Bert and Dickie’s adventure showcased the best of that nostalgic, pink-tinged drama that the BBC does so well, even if this 90-minute piece initially resembled nothing so much as a contemporary Midsomer Murders...
Bert and Dickie, the best of British
Instead of bodies in the boatshed, however, we had earnest discussions about how best to beat those blasted Russians, and it became more similar to that amazing mini-series telling the story of the Bodyline 1932 Ashes controversy – high praise indeed.
Every box was ticked in this Olympic romp. Bert Bushnel (Matt Smith) and Dickie Burnell (Sam Hoare) had to overcome class differences and initial mistrust to find their rhythm in the boat. It turned out – who knew – that each had their respective chips on their shoulder and family pressures - the ever-lugubrious wonder that is Geoffrey Palmer - to contend with, as well as the love of a good, fine-boned woman to make it all worthwhile.
Bertie’s zeal paired with his distance from the establishment Eton ease of his partner was a little bit Chariots-of-Fire-lite, but I realise I’m viewing this from a 21st century perspective, where athletes no longer have to face the raised eyebrow of the man in the suit if they don’t happen to have perfected their pace on the Cambridge lawn.
Class differences, chips on shoulders, unbridled passions - Bert and Dickie had it all
Meanwhile, the side stories of Bertie’s fiancée having to watch him race in a local shop and the American oarsmen Jack Kelly (aka film star Grace’s brother) being fed with the only lamb chop in the village reminded us that the Austerity Games were not poor in spirit, and provided a hearty bed on which to build the central, inspiring plot.
By the end of this meaty tale, two things had happened – Matt Smith had completely shrugged off his other, more famous incarnation, and I was completely ready for the next Olympics, which was just as well, considering.
Over on the other side, ITV documented the 20 Best British Gold Olympians, with all the usual suspects. It was great to see another Dickie – the white-quiffed Mr Davies - in action again, even if he was only called upon to discuss Daley Thompson’s virtues, and much of the countdown game was given away by the roll-call of guests. One question though – no less than three rowers – Messrs Redgrave, Pinsent and Cracknell – were included separately in this list. All deserving, don’t get me wrong, but all winning a gold in the same boat in 2000. This seemed a bit rowing-weighted, especially as there never was, nor should there be, any question of splitting the awe-inspiring Torvill and Dean.
Oh well, no doubt not the last sporting controversy we’ll be encountering over the next fortnight.