It's been a long time coming, but the waiting is finally over for football fans: the FIFA World Cup kicks off on Friday. Hosts Germany set the ball rolling on 31 days of football when they take on Costa Rica in the tournament's opening match (ATV World and ATV Home, Friday at 11.45pm; EPL, Friday at 11.30pm) and those of you who do not subscribe to i-Cable Communications' Cable TV had better savour every moment of this game - it will be the last live action you'll see on your television sets until the semifinals, on July 4 and July 5.
Cable TV has secured the rights to be the tournament's official broadcaster in Hong Kong and will show every match live on its EPL channel (apart from the final group matches, which take place two at a time, when the Super Soccer channel will also screen live games). As part of the FIFA licensing agreement, however, Cable TV is obliged to sub-license some matches to free-to-air stations so that everyone in the territory can view at least part of the tournament. Hence, the opening match will be on ATV, the semifinals on TVB Pearl and TVB Jade and the final on both terrestrial broadcasters. Both will also screen daily highlights, as will AXN on Now Broadband. However, in ATV's case this will be in Cantonese, on its Home channel, while TVB Pearl's daily highlights will last for a grand total of about one minute.
This is great news for Cable TV subscribers. It is also great news for casual football fans who want no more than a taster of the tournament on their televisions. It is even better news for the bars that will be staying open to screen the many midnight and 3am games. It isn't such great news, however, for football fans who don't have Cable TV, whether because they can't afford it, have chosen to subscribe only to Now Broadband or simply live in a building not covered by Cable TV (in the latter case, the company offers a satellite service, but installation of a dish costs $2,000 and a minimum 12-month subscription is required).
Of course, you can't blame Cable TV for this. For one, there is no reason to assume the bidding war for World Cup television rights was anything other than fair. Moreover, in the past few years,
Cable TV's commitment to showing live football has been second to none in this corner of the world. Nevertheless, there is something about all this that sticks in the craw and the blame seems to fall squarely at the door of World Cup organiser FIFA. Events such as the World Cup and the Olympic Games surely belong to the world and as such, should be available to as large an audience as possible.
Unfortunately, money talks and the network that offers the highest sum invariably gets the rights. Making sure most of the world can watch the world's game seems to rate a distant second. Cable TV was unable to confirm this (a representative said they couldn't disclose details relating to World Cup broadcasting rights for 'commercial reasons'), but one thing is for sure: watching the World Cup on television has spurred many of today's most talented players on to greatness and Hong Kong's answer to Zinedine Zidane or Ronaldinho will not be found sipping a pint of lager in a Wan Chai sports bar.
Away from football, a literary classic gets a makeover this week on ATV World in the miniseries Frankenstein (Sundays at 9pm). This faithful retelling of Mary Shelley's influential novel boasts what, at first glance, appears to be an impressive cast, with Julie Delpy, William Hurt and Donald Sutherland topping the bill. In reality, however, Delpy is in just two scenes, Hurt has a minor role as a university professor and Sutherland (who seems to be in just about everything these days) plays Captain Walton, the explorer to whom Victor Frankenstein tells his story - little more than a cameo. The remainder of the cast is less well-known, and with good reason. Alec Newman (above left) sets the tone with a ridiculously excitable performance as Dr Frankenstein, while Nicole Lewis simpers damply as his sweetheart, Elizabeth. Most surprising of all is the choice of 'actor' to play the creature:
Luke Goss (above right), formerly of 1980s British boy band Bros.
Considering the quality of the source material and the potential to examine questions of faith, science, prejudice and obsession, this melodramatic turkey is a greater abomination than a monster composed of grave-robbed body parts could ever be. It is, however, a laugh-along comedy classic. Pity it's not meant to be.
Far scarier is Survival of the Meanest (National Geographic, Monday at 9pm), which goes behind the bars of California State Prison, in Sacramento, to reveal just how tough life can be in a maximum security penitentiary. In an institution where 70 per cent of the population have been convicted of a violent crime, inmates must join brutal gangs - organised by race - to stand any chance of survival and any show of weakness can result in a beating, rape or even death. Prisoners explain the importance of territory, respect and the inmate hierarchy, as well as how quickly and ferociously violence can erupt if any of these are disregarded.
As gang leader-turned-snitch J-Dawg says: 'It's a shark tank ... there ain't no fish out there. It's all sharks and they all got teeth.'