The Football Comedy is closely related to the Football Film: both are nearly impossible to pull off and both tend to leave fans deeply divided. In my experience, football comedy is usually best when it targets soccer’s absurd periphery, like When Saturday Comes’ tongue-in-cheek reporting on money in modern English football, Mitchell and Webb’s exquisite dissection of the moronic bombast of Sky Sports, or Steve Coogan’s take on inane TV sports analysis.
But football comedy intended for “the fans” is usually doomed from the start, suffering the a priori limitation of having to carefully cater to the absurd, partisan bias of the average club supporter. Hence the gratingly unfunny Special 1 TV (formerly known as I’m on Setanta Sports), Setanta’s five minute Spitting Image-style puppet show featuring Jose Mourinho, Sven Goran Erikkson, Wayne Rooney and Fabio Capello, among a few other familiar off-screen ‘callers’ (Fergie, Becks and Benitez, rounding up the LCD of recognizable football characters).
Of course many Eee Pee El fans will disagree violently with me on this (scroll down for the usual grab-bag of epithets). Love for the latex megalomaniac Mourinho and his apparently brain-damaged side-kick Wayne Rooney seems near universal on the blogs. Some close friends of mine have even expressed envy at my Setanta subscription, not so much for the three Saturday fixtures but for the five minute, post-match S1TV featuring moist globs waving their gloved hands around while making jokes well below the comedy line.
It seems to me in conceiving the show, the producers thought as long as the puppets looked and sounded right the need for funny dialogue would be moot. They also took care to avoid pissing off their less-than-anticipated number of subscribers by removing any hint of cutting satire (here’s a great example). There’s a reason main on-screen characters are ex-Premier League managers—anything touching on the actual absurdity of the current Premiership might stumble on the truth and thereby piss off thousands of vulnerable supporters, able to mobilize on a moment’s notice with on-line petitions and Facebook groups calling for boycotts (the Rooney puppet, depicted as a rambunctious man child, doesn’t count. A Ronaldo puppet on the other hand…).
Yes, the show is only five minutes long and easily avoidable. That’s not the issue. The issue is is that it seems to have become part of the ‘zeitgeist.’ References to S1TV are near ubiquitous in the English press, and football bloggers almost choked when they swallowed last month’s ‘cancellation’ prank whole (a marketing gimmick for the above-mentioned name change). I just think we can do better than this, and that there is a place for good, biting satire in deadly-close proximity to match day fixtures—the more offended partisan fans the better. If they need any inspiration, they could go no better than go back to the original Spitting Image, the show that cut into the dark, horrible heart of Thatcherism with little remorse. Lord knows the Premier League is still ripe for the pickin.’
These are the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of ANYONE else at EPL Talk.
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