Bitchin' Channels

A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Bitchin' Channels: When darts is the best thing on TV

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What a rip-off the holiday season was, with more pissing rain than an episode of The Killing.

The silver lining in the black rain cloud was that along with being ideal for ducks, the unseasonable season provided the perfect setting for humans who practise the art of sitting on their asses gawping at the box.

It was during one of those damp days that I discovered something about myself that surprised me: I LOVE DARTS! ON TV!

I'd been aware that darts have been on TV for some time but I drew the line at becoming involved for more than a few seconds at a time. It always seemed like the TV equivalent of wearing sweat pants, of giving up, eating a frozen dinner while hooked up to dialysis.

But after watching some of the World Champs that was broadcast on SKY Sport between Christmas and New Year, I will be back for more.

The PDC world champs started with 72 contenders and ended with just two. There were Germans, Dutch, Americans, Australians, the bulk middle-aged, overweight and English.

The opposite of Sonny Bill Williams, we're talking kegs rather than six packs. Ordinary men with an extraordinary skill - the ability to place a dart next to the right number on a round cork board.

The 2500-strong crowd chanted and cheered as they watched the drama unfolding in London's Alexandra Palace - the Ally Pally as the locals call it. They were dressed like Smurfs, like nurses, Popeye the Sailor man.

It was like the rugby sevens, only inside and way more interesting. The commentary didn't suck either.

There's humour too. The contestants take on brand-names like NRL franchises or heavyweight boxers. The final was between Andy and Adrian or Andy 'The Hammer' Hamilton and Adrian 'Jackpot' Lewis.

They may look more like bin-men than athletes but don't let the potbellies deceive you, the steely gaze is a giveaway. As is the intensity on the faces, not so much of the players but of the wives, that's where the best drama is.

And then there's prize money, (£1 million in total).

There are even celebrity guests like England rugby's most famous nose, Mike Tindall, smiling from the sidelines. No mystery about the blond at his side this time, it was wife Zara Phillips, who was fittingly swigging champers rather than ale.

Fellow royal Prince Harry was there too, on the ale, having a ball.

There was even controversy. No underarm darts or racist taunts for this game, rather the match was stopped when a breeze was detected in the hall. Like a watch in an MRI machine or a side of corned beef in Harvest Wholefoods, a breeze at a darts final is not welcome. Guiding 14 grams of dart to within mere millimetres of hundreds of thousands of pounds can be a stressful business.

Add to that a few thousand drunk fans and you have yourself a situation.

Adrian 'Jackpot' Lewis was the eventual winner but runner up Andy 'The Hammer' Hamilton was the crowd favourite. At the beginning of the tournament he was a 200-1 outsider but at the end of the final the publican from Stoke on Trent was almost the best in the world. Talk about drama.

Sadly there were no streakers, although that wasn't case in this lovely clip from 2009.

Streaking at darts may be dangerous but unlike the cricket the TV cameras have nowhere to cut away to. It's sad that they deprive the home viewers of these moments of unscripted genius.

Thankfully camera-phones are coming to the rescue. He's not naked but former Aussie PM Bob Hawke showed his class at the SCG over the new year in this, my favourite clip of of the year, so far.

Check it out below:

- Herald online

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