105. Dodgy

Tapehead no 105

Anyone who thought the BBC’s decision to cancel their documentary about the life and times of Terry Venables during Euro 96 hinted at any kind of controversy will be warned not to expect anything too exciting by the title they’ve given itTerry Venables: The Man Who Would Be King. 

Hopes of a programme called Tel Boy: Right Dodgy Geezer have thus been dashed.

Still, the programme proves its own point that the media has always loved Tel, if only because, Tapehead suspects, Terry has always loved it back. Not only does he own a nightclub, he even named it Scribes.

From his first TV interview as a child prodigy at the age of 16, we see Terry through the years, dazzling the press with his witty quips, salt-of-the-earth bon-viveur charm and over enthusiastic crooning. The programme-makers fall for him all over again.

They whizz past little inconveniences like the dirt dug up by Panorama, glossing over the minefield of El Tel’s career, when everyone knows the real highlight was that he wrote the Nicholas Ball 70s cop-show Hazel.

Terry, for his part, appears grinning winningly throughout, filmed in a hideous England sweatshirt that makes his head look as if it’s been superimposed on top like a cardboard cut-out.

Their summary is embarrassing: 

“He bowed out, a hero in defeat…? Villain or victim, one thing’s for sure: we haven’t heard the last of Terence Frederick Venables.” 

As if that’s some sort of achievement. We haven’t heard the last of Myra Hindley or Status Quo either.

A clip of Tommy Docherty steals the coaching honours with a half-time team talk from the sixties that displays all the tactical genius that made him great. “It’ll come good in the end,” he tells them. “Keep playing that football !”

The System, sadly, is not about Terry’s love of wing-backs, but the traumas and turmoil that follow in the wake of the Child Support Agency.

Four out of five single mothers receive nothing from the fathers, leading to the obvious conclusion: all men are bastards (and let’s face it, Tapehead should know).

David, a millionaire with a £400, 000 house and a £80, 000 car, refuses to give the mother of his child a penny, insisting that he didn’t want a baby and doesn’t see why he should pay for her to have one. He even has the audacity to compare himself to Emmeline Pankhurst, although the £50-a-week maintenance is nothing to him. 

“I don’t care whether it’s a fiver. I don’t want to pay it !”

Paul, on the other hand, is a hapless, penniless individual, whose life has been ruined, first by the fact that Helen chucked him out, and second because, he says, she is now using the CSA to batter him the way she did when they were together. 

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he whimpers. 

“We met when we were very young,” she says charmlessly. “I grew up and he didn’t”

Paul knows he’s losing his grip, mainly because every time he hears songs like Elton John’s Sacrifice he starts weeping. Tapehead hopes Elton John’s proud of himself: upsetting Paul like that.

Paul complains that the CSA has no sympathy for anyone, no matter what sex they are. Neither does Tapehead, apart from the bloke who complains his maintenance payment isn’t fair on the grounds “I could lose my television.”

Now THAT is diabolical. 

And hats off to the woman who told the CSA she didn’t know who the absentee father was because when she got pregnant she was hanging out of a window being sick. 

So that’s how you get pregnant.


Terry Venables The Man Who Would Be King: Sun, 9pm, BBC2

The System: Thurs, 9.30pm, BBC2