Bitchin' Channels

A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly: Cricket commentators and serial killers

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If you're watching the cricket, Paul Casserly reckons you should turn on the radio for some alternative commentaries.
Mike Lane in his Beige Brigade uniform.
Mike Lane in his Beige Brigade uniform.

One of the joys of this time of year is summer sport on TV. The Auckland, beer and bank sponsor Open continues to impress bringing in bigger names and better coverage.

But if anything illustrates the gap between New Zealand and Australia it's the tennis. The Australian Open is a world-class event as impressive as any of the Grand Slams. It's the big time. Not that magic can't and doesn't happen on our smaller stage, it's just the scale and the atmosphere is impossible to ignore. And more money means better coverage, higher tech and bigger stars.

Nadal v Monfils on Saturday was as dramatic as any even though it was always clear that Nadal would win. The Spaniard methodically took Monfil apart but despite this the Frenchman played some of the best tennis I've seen in years.

His flair is a sight to behold and I'm glad that I did. Like the Big Day Out - which was terrific in its new home at Western Springs - the joy of tennis is also about stumbling on the unexpected.

And to think I used to just watch the finals. DOH.

Cricket is the other great joy of summer viewing, the most recent being that sensational ODI against India in Napier on the weekend. There's nothing wrong with the Sky TV commentary but familiarity is known to breed contempt. Luckily the internet via iHeart Radio had given birth to a solution in the form of The Alternative Commentary Collective which includes the likes of Leigh Hart, Jeremy Wells, Matt Heath, Ben Hurley, Lee Baker, Jason Hoyte and Beige Brigade founder Mike Lane.

Wells and Hoyte seem to know their cricket and provide solid if unorthodox commentary while the other cricket tragics join in pushing the boundaries with absurdity. I've always had an interest in alternative commentary ever since I heard some the brilliant work by the ABC's legendary Roy and HG, to which this excellent broadcast owes much.

The same combination of astute ball-by-ball discussions mixed with absurd diversions is beautifully deployed by the ACC. After some initial tweaking of the sync (pausing the MySky for a few seconds seemed to work) I was hooked. The commentary ranged in subject matters from hairdresser Rodney Wayne to Nazi CEO Adolf Hitler.

The Rodney Green end of Mclean Park became the Rodney Wayne end. In fact hair was big topic. This is Matt Heath on Indian player Sharma who has an incredible mop of hair: "I've changed my mind about Sharma's hair now, I thought it was unkempt but it has a lovely sheen when he has a bit of sweat running through it."

Wells: "I wonder what he washes it with? I've moved on from Salon Selective and am now using an old bottle of Timotei."

Before long talk of hair had moved on to "men touching men". Mike Lane: "A lot more touching between men in the subcontinent, gentleman holding hands."

Wells: "What if someone moves around to the buttock?"

Soon they were on to talking about "cupping of the testicles" and the "cricketer's a***" which according to Lee Baker "was just asking to be patted". He added that "Mark Gillespie has one of the great a**** in cricket".

Within two hours the boys covered everything from Hitler to being "s*** on by Albert Einstein".

Leigh Hart, the absurdist in chief, was soon interjecting the sort of memorabilia offers heard mostly on the Australian coverage. "We are selling individual frames, they are numbered and there's only 500" before recounting the time he "euthanised an Ostrich with a cricket bat".

But the star performer was Jason Hoyte, a long time Leigh Hart collaborator, Nothing Trivial regular and one time member of legendary Auckland comedy duo Sugar and Spice. His combination of solid info and madness was pitch perfect. The magic happens again this Wednesday for the Hamilton game.

Expectation has been high for the new HBO series True Detective (Soho, Tuesdays, 8.30pm) and the first episode delivered in blood splattered spades - though to be fair the show is more about damaged psyches than mangled bodies.

In fact the killer sequence in the opening is a conversation in a car between the two cops played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, who have never been better.

It's a moody affair with killer dialogue and despite the hackneyed subject matter it has a refreshing feel that suggests a desire to avoid the clichés abused by many a serial killer production. The feeling of creeping dread is acute and is much enhanced by the music of T Bone Burnett.

Like The Alternative Commentary Collective - which makes all other commentaries seem lame - True Detective knocks all other serial killer dramas into cocked hats, before taking a dump on them.

Albert Einstein would approve.

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