As the tension begins to mount in the build-up to the greatest sporting event on the planet, BBC2's wonderful World Cup Stories series is a great way to get acclimatised to the competition. Looking at different countries every week, each documentary is insightful, informative, interesting and imaginative. The story of England's success in 1966 didn't just rehash the old and overdone story, but looked in depth at the mind and managing style of Sir Alf Ramsay, while this week's look at France's 1998 winning team showed how the football team's success united a country that was being torn apart by racism and fears about immigration.
THE THINKBOX WEBSITE
The television trade body Thinkbox has revamped its website (www.thinkbox.tv) and we think the result is a big improvement. You can watch new TV ads, and access contacts from companies including media agencies and ad-funded programming specialists. Interviews with leading industry figures on how best to use TV add a new perspective. We're still not sure about the TV Bitch section, though.
"THE VOICE OF THE BALLS"
We have long admired the National Lottery announcer Alan Dedicoat's professionalism (especially as he has also been the voice at numerous Campaign awards), but last weekend he surpassed himself. As the rotund lottery presenter Eamonn Holmes was thrust aside by several Fathers 4 Justice campaigners, the BBC cut the sound to avoid giving the stage invaders undue publicity. Cue Dedicoat, who had to fill several minutes of dead air with a vivid description of what was happening in the studio, even though he could not see half of what was going on. What a trooper.
LORDI'S TRIUMPH AT EUROVISION
Among all the Euro-pop campery and folk-music nonsense, it was great to see the Finnish hard rock outfit Lordi triumph at the Eurovision Song Contest. Instantly proclaiming their victory as one for rock music as well as for Finland, Lordi were forced to deny allegations of links with Satanism and other dark forces. Their song, Hard Rock Hallelujah, was terrible, but the win was worth it if only to hear a bemused Terry Wogan's comments.
AND ONE THING WE DON'T ...
Amstel, a beer it seemed you used only to be able to find on holiday in Greece, has built its brand image through association with Champions League football. But, for us, all that goodwill was lost last week in Paris. Needing some refreshment after a nerve-wrenching first half between Arsenal and Barcelona, all we could find at the so-called bars in the Stade de France was watery, low-alcohol Amstel. If you can't serve the full-strength stuff, then don't bother.