ITV almost nail it on a stunning first night. Almost…

11 Jun

EURO 2016 has begun! What a night in Paris as things finally got under way with the hosts taking on Romania. Over the next four weeks, the Last Word goes a touch continental. Well, as continental as you can from a sofa in front of the TV in Brentford. Much as I’d love to be joining the likes of Billy and Dave from Beesotted in France, this is as close as it gets. I’ll leave the Russian hooligans, drunken England fans, Marseille ultras and reactive police to them ( their site is sure to be a very interesting place over the next few weeks). Instead, as ever, we look as much at ‘the other stuff’ as the serious

7pm, Friday night. Here we go. It’s an hour until kick off. Beer in hand, sofa groaning and remote control in hand. ITV, here we come….

But no. It wasn’t football. With the tournament due to start in 59 minutes, instead of Gallic charm I got Emmerdale Farm. Instead of Glen Hoddle I had a drunk driving a JCB into a farm house, followed by some shouting from the woman who used to be Lizzie Conlon in Dream Team.

Wow. People actually watch this for pleasure? Where was Clive Tyldesley when we needed him?

Fifteen minutes later, ITV finally delivered. The mayhem of farming life was replaced by a sumptuous set of opening credits featuring many of the tournament’s big names and Wayne Rooney, vacationing in a series of 20’s style tourism posters.

Buffon was juggling in the kitchen and we even got a cheeky wink from Cristiano Ronaldo in his, brackets free, number 7(seven) sports car.

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Ronaldo looking sharp on ITV

And that was just the start.

Cut from there to the slightly less salubrious image of Lee Dixon, Slaven Bilić and Emmanuel Petit. ITV having chosen to switch the traditional studio for a Paris roof top to begin their outside broadcast. Albeit with a wonderful backdrop.

Considering the rain that had gripped the French Capital in recent weeks, it was a brave choice. Moreso given the reaction offered to anybody in football seen within 10 yards of an umbrella.

Since Steve McClaren did his ‘wally with the brolly’ thing for England against Croatia back in 2007, being seen to protect yourself from the elements has been an act akin to being caught with the Super Victor toy in your hand luggage.

ITV had adopted for a pundit’s table that had four legs meant to resemble those of the city’s most famous landmark. A lovely touch until Bilić sat directly in front of it, giving him the appearance of Eiffel Tower legs.

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Wonderful backdrop; strange trousers

Cut to the Tower itself, where roving reporters Louis Saha and tennis player Marion Bartoli seemed in what could politely be described as ‘high spirits’. “Allez Les Bleus” exhorted the former Wimbledon champion, in a performance that suggested she may share Maria Sharapova’s medical team. Hey, let’s just say they were both high on life or just drinking in what was clearly an incredible atmosphere.

13 minutes prior to kick off the opening ceremony started. Started! They should have been packing up by this point, not tempting Clive to utter lines such as “The French are famous for their kisses” as an anthropomorphic pair of lips sauntered past the camera.

The central prop, a carousel, was odds-on to have a big reveal. Sure enough, as the can can girls moved on it opened to present none other than Emmanuel Petit, who must have hot footed it down from the ITV rooftop . But no, on closer inspection it was actually Disc Jockey David Guetta, singing along to the songs he was ‘playing’. As one Twitter observer notes, “Where’s Sacha Distel?

The sheer volume of the home support sining the national anthem and a stunning fly past from the French Air Force really were the cherry on this opening ceremony cake. All we needed was Diana Ross, or perhaps Vanessa Paradis, to miss a penalty for a bingo ‘full house’.

They hadn’t even begun clearing up wit the players came out for the anthems but, incredibly, we were go for ‘8pm’. And then Glen Hoddle opened his mouth.

All the good work ITV had done came crashing down in an instant. Not even a wonderful game of football – and what a winner from Dimitri Payet at the death – could detract for his ongoing banality. The commentating equivalent of the England Supporter’s band. I’d rather have had Lizzie Conlon’s ranting.

Having jettisoned Adrain Chiles, its a shame they still persist with the one time England manager. Perhaps its just me.

A great start to a great tournament but with ITV again tonight for the England – Russia game, let’s hope Wayne proves me wrong and Glenn keeps as quiet as I’d love that band to be.

Nick Bruzon 

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