Did we like it?
Not, as we feared, quite the slimy squid of sycophancy reaching with all eight of its fawning tentacles into David Beckham to lightly tickle him to elicit anecdotes of his new sub-human celebrity chums. This was thanks to the professionalism of interviewer Matt Smith and, more surprisingly, David Beckham offering up more intellect and sensitivity than it was thought possible for a British footballer to possess.
What was good about it?
• David Beckham came across as a well-rounded modest person who, despite reacting to every single emotional trauma by weeping, was far more intelligent than people who have leeched off his fame – Alistair McGowan, Rory McGrath – would allow you to believe. Of course he was never that thick in the first place, it was just that embittered puddles of effluence such as McGrath needed some way to vilify a young man who was both talented and handsome.
• Where ‘you know’s once ran across his speech like black stripes of inarticulacy across a tiger’s coat, he now owns a vocabulary on a par with the average 32-year-old man. He showed this when he marvelled at his joy when he celebrated Real Madrid’s recent league championship, which was made sweeter by the presence of his three sons on the pitch with him. Indeed, any mention of his children transforms this man, whose mouth was once as likely to serve up wit as a well in the middle of the Sahara was to yield water, transforms him into a sporting Peter Ustinov (or at least in comparison to Joe Cole).
• Beckham’s wry smile as he talked about when England fans called for his re-instatement to the team.
• Matt Smith for so long imprisoned by that leviathan of dull reliability Steve Rider, who was much-missed last weekend presenting something even duller than himself in the form of the Open Championship, was a capable interviewer. Obviously his subject, being a footballer, didn’t require the interrogative skills of Paxman, but he did a decent job.
• The scenes of the celebrating Madrid players on an open top bus ride through the city to show how the money is nice, but that winning is much more important (at least to some players).
What was bad about it?
• Beckham still succumbs to the odd verbal faux pas that resembles a teenager exchanging insults with a bedraggled glue sniffer in the supermarket car park such as: “I love to have turned around and said: ‘I’d love to be England captain for the rest of my career’.”
• When Beckham was talking about his sons’ pile of replica football kits, he said: “My best mate’s a Chelsea fan so he bought them a Chelsea kit.” Delivered with a wide grin, this was Beckham’s revenge on Sir Alex Ferguson as everyone knows Beckham’s ‘best mate’ is Manchester United captain Gary Neville. With his cover blown, expect Neville to flee to join fellow United émigré Roy Keane at Sunderland with the anticipation of Litvinenko-style hits on the England right-back in the form of toxic hairdryers.
• As has happened on almost every occasion it has been shown in the past 11 years, after Beckham scored from the halfway line against Wimbledon, the huge gobbet of saliva he expelled from his mouth as he raised his arms was edited out.
• Matt Smith had to rein in his natural journalistic instincts and give Beckham an easy ride. He was not pressed on events at Real Madrid when the incumbent president mocked his integrity over his transfer to “the Galaxy”, or the real reasons he left Manchester United.
• ITV don’t have the rights to Spanish football so Clive Tyldesley was hauled in (very much like the BBC used to do with Barry Davies) to paste ITV commentary onto the highlights from Real Madrid v Real Mallorca, where Madrid won the title.
• Much, much worse was the propaganda of Goebbelsesque arrogance that jumbled the highlights together to make the lame Beckham’s contribution more significant than it actually was. Madrid went 1-0 down, the next clip saw Jose Reyes equalise before Madrid went 2-1 up. Beckham was seen hitting the crossbar with a free-kick before Reyes added a third to seal the title. Beckham was then seen limping from the pitch as if to suggest he only valiantly left the trenches when victory was secure. In the real world, the clearly injured Beckham was substituted, for Reyes, with Madrid behind and struggling. His only contribution was the first half free kick, implanted by ITV between two of Madrid’s second half goals. Only after Beckham had departed did Madrid score the crucial goals.
• Over-informative captions designed for people who physically walk about on two legs but who mentally have taken refuge in the primordial sludge for the past half-a-billion years such as Los Angeles, California and London Heathrow Airport.