Phil and Paul’s ITV4 absence revisited

A lot of people are really, really angry about Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen being dumped as ITV4’s Tour de France commentators. I find this fascinating.

I’ve mentioned Phil and Paul’s departure on three occasions. The piece linked above attracted any number of comments bemoaning their absence, as did my original piece about ITV4’s coverage. In contrast, a piece I wrote for my day job at saw most respondents expressing support for the decision.

Of those who are against their absence, some have gone on the offensive. However, I’m taking much of the criticism of Ned Boulting and David Millar – Phil and Paul’s replacements – with a pinch of salt. It strikes me that for a lot of people, no substitutes would ever do.

But why? What’s so special about Phil and Paul?

In response to one person who said the decision to chuck the long-serving duo meant they would not be watching the race, I suggested that this was like boycotting your favourite restaurant because they’ve changed the napkins. This is how it seems to me. I never felt the pair added a lot. At the same time, I can’t deny the obvious depth of feeling others had for them.

Tradition is, it seems, a powerful thing. Personally, I have always seen ‘tradition’ as being the explanation people give for doing something when there’s no longer a logical reason for doing it. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those for whom the Tour de France is gentle escapism with Phil and Paul an integral part of an annual appointment which just happens to revolve around bike racing. If few would put themselves in that exact category, it’s nevertheless true that the non-cycling trivia is still a major joy of the race for most people.

Lessons for Phil and Paul’s replacements

Reading between the lines of the many comments left on this site, it’s clear that idle chit-chat about chateaux is the main area where Ned and Dave aren’t up to the mark. This isn’t as trivial as it seems, because if the highlights show focuses primarily on the racing, the live broadcast is far more a travel programme.

Again, I’ll repeat my point that Liggett and Sherwen are pretty awful at getting people’s names right and personally I think that’s a really important and basic aspect of commentary. The fact that their commentary was primarily for an American audience also meant lots of long, rambling discussion of the prospects of riders like Tejay Van Garderen and Andrew Talansky, neither of whom have ever really shown too many signs of making an impact.

Ned and Dave are proving good replacements when it comes to the racing, but they have a broader remit than that. A lot of people are resistant to change, but there is still something of a theme to complaints about their work. It is probably worth paying heed to them.

So Ned, Dave: More inconsequential cobblers about scenery! You have to take this part of the job more seriously.

Stage 10

I rambled on about that way more than I meant to. I’d intended today’s post to be more of a rest day round-up.

Here’s the top ten.


And below is the stage profile for stage 10.

You’d assume the sprinters’ teams will try and engineer it so everyone finishes together, but that category three climb near the end could disrupt them. It’s nothing too major though, so maybe not.

Delicacies of this region include hypocras (described as a “medieval aperitif”) and several types of cassoulet, including mounjetado, “mountain cassoulet”.

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2016 Tour de France, stage 10


5 responses to “Phil and Paul’s ITV4 absence revisited”

  1. Jimmy Peaks avatar
    Jimmy Peaks

    The thing about Phil and Paul was they were reassuringly shit, like Bruce Forsyth or Woolworths. Their incompetence was charming and I think that’s the reason why so many people liked them. Like most people, I don’t like change. But I do think Ned and Dave do a much better job of it, and I think that might be the problem.

    1. Ha. Yeah, I think there probably is something in that.

  2. After Murray Walker, F1 commentary had a revolving door of commentators who were competent, but failed to meet the mythical standard Walker had (or hadn’t) set. Same issue here I think.

    A lot of people have just become so used to Phil and Paul that there is an unjustified weight of expectation on anyone who follows them (I suspect this is especially true for people who only watch the Tour). Add to that the way Millar divides opinion (personally, I love him) and probably the fact that he has also been pretty vocal on Phil Liggett in the past.

    I never liked Phil and Paul, but they fulfilled a role which was probably necessary in international coverage, but then I’m also one of the few people who doesn’t like Boulting’s commentary, so maybe you just can’t please anyone.

    If I turned off every sport where the commentary got my back up though, I’d just be left watching You’ve Been Framed.

  3. Phil Liggett has always been The Voice of Cycling, and all that stuff about chateaux was rather charming, but the new team are a breath of fresh air. They bring real insight into the racing (hurrah!) and they don’t mangle the riders’ names – double hurrah! It’s a shame that David Millar’s voice is quite hard to listen to, but we got over that hurdle in our house by simply trying Sean Kelly for a bit over on Eurosport. See – David Millar’s not so hard after all! I miss the Ned Boulting/Chris Boardman comedy vignettes though.

    Just one criticism – David Millar describes every stage as a “battle royale” – perhaps you could have this as Dish of the Day?

    1. I wonder how many of my phrases would start to irritate people if I were forced to do commentary. You’re right though, ‘battle royale’ has too many airings.

      I wonder whether he’s seen the film. You know, the one about Japanese schoolkids pitted against each other in a last one standing fight to the death. Cheery stuff.

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