By Paul McConville
TIS the season – the season for selection box sport on the telly. By selection box, I don't mean tasting a little bit of lots of different sports, but rather watching stuff that's best viewed with a selection box or tin of Roses to hand. BBC Sports Personality of the Year or some Strongest Man in the World competition that was filmed in sunnier climes about six months ago are usually standard fodder this kind of pursuit, but the World Darts Championship trumps them all.
It's the ultimate comfort sport, although few would be sitting as comfortable as the members of Italian electronic dance musical ensemble Planet Funk, much in the style of Hugh Grant's character in About A Boy. They could afford a truckload of Roses (or are them more Celebrations kind of folk?) at this time of year as the now familiar 'oi, oi, oi' refrain to their Chase the Sun track reverberates around 'the Ally Pally' (you're humming it now, aren't you).
Wall-to-sweat-soaked-wall of action from the north London venue is such a big deal now that Sky Sports devote an entire channel to arrows throughout December.
The problem with giving a whole channel over to something which only runs for about five or six hours a day is that there's an exceptional amount of padding. Sky Sports have tried to plug the gaps with offerings such as Legends of Darts and Darts Gold.
So when the live action isn't taking place, you can relive some memorable moments over and over and over and over again. In reality, it's the same handful of moments on a loop throughout the day. Remember the time when Bob Anderson made his entrance to the oche on a horse? Well, you'll be sick of the sight of nag after seeing it about six times in the space of two hours on Sky Sports Darts. The reason for the equine entrace was Bob's nickname 'The Rhinestone Cowboy', although given his fear of his four-legged companion, he was more Glenroe then Glen Campbell.
Unfortunately for Sky Sports darts pundit Wayne 'Hawaii 501' Mardle, there was also the chance to relive his bittersweet victory over Phil Taylor in the 2008 quarter-final on hard rotation. Mardle's tears after that win over the Power can be viewed a good half-dozen times on any given day, and are pretty painful for Wayne given that he went out to the unheralded Kirk Shepherd in the semi-final.
Now Wayne can mostly be found doling out decent punditry and milling around crowd to pick out the best dressed punters
The action itself, though, is gripping and will continue to get even more tense as the business end approaches. Early highlights included the lightning quick throwing of Rapid Ricky Evan, who can rack up a 180 quicker than you can whip the wrapper off a Cadburys Dairy Milk, and a bid for best festive nickname from England's Mark Frost who goes by the moniker 'Frosty the Throwman'.
Peter 'Snakebite' Wright is warming up nicely and could be a serious threat to the likes of Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen. He dealt comfortably with Jerry 'Jimi' Hendricks, with the Dutchman admitting to feeling like a fish up on the stage. Horses, fish, snakes... it's turning into a bit of a menagerie at the Ally Pally. Pass me another Lion bar...