They think it’s all over is much more than just another vehicle for rude jokes about private parts and flatulence. Basically, it is Have I got news for you for plebs or, rather, for the great majority of people who are not interested in current affairs and politics. So the BBC should leave it alone.
The guest panellists are treated in much the same way as on HIGNFY – they are the butt of jokes and woe betide if their transgressions have been in the tabloids recently, they can be sure Nick Hancock and his fellow regulars will mercilessly rib them about it.
And that is the whole fun of the programme which its opponents in the BBC hierarchy have not understood. The main purpose of TTIAO is to debunk the myth that those massively overpaid sports stars as gods. They are rarely able to answer the questions – a source of great satisfaction to those of us who can – and they are never as quick witted and funny as the regulars, even if they have come prepared with a couple of set piece jokes.
Our sporting idols are revealed for what they are. Blokes (mostly) who happen to have been born with a particular special talent but who, apart from that, are just like the rest of us. And that is why the programme has been so popular, especially among teenagers. It is so reassuring to know that we are cleverer or sharper than the sporting idols even if they do earn 50 times more than us.
The programme can also lay claim to having totally changed the image of one of our real sporting stars, Gary Lineker. He was a team captain for eight years and watching him losing his image as the cleanest, straightest and most boring man in the world made the programme required viewing. As for David Gower, he might have had the best cover drive in the world, but nothing, not even a similar long stint as captain, could make him interesting.
Now is a particularly silly time to be talking of killing it off. The new captains are both stars in the making who have given the programme, with a slightly changed format, a new lease of life. Ian Wright has always shown that his gift of the gab is as good as his gift for goals, and Phil Tufnell, now that his wife-beating days are thankfully over, Cleary has got a future as chirpy Cockney funny man (even if he does come from respectable middle class stock in Barnet).
And if the BBC bigwigs think that the whole programme is an excuse for the regulars to grope female synchronised swimmers, then they have not been watching it. Far from being a licence for lechers, TTIAO breaks the traditional taboo about men touching each other and watching how these macho men deal with this potentially embarrassing situation is a high point of the programme. Indeed, most of the guests who have to be identified by the panellists wearing blindfolds are such sumo wrestlers, rugby players or boxers one of whom, famously, even once threw a punch when the hands got too near his privates.
So, as a middle age bloke whose lad days are long over but who loves watching the mickey taken out of sports stars, I say leave TTIAO alone.