MEDIA: FOOTBALLERS' WIVES - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. ITV1's new drama, Footballers' Wives, has the ingredients and the legs to last

If ITV's peaktime diet of soaps, Millionaire?, police and vet

dramas and the like proves too rich for your cultural digestive system,

then the light and frothy Footballers' Wives may prove to be the ideal

alternative.



It has it all - sex, footy, money and topless birds for starters. It's a

cultural microcosm of the tabloid times, where Posh and Becks, Louise

and Jamie, Jordan and Dwight (allegedly) provide the daily currency.

Commissioned by Carlton from Shed Productions, it has the unashamedly

glossy, voyeuristic production of the Hollywood ... series.



Footballers' Wives centres on the fictitious Earls Park FC, their

players and wives. To be honest, I didn't give a toss about whether or

not it is a realistic portrayal of the shenanigans at a football club;

truth, after all, can be more interesting than fiction.



The topless model character, Chardonnay Lane, and her husband-to-be,

Kyle Pascoe, are the Posh 'n' Becks surrogates - all "babe", cars,

pouts, sulks and cash. Gillian Taylforth as Kyle's harridan of a mum,

looks like something has left a nasty taste in her mouth (which I seem

to remember reading about). Great opportunity for scenes of petty

bitchiness.



We see, hear and read so much today about the real lives of Premiership

footballers - their huge wages, underhand searches for lucrative

contracts with other clubs, romantic fumblings, pissed-up thuggery and

sullen court appearances - that the maxim of art mirroring life is in

danger of turning this series into a masterpiece.



This week's episode featured a rediscovered adopted son, a stag night at

a lap-dancing bar, a 16-year-old club groupie, a bed-ridden victim of a

less-than-accidental car accident and a hilarious hen-night scene. This

ended in tragi-comic circumstances in an encounter with a couple of

bladdered business-types trying to chat up our gorgeous Chardonnay of

Page 3 fame. They accidentally caused the clothes around her "treasure

chest" to catch fire, thereby almost certainly jeopardising her

life-long ambition to get her tits out for the lads and snare a hunky

footballer. This led to a highly amusing "the wedding's on, it's off,

it's on again" scene with Kyle, his mum and blokes in overalls putting

the marquee up and down.



Five-and-a-half million tuned in for the first episode (of eight), a 27

per cent share. This dropped to 4.6 million last week (23 per cent).



It isn't going to boost ITV1's share on its own, but I for one welcome

something different from the ITV schedules that isn't another soap,

quiz, police or vet drama. The schedule should be about variety, and be

informative and entertaining for all of us some of the time. It should

also be about culture - even if it's low, everyday culture like this.

Don't be alarmed - feeling guilty about watching it is part of the

pleasure.



Broadcaster: ITV1

Frequency: Every Tuesday at 9pm

Audience: 4.6 million (15 January)

Advertisers include: McDonald's, Cadbury's Creme Eggs, Sainsbury's,

Coca-Cola, Lucozade Sport



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