The latest in the ubiquitous mockumentary genre, Mike Bassett: England Manager
follows the eponymous hapless head-honcho of the England Squad through the build-up to the World Cup. Ricky Tomlinson is Bassett, once again donning the sheepskin coat of the nation's favourite working-class northern underdog (Riff Raff
, The Royle Family
). Plucked from obscurity and literally out of his league Bassett is the last choice for the unwanted job of England Manager. He's also hamstrung by a team of misfits, clearly modelled on well-known England players, including a violent psychopath who's more interested in breaking limbs than breaking away with the ball and a blubbing Geordie team-joker. Bassett and his team of allsorts are further hampered by drunken arrests, forgotten balls and Brazilian girls turning out to be boys.
Though primarily a vehicle for Tomlinson, there's the usual smattering of Lock Stock faces and cameo appearances here: Phill Jupitus underacts a jaundiced sports hack; Keith Allen sends himself up as a new-lad celeb leading the team through the their awful World Cup song; and Atomic Kitten are, well, Atomic Kitten. Fart jokes and swearing provide plenty of beer-belly laughs, and the Henry V "once more unto the breach, dear friends"-style attack on the fickle back-stabbing English press proves unexpectedly poignant. Throw in a trendy soundtrack featuring Robbie Williams and Artful Dodger, and we have a cup-winner. It may be episodic, patchy and xenophobic in places, but football fans, or anyone who can take the odd high tackle, will enjoy this bittersweet taste of flawed glory leavened by British humour at its self-deprecating best. --Paul Eisinger
When Phil Cope (Malcolm Terris), the manager of the England football team, suffers a heart attack during the qualifying rounds of the World Cup, the Football Association opts to replace him with Norwich FC manager Mike Bassett (Ricky Tomlinson). Followed everywhere he goes by a documentary crew, Bassett gets off to a rocky start when his boys lose to Poland, and he doesn't fare much better in games against Belgium and Slovenia. The press are against him, and the country as a whole seems to have little hope for the national team, but can Bassett do the impossible and turn the lads' game around?