-effacing in the role of contrary cynic than Mark Lawrenson.
By contrast, despite adding some fancy continental flavours like Clarence Seedorf and Jurgen Klinsmann, the BBC offering still seems to be dominated by the tired old guard, with Alan Hansen – formerly the last to be criticised – currently the most objectionable.
Harry Redknapp is there too but everyone in the country has so much access to his ever-changing and contradicting opinions that his presence adds no significant value.
Whereas Strachan pointed to pages of research strewn in front of his colleagues Vieira and Martinez before Spain v Italy, Hansen has a habit of spewing a quick line on any subject without elaboration or qualification, apparently feeling his experience alone allows him to ooze authority without justifying it.
The key difference between the two camps however is that ITV’s guys just look a whole lot happier to be a part of it, whereas too many of the BBC team specialise in sneery distain.
You can get away with having one downbeat and miserable character in your squad but the BBC have Hansen, Lawrenson and Martin Keown always appearing to go out of their way to identify a negative stance. There are early signs that they risk dragging the once-fresh Lee Dixon down with them too.
Aware that continuously kicking them would mean The Spoiler committing the exact same crime of which we accuse the Match of the Day ensemble, there is a positive to pick out.
Usually, Alan Shearer would feature on the aforementioned list of the mean and moody yet, while very much still a work in progress, he is enjoying his best tournament since retiring to the sofa.
Enjoy is the key word too as he seems a lot merrier, perhaps partly because his early appearances came pitch-side while most of his colleagues were stationed back home.
The Spoiler gets the impression that he has done more homework than usual too, but above all else maybe his new shinier look is enough to make him stand out amid a never-changing, stale backdrop.