With the World Cup underway (I’m watching South Africa v. Mexico in another browser window as I type this, having waited until 3pm for my lunch hour so I can catch the whole first half), I’ve decided to do a bit of blogging about football over the next couple of weeks. Not so much about the on-field happenings of the game itself – there are plenty of other places where people do that better than I could – but instead in the cultural and contextual aspects of the sport that particularly interest me. Next week, I’ll be doing a series of posts about various football songs, while after that I may pop up with some brief musings on topics such as football stickers, Subbuteo, kits, and that sort of thing.

For now, though, I wanted to link to a video. In 1994, BBC2 ran a theme night called “Goal TV”. This was back in the infancy of the TV “theme night” concept, and unlike some of the lazy efforts that would later characterise the genre, “Goal TV” had proper thought and care put into it. It ran for bloody hours, and had some lovely, specially-crafted continuity inbetween segments. It had longer and shorter programmes, including a brilliant Nick Hornby-narrated documentary on the game’s appeal called “The Ball is Round”, a musing on goalkeepers called “L’Etranger”, that Likely Lads episode, the 1966 film Goal!, and that sort of thing – as well as being interspersed with little two- or three-minute highlight packages of some classic World Cup games and a “Greatest Goal Ever Scored” phone vote (Maradona ’86 won). It had a very When Saturday Comes sort of feel to it – in that it was a bit intelligent, and was about a general appreciation of the game and its rich and varied culture and history, rather than descending into the laddishness, flag-waving or tribalism that often sadly blight it. Basically, it was fantastic, and I watched it – or its constituent parts – many many times on a taped copy that for a good decade or more has now sadly been lost to the ages.

I’ve tried for years to track down a copy online – either to download or even to buy on tape – but sadly very little reference to it exists. Which is why finding this rather daft but fun 20-minute programme called The Beautiful Frame, in which Clare Grogan looks at the checkered history of football’s relationship with film and TV, was such a joy. It’s a bit cheap and cheesy, but it’s still pretty enjoyable, and was the first time I’d heard of things like Jossy’s Giants. Pleasingly, the clip also includes the accompanying section of the aforementioned lovely continuity. Despite dating from two years after the Premier League’s formation, there’s a pleasant sense of pre-Sky innocence about the whole thing, and if the World Cup has got you in an all-things-football kind of mood, it’s well worth a look. Er, once this game’s finished, anyway.

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Three weeks in, and I’ve finally gotten around to getting down some thoughts on the Moffat era of Doctor Who (although not doing so sooner is less through laziness, and more because other people took on Unlimited Rice Pudding!’s reviewing duties for the first two eps). So here’s what I had to say about Mark Gatiss’ “Victory of the Daleks” – an episode that I seemed to like more than most of the internet did. And as it was my first opportunity to write about the current series, I also used the piece to start to pull together what I’m making of Matt Smith so far:

The man is a miracle, frankly. It’s far too early to start talking about his place in the pantheon, especially with his distinct character still in the process of being established, but he just gets it. He is the Doctor – it’s telling that he seems to echo so many of his predecessors at different times, but it’s as if he’s studied them all, and adheres to Moffat’s notion that “there aren’t eleven Doctors – there’s one Doctor with eleven faces” resolutely, in a way that Tennant (who had echoes of one or two, particularly (of course) Davison, but generally felt specifically Tennantish) never really did. He’s got a brilliantly nuanced awkwardness to his poise that makes him feel like the old man in a young and unfamiliar skin. He’s got the comedy fingers. He’s got the mixture of genuine authority and perpetual-verge-of-getting-called-out bluff that the Doctor should carry into any environment. He’s absolutely at home in the role, and to have been so from his first moments onscreen is an astounding feat. My only hope for him is that he can keep it up.

Quite good, then.

I’ve also been pounding out a few bits and bobs in Comics Daily’s new non-review format recently – a quick think-piece on DC’s current problem of having two characters with identical names, powers and costumes running around entitled How Do You Solve A Problem Like Wally West? ended up getting picked up and discussed by a couple of forums, which means it’s probably the most-read thing I’ve written since I was last in a magazine. And we’ve been having a bit of fun this week by taking advantage of the volcano-induced lack of new US comics to do something we’ve called “Ash vs Britain” week – so I’ve reviewed the latest 2000AD (featuring two strips by Friend of Some Of You LiveJournal Lot Al Ewing), and recommended a few excellent back issues.

Oh, and hey, did I ever link to my Kick-Ass review? A bit late now, I suppose, since the film’s been out here a few weeks, but it’s good to have the link up for posterity. As hinted at a while back, I really rather liked it (and a second viewing did nothing to change this) :

Against the odds, this is going to take some beating as the most purely entertaining action film of 2010 – and the best superhero flick since The Dark Knight. Your move, Iron Man.

I should be writing on this thing a bit more, anyway. And not just linking to stuff, either, but actually using it to post halfway worthwhile original content. I’ve a few ideas kicking around, so expect something soon. Bet you can’t wait.