TV UK, 6 February

Drunk and Dangerous in Cardiff.

Dolan Cummings

Topics Culture

TV must have been poor this week, because I found myself watching When Athletes Attack on ITV1 on Tuesday night. You know the sort of thing – crazy South American footballers attacking the referee, ice hockey players boxing, and that ancient clip of some guy throwing over a table because someone calls him a girl’s name.

Drunk and Dangerous (BBC1 on Wednesday night), though ostensibly a documentary about violent crime in Cardiff, was also played mostly for laughs. If it was supposed to be serious, it certainly didn’t help to have it narrated by the guy who does the faux-literary Guinness adverts. And then there is something faintly comical about the fact that police uniforms in Wales are bilingual, emblazoned with Heddlu as well as Police. And don’t even mention police jargon, with its ‘male persons’ and so on.

The programme focused on one Saturday night in Cardiff city centre, following several incidents over the course of the evening. Even the nastiest of these, an assault in which two men stamped on the head of another man on the ground, was rendered comical by the fact that one of the assailants was dressed in a Superman costume, and the other, built like the Incredible Hulk, was wearing comedy disco antlers.

Then there was the man found in a public toilet cubicle, having had an accident with a jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise. This was never satisfactorily explained, except by the fact that he was drunk, a major theme of the programme. One Heddlu explained that he often had to deal with drunks who ‘don’t even know they’re human – just a mess on the floor’.

Apart from the comedy and the temperance sermons, Drunk and Dangerous came across like an advert for CCTV, with the Heddlu waxing lyrical about the wonders of the technology. ‘It’s like a fourth official’, explained one. The police simply look for a male person in a white shirt (or a Superman costume) and hold on to him in the street while they radio the CCTV people for verification. And then, uh…red card? In fact, the Incredible Hulk got off with a fine, while someone who had only kicked a car got a prison sentence, presumably because he then resisted arrest. They don’t like it up ‘em, these Heddlu.

At the risk of straying into Offside territory, I must note that it was BBC TV footage of Rangers against Plastic Whistle at the weekend that landed referee Stuart Dougal in trouble, after an eagle-eyed viewer spotted him telling Rangers midfielder Christian Nerlinger to ‘fuck off’. (Who am I kidding? That Allirajah character thinks he’s too good for Scottish football. Typical chippy English lower league fan.)

Despite the backing of the good-natured German player and his manager Alex McLeish (‘It was not said in a malicious way – but a cheeky way’), Dougal faces the wrath of the Mary Whitehouses at the Scottish Football Association, who think that his particular rapport with the players sets a bad example for the kids.

They should have seen the referee in When Athletes Attack, who physically took on a whole team of uppity players. Or worse, the fighting mascots of the English lower leagues. Well, they have to make their own entertainment down there.

Dolan Cummings is publications editor at the Institute of Ideas, and editor of Culture Wars. He is also the editor of Reality TV: How Real Is Real?, Hodder Murray, 2002 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).

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