A new era dawns at ITV Sport on Tuesday evening. Coverage of the Champions League game between Chelsea and PSG will be introduced from studio by the professional broadcaster, Mark Pougatch. He’s one of the few who have transferred their skills from radio to television. Some have taken the switch in their stride, others have not. Pougatch, always good on BBC Radio, has looked comfortable on TV so far and will be a solid and reliable presenter for ITV.
On ITV 1 he will know that he doesn’t have a tough act to follow. At least not a popular one.
Now listen up people. I produced TV for a quarter of a century. I have been privileged to whisper sweet somethings into the ear of some of the very best TV presenters in the history of British television. And one or two of the worst.
So, both with that hat on and as a devout viewer of free-to-air sport on UK television, please permit me to spout my two penny worth on the demise of Adrian Chiles – a man who would never have been appointed at the BBC in the days of Lord Reith. But then that applies to so very many presenters who are now paid silly money to read autocue and talk to guests.
ITV have shown Chiles the door and Adrian may sue them. Why doesn’t he employ Roy Keane to go to ITV HQ and threaten to do nasty things to the bosses unless they suitably compensate Chiles?
For a moment, let me be fair. Adrian Chiles is not the worst presenter to ever work in television. He’s not even close to that.
I always thought he was good presenting the lunchtime BBC2 programme called ‘Working Lunch.’ That’s when I first noticed him and I thought he was accomplished at fronting the business show. His wish was to make financial news more understandable to those who think FT means full time. And I thought he succeeded.
Adrian then didn’t look like Adrian now. Far from it. He was several stone heavier in those days. He didn’t look like the usual clone that comes off the TV presenter manufacturing line. If you ever saw the film ‘Westworld’ you will know what I am on about. When that movie was made in 1973 the word clone was not in everday use. A duplicate Yul Brynner ‘shot it up’ with James Brolin, who couldn’t tell one Bryner from another.
That’s akin to when you switch on Football Focus on a Saturday. The most boring football programme currently the BBC. In times past you could be forgiven for wondering which plastic man you were watching. Is that Jake Humphrey or the other fella, Dan Walker? Were they separated at birth?
The Adrian Chiles gimmick was his accent. As his weight decreased, the Brummie tone was accentuated. It is, as TV critic Martin Kelner once said to me: “a bit irritating.”
Time was you couldn’t work in front of camera if you had a regional accent. Now it seems you will struggle to work on TV if you do speak English correctly. The Queen’s English has given way to ‘ecky thump broadcasting.
Got a regional accent? Great! Then the job is yours. And if you’re blonde with big tits, so much the better. Adrian’s tits are nowhere near as big as they once were. He ditched them, along with a loyal, sacrificing wife. She supported him in his early career and then again when it took off. Then he left home and she was left to bring up their two children while also retaining her own broadcasting career.
Having shed the pounds and gone to a hair stylist, Chiles ran off with a younger model. One with many fewer brain cells than his ex-wife. But one who he thought could be ‘Judy’ to his ‘Richard.’
In a wonderful instance of ‘what goes around, comes around’, she ditched him for a wealthy professional footballer. Poetic.
Which is more than can be said for his on air delivery. People such as sports journalist Giles Smith have come out in his defence. I could hardly believe what I was reading when Smith made his case for the defence of Adrian Chiles. It says much that the ghastly Rod Liddle is also sticking up for Chiles. He used his Sunday Times column to rage against the sacking.
ITV Sport lost the contract to televise Champions League football in the future. Cutbacks had to be made. Chiles is far from being the only employee to be shown the door. The capable if a tad effeminate Matt Smith has also been dispensed with as a presenter and Andy “pay me to state the bleeding obvious” Townsend has lost his long lasting gig as co-commentator. Andy is a nice fella. I can attest to that. But he lacked insight and originality.
I find ITV senior football commentator Clive Tyldesley to be much more annoying than either Chiles or Townsend. A man who I know has a history of pre-scripting supposed ad libs in the hope of being able to deliver them on air in a seemingly spontaneous way. It seems he has survived the cull.
Adrian Chiles has taken all manner of stick on social media. But I don’t believe the experienced TV executive Niall Sloane will have sacked Chiles solely because of that. Niall is a good man and a professional operator. He stuck by Chiles for as long as he felt he could.
You can’t have someone fronting a programme who receives more online attention than the football match you’re showing. And, although football is a game Chiles knows very well, that did not make him someone who could present its coverage very well. That happens in television sometimes.
You can be too close to the subject matter to be good at presenting it. You can be too much of a fan. Adrian Chiles was that man.
Like a footballer on high wages, his ludicrous salary also attracted negative publicity. Nothing new there. TV presenter salaries are an utter nonsense. A society that pays someone much more to read autocue than care for the sick in hospital, is a society that has lost the plot.
ITV will have to reach a settlement with Chiles regarding the one million pound, two year contract he signed only last summer.
In their continuing efforts to take BBC Radio 5 live downmarket, bosses there gave Chiles his own show. He was fine when interviewing someone about football, but utterly out of his depth when switiching to talk with the recently bereaved, or discussing terrorist attrocities.