Superstars (3 stars)

Five, Fri 11 Jul, 8pm


Sporting life was very different in the 1970s. Kevin Keegan had bubblier hair, the only athletes who used artificial enhancement to boost their performance seemed to be born female in East Germany and it was still possible to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon with a wooden racket. Into such an antiquated world came Superstars, the BBC’s better-looking, more competitive cousin to It’s a Knockout without the manic wailing of Stuart Hall or the 15ft inflatable gnomes tripping up the contestants. The series also proved beyond doubt that, contrary to my gym teacher’s stern belief that being cursed with such a forename was a hindrance to sporting achievement, it was possible to have an animated snail’s name and do well on the mats, tracks and shooting ranges of the world: the two Brians, Hooper and Jacks became household names in the UK for their multi-tasking antics.

And after a series of one-off Sport Relief resurrections, Superstars is back on Five with teams led by Kelly Holmes, Steve Redgrave, Roger Black and Mike Catt, opening with a rather embarrassing episode in which the captains take their first picks with the archetypal fat and/or asthmatic kids (in this case, all the women competitors) being left to sulk at the back. Happily, they’ve maintained the dramatic yet homely theme tune by Johnny Pearson, opting wisely not to give it a make-over and whack on some drum & bass to tart things up a bit. All we need now is to see skin being burned off the feet during those notorious squat thrusts as Gene Hunt barks abuse from the sidelines and all will be well with the world again.

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