Gary Neville vs. Roy Keane expanded the definition of ‘big TV’

Hasselbaink comes across as an affable guy who is happy to play along, but will have forgotten everything by the time the program’s end credits roll, sleeping the peaceful sleep of an unburdened mind.

Neville is an altogether more interesting case. Saying, “It’s great television,” when you’re actually on television, suggests a sort of joyful enjoyment of his work that I personally find rather endearing. On the other hand, it’s also a deeply uncool way to continue, like watching someone give themselves a pep talk in the mirror, Steve Coogan’s salesman character, Gareth Cheeseman, thinking, “You you’re a tiger.”

Neville now makes short self-shot videos for social media as he leaves the studio, debriefing his performances on camera. Like Charlie Brooker’s Nathan Barley, Gary has truly become a “self-facilitating media knot”. He comments on the sports agenda, he sets the sports agenda, he watches himself on television setting the sports agenda and he likes what he sees.

Apart from anything else, this sounds absolutely exhausting, but presumably if you have a lot of personal energy, a lot to say, and a deep desire for attention, it could be satisfying. One wonders how long Sky, and even its main characters, can keep it all together.

Unlike the stars of other soap operas, they can’t be written by blowing up a panty factory or getting mowed down by Mike Reid. You could certainly see Roy waking up one morning and deciding he just doesn’t fancy gutting a Tottenham full-back today, or ever again.

His illustrious former United colleague seems to be on another trajectory, ever more passionate about his words, from Erik ten Hag to Boris Johnson.

Will the need to continue making ‘big TV’ see Gary outgrow the football studio? Will the fashion wheel turn away from footballers shouting at each other? Will Gary ever find himself without an opinion? It seemed in the 1990s that the sun would never set on Manchester United’s football empire, but nothing lasts forever, not even big TV.

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