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And here it is on Soundcloud…
And here it is on Soundcloud…
Oh! What happened to you?
Seriously, though, what did become of the people, we used to be. Tomorrow’s almost over, the day went by so fast. And so forth. That, or: The Sweeney, the Sweener, ner-ner-ner-na-ner-ner-ner-ner-ner
High above the streets and houses…
And, sorry, but another of our tracks has been deleted by our friends at Soundcloud. So we’re having to use a cover of Mountain’s Nantucket Sleigh Ride. But please don’t hold that against it when it comes to your vote. Although, Rainbow is better.
Break-out the hand jive for…
Due to the Only Connect-esque rules of engagement, these are the only two themes in the play-off which hail from the game genre, but let’s decide, which is best.
Egads! Lord Terrence of Woganshire in a duff-up with the boy Tucker Jenkins, you say? It must be…
Of course, the ‘Blank theme became an actual talking point on Danny Baker’s Five Live show earlier in the year, when debate broke out in TV Cream’s Twitter feed about whether it’s an actual theme or a sting. Further controversy follows today. The Hawkshaw ‘Chicken Man’ we uploaded has since been nixed by the, erm, checking man on Soundcloud. So we’re substituting a jolly cover (above). Anyway, sorry about all that.
More battling tunes in…
Our second-play-off features the militaristic miasma that is Screen Test vs the Phil Lynott-endorsed sounds of war!
And we’re back! It’s the play-off phase of…
Over the next eight weeks we’ll be battling 16 themes in one-on-one votes. And it begins here, with a mammoth Grainer/Dankworth clash. Who will rule?
The heats end here! It’s the final week in the prelim rounds of… [deep breath]
Yup, after this poll, it’s all going to go a little quiet as we take some time out from banging on about fucking voting all the time. But, please, don’t lose heart. We’ve got four smashing quiz show themes in contention: Call My Bluff, Treasure Hunt, University Challenge and Blockbusters. Whichever is deemed the best will go into our fab 15 of themes which – once we’ve worked out how we’re going to do this – will be battling it out for ultimate best theme honour!
The penultimate week (of the opening rounds, sigh) of…
The handsome chap has it, surely? Don’t let us down! Jigsaw vs Screen Test vs The 8.15 From Manchester vs Think of a Number
Foregone conclusion! It’s…
Yes, Dr Who is going to win this. It can’t not. But let’s try for a little bit of fun anyway (not in the least, we’ll hopefully prompt someone to comment below it’s ‘Doctor’) with this quantel-compiled quartet of brilliant themes. And they really are. We don’t think even Ian ‘No Relation’ Jones will be grumbling about this selection: Blake’s 7 vs Dr Who vs Hitchhiker’s vs The Tomorrow People. And don’t they all have smashing logos too?
Let’s get ready to POP, it’s…
An exciting line-up, indeed, with Cheggers vs The Old Grey Whistle Test, vs Ver Pops vs Ver Pops again!
Here’s excitements, a double duo of drama (we phrase it like that for the alliteration) going into battle for this week’s…
That’s the Mermaid Boatyard vs The Village vs Darrowby V’t’nry vs the Bureau des Étrangers.
So much better than last week’s, it’s…
And here’s fun! Yes, ver Blank and ver Letters (we haven’t done that ‘ver’ thing for years) but really, it comes to this – Lal vs Brucie. Really interested to see which Gen Game theme will win. Actually, if we’d thought this through, we’d have included a fifth option, for Larry’s ‘walk onto the stage’ second theme too. Anyway…
Let’s be clear, we fully expect Alan Hawkshaw’s roughly rubbed güiro to steal the day, but all the same, have fun!
This week, time for a little edutainment as we battle four factual TV titles. Which will you decide is the most melodic? Ladies and gentlemen, once again, it is…
Holiday vs Tomorrow’s World vs Top Gear vs Wish You Were Here!
Welcome, welcome, welcome home to our battle of the TV themes initiative. After our Christmas break, we return with another round that we genuinely reckon will be hotly contested. Gird yourselves for this week’s…
That’s Bod vs Jamie and the Magic Torch vs Pigeon Street vs Rainbow!
The main battle for audiences on Christmas Day has always been sold as BBC1 vs ITV – although ITV rarely seem to make more than a token effort. Indeed, BBC1’s competition on the big day is more likely to come from the dinner table, the games console and the extended family than it is any other channel. While the broadcasters may cling to the idea of everyone sitting in silence to give the programmes their full attention, the chances of that actually being the case in the majority of homes seems pretty unlikely.
It used to be that the big shows would have to be watched live, or you’d wait until the following Christmas – or if the BBC were particularly stretched, the summer – to see them again. But nowadays it’s easier than ever to catch the main TV attractions without having to wolf down the turkey or tell Gran to keep the noise down. PVRs were whirring their way throughout the day, the Beeb were eager to promote iPlayer as an alternative and almost everything on the 25th got a swift repeat over the next few days.
This is perhaps the main reason why the highest rated programme on Christmas Day – as last year, an episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys – could only pull in 7.9 million viewers on the day itself, over a million down on 12 months ago, while everything else also reported declining ratings year on year. This led to much hand-wringing and newspaper reports pondering if the Christmas fare was substandard, although early indications were that the number of people watching on-demand and recordings was extremely high and many shows edged up to a healthier figure as these viewers were added onto the ratings.
Certainly the BBC1 schedule, though perhaps a bit familiar in places, seemed perfectly good with big hit shows being rolled out one after the other, and no obvious weak spots like the episodes of Ground Force, Changing Rooms and Bargain Hunt that filled awkward gaps around the turn of the century, or even last year’s Michael McIntyre DVD.
Christmas Day on BBC1 got off to a solid start with the usual fare – Breakfast, cartoons, a service, the film Gnomeo and Juliet and a repeat of Only Fools and Horses. The latter was quite interesting though as it was a rare outing for ‘A Royal Flush’, the special from Christmas Day 1986. This was famously a very fraught production behind the scenes, with illness and other commitments (most obviously John Sullivan also writing Just Good Friends for the same day) meaning production ran way behind schedule to the extent contingency plans were in place to perform it live on Christmas Day. Though this didn’t happen, the resultant episode, rushed to the screens, was considered one of the worst of the series and John Sullivan supervised a re-edit, removing some 20 minutes, before it returned to the repeat rota.
Top of the Pops followed at 2pm, yet again, being probably as accurate and as effective a summary of the year’s hits as it had always been, and despite the Beeb clearly having absolutely no interest in reviving it on a regular basis, it looked as though the annual special was now a fixture in the schedule and seemed less at risk from the axe than at most times in the past few decades.
If you added together the ratings from its screenings on BBC1 and ITV (and, though it seems unlikely anyone would bother watching it there, Sky 1), The Queen’s message was actually the highest rated programme of the entire day – which perhaps says more about the low ratings for most other programmes than any increased interest in what Liz had to say. Almost as long a tradition now is BBC1 following the message with an animated film – in this case, another outing for the Shrek franchise in the shape of its spin-off Puss in Boots.
Strictly Come Dancing followed at 5pm, which not only saw the triumphant return of Bruce Forsyth as host but also past contestants who danced again. Given that in the past few years when new competitors appeared on Christmas Day only a handful had been any more interesting than the participants we’d been watching every week during the series, it probably made more sense to invite back old favourites, and the special, despite its earlier slot, managed to make it to third place in the day’s ratings – helped, perhaps, by it being one of the few shows viewers could happily dip in and out of, plus with no repeat scheduled.
Doctor Who followed at 6.15pm, and this year’s episode took something of a tumble ratings-wise with nearly a quarter of last year’s audience switching off – but at an earlier slot, minus the 50th anniversary hoopla of 2013 and without the obvious attraction of a regeneration to pull in the casual audience, this wasn’t perhaps too much of a surprise.
Following that came a programme making its debut on Christmas Day BBC1… for its penultimate episode. Miranda was the next in a long line of comedies that had started quietly, in this case, on BBC2, before pulling in large audiences through repeats and word of mouth. After three successful series, the last on BBC1 two years ago, this episode, and the second on New Year’s Day, were promoted as being the last ever, this instalment seemed to be coasting on viewers’ affections a bit too much, relying heavily on continuity, which may have puzzled any newcomers looking in on this high profile position.
Miranda Hart was on again straight after in the third Call the Midwife Christmas special. Unlike last year’s early evening placing, 7.50pm seemed a slightly more appropriate slot for this series and signalled to viewers a clear dividing line between absolutely all-ages family fun and something a bit more grown-up. While no programme this Christmas was up year on year, Midwife showed one of the smallest declines – and won its annual battle with Downton Abbey, which is pretty impressive given the previous episode of the BBC show was back in March, whereas Downton was still fresh in viewers’ memories only a couple of weeks after its last series.
If nothing was going up in the ratings this year, the Beeb would have to take their victories where they found them, and the news that EastEnders was the day’s top soap – and second most watched programme overall – would doubtless have been very welcome given 12 months ago the show had been in a pretty poor state. Some interesting new storylines and characters had given it a boost and, while it wasn’t pulling in audiences rivalling its pomp in the 1980s and 1990a, at least ratings seemed pretty solid for now and a few more people got to see the improvement on perhaps the only day of the year they ever watch it.
Mrs Brown’s Boys then followed, and, for the second year running, pulled in the day’s biggest audience – although down on 2013 when it was shown half-an-hour earlier. This was another show that now existed only as specials rather than a regular series and so remained big news with viewers, if not with critics. Then Michael McIntyre was back, though happily this year with a brand new special made especially for the BBC rather than an old DVD. His Very Christmassy Christmas Show was, like Mrs Brown, very much an acquired taste, but meant BBC1 was all new and original from 2pm to near midnight – a highly impressive attempt.
As usual ITV’s Christmas Day revolved around the four hours in the evening with Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Downton Abbey, with the other 20 something of a chore to be filled as cheaply and effectively as possible. A host of films took us up to The Queen, followed at 3.10pm by an ITV excusive as Alan Titchmarsh took a tour of the grounds of Buckingham Palace in The Queen’s Garden. Although this seemed a decent combination, the programme was, like 2007’s Lights Camera The Queen, totally out of place in a slot when something a bit brasher is required.
Then after skewing extremely old, ITV decided to aim for the younger audience with a screening for Buddy’s Musical Christmas. This was an animated spin-off from the film Elf which, in previous years, had become something of a Christmas favourite. This wasn’t, though, and if it hadn’t been for that connection it’s unlikely it would have enjoyed such a prime slot – its stop motion-animation and gloopy moralising looking pretty old hat next to the Pixar and Aardman fare we were used to seeing on Christmas Day. Coupled with a hopeless slot it pulled in less than a million viewers. You’ve Been Framed and Paul O’Grady’s regular dispatch from Battersea Dogs Home took ITV into the soap block in vaguely festive style.
Of the genuinely big shows, Emmerdale, as usual, failed to beat its BBC1 opposition but perhaps surprisingly Coronation Street didn’t either, dipping 20 per cent from last year and losing out to Call the Midwife despite what would appear a very useful 8pm slot. Downton Abbey also suffered a sharp fall compared to 2013, though, as ever, it’s hard to imagine ITV getting too upset about ratings on a day that’s not a top priority for them commercially.
Elsewhere BBC2 offered a couple of programmes among a series of repeats that were a cut above the usual, including a celebration of 60 years of Carols From Kings, a tribute to Tim Rice, a new instalment of James May’s Toy Stories and a new episode of QI rather oddly scheduled against comedy on BBC1. And for those hankering for Christmases past there was a Morecambe and Wise compilation, Blackadder and, back after a year away, a Dad’s Army repeat.
Channel 4 also presented more of the mainstream fare that in recent years has replaced the religion and fine arts that used to offer a self-conscious alternative to the Big Two. Arthur Christmas was a film premiere that could have just as easily sat on BBC1, while Alan Carr’s two-hour special presented the lightest of light entertainment. At 8pm was a documentary looking at the huge appeal of Disney’s Frozen – which was the big film premiere on Sky Movies.
Channel 5 laid on the regular odds and sods line-up of classic films (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Scrooge) and cheap clip shows (Britain’s Favourite Christmas Songs), though perhaps the oddest bit of this or any other Christmas was the primetime screening of Chas and Dave’s Christmas Knees-Up, as seen on ITV 32 years ago to the day. Who’d have imagined Jimmy Cricket appearing on primetime Christmas Day again?
The pretty unspectacular ratings seemed to suggest Christmas Day TV had become less a part of the public’s festive season than ever before. Yet with online and on-demand viewing beginning to dominate, by New Year’s Eve just as many people will have watched the big shows as did in the past. The difference is they’re not all doing it at once.See post
Of course, Christmas isn’t Christmas without your quality TV listings guide. The one that covers telly with genuine enthusiasm – instead of under sufferance – and doesn’t, instead, try and make a beeline towards something more ‘grown-up’ like politics. Nor, indeed, does it employ the services of a TV Editor who, every week, moans about TV or a satirist who makes fun of televisual trends in a ‘What would X look like if Simon Cowell did it?’ sort of way…
Ah yes, that paragraph full of good cheer can only mean the double-sized Christmas Creamguide is now here! It gets sent out to our regular subscribers as an e-mag, but every year, we also like to flag up the fact it’s available here too on TV Cream. So, click on this for part one, and this for part two.
Everyone knows how massive Christmas telly is. That’s why the TV listings magazines come out weeks and weeks in advance and why TV Cream is constantly speculating from about August what the big Christmas Day film’s going to be. But it’s not just the programmes that make Christmas so special it’s when these programmes are shown.
One way to spoil the Christmas season is to put the wrong programmes on at the wrong time. Take 1989, for example you had loads of great shows, like The Jolly Boys Outing episode of ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES, the last ever EVER DECREASING CIRCLES and, er, WOGAN’S CHRISTMAS FANCY DRESS. But on prime time in Christmas Night BBC1 gave us CROCODILE DUNDEE and MISS MARPLE: A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY rubbish! They’re too long and much too hard to concentrate on when all your relatives are making a right racket.
There are times, though, when the broadcasters or, at least, BBC1 get it exactly right and put together a killer schedule of back-to-back classic shows, keeping you glued to your sofas all night. Of course, nobody watches any other channel at Christmas, so we’ve scoured the archive to find those evenings on BBC1 when it was all killer and no filler. So what are the perfect Christmas nights of the past?
It could be said that Christmas Eve is the most exciting day of the holidays, as you anticipate all sorts of excitement in 24 hours’ time before your expectations are slightly crushed. What you want, then, is loads of big, brash light entertainment to stop you from jumping up and down for a bit to accompany the thrill of it getting darker and darker.
6.05pm Little and Large
6.35pm Top of the Pops
7.15pm Are You Being Served?
7.45pm The Kenny Everett Television Show
8.15pm The Poseidon Adventure
If you were nine years old in 1981, this must have been the most exciting evening’s television you’d ever seen, with a whole host of kid-friendly comedy stars proffering slightly mucky but generally harmless fun. Surely every kids’ comic staples in 1981 were Sid Snot, Mr Humphries and Eddie Large in a dress? In between them all, because it’s a Thursday, it’s Pops not the Christmas show but a normal weekly edition with the neon turned up to eleven and cracking pop from Dollar, Altered Images, Human League (the one with Phil getting a load of silly string in his face) and, er, Elvis Costello. Then after Cuddly Ken’s first appearance on the Beeb it’s a Christmas cinema staple not a premiere, that was in 1979, but still a big draw and exactly the sort of cheap thrills we demand from Christmas Eve telly. Indeed, so amazing was this line-up that one Andrew Collins, in his diary, renamed 25th December 1981 as “The Day After The Poseidon Adventure”.
We all know that Christmas Night is the broadcasters’ shop window, but there’s still the rest of the day to get through first. Obviously, you don’t want anything here that you need to actually sit down and watch, but a bit of excitement while your dad’s rummaging around for spare batteries wouldn’t go amiss.
8.35am Play School
8.55am Muppet Babies
9.20am Knock Knock
9.35am This Is The Day
10.05am The Gnome Mobile
11.30am Roland’s Yuletide Binge
11.55am The Noel Edmonds Live Live Christmas Breakfast Show
2.00pm Top of the Pops
This timing works out brilliantly, we think. Before it begins there’d be some festive test card music and suitably seasonal Ceefax graphics to accompany you opening your stocking, then the first two programmes would help fill the gap after you’d got bored of coughing into the
toilet bowl to wake your parents up. Surely they’ll have surfaced by the time the religion comes on and then you can abandon the box to open your presents, switching back on after the film’s finished. Surely, at 45 minutes, that must the smallest amount of religion ever
broadcast on Christmas Day, compared to the three and a half hours from TV God Michael Hurll, who produced all of the last three programmes. You knew whenever you saw Michael Hurll’s name in the Radio Times credits that the programme would be unsubtle, trashy and
brash - ie, exactly what you want to see on Christmas Day.
You don’t need us to explain this, do you?
6.05pm Bruce Forsyth and The Generation Game
7.05pm The Mike Yarwood Christmas Show
7.35pm The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show
8.35pm The Odd Couple
10.30pm Gala Performance
11.35pm Lost Hearts
Well, everyone bangs on about 1977 as the ultimate Christmas Night, but because it was a Sunday, you had to sit through an hour of religion before it all came on. All the big hitters are here as well, without the need to be bashed around the head by a vicar beforehand. The weak link is probably the Gala Performance, an hour of light classics presented by Michael Flanders, but we quite like the scheduling as, if you fell asleep during that, you’d wake up for MR James’ shit-scary ghost story and it’d be even more terrifying. The added bonus here was that this was one of the last times for a while you got to stay up late before the three day week put the kybosh on late night telly. And don’t forget, you can see this very Gen Game on BBC2 this Boxing Day. Hooray!
No more presents to open. The Beano Book long read. Boxing Day can be tough work, so you need some indulgent telly to get through it. With the relatives probably packed off, this is the time to sit back and enjoy some serious telly watching.
5.15pm Bob’s Christmas Full House
5.50pm No Place Like Home
6.20pm Escape To Victory
9.00pm Miss Marple
9.55pm Dave Allen
So you’ve got “your Boxing Day bingo boy” and sitcom silliness to start you off, then a cracking bit of cinematic fluff, here getting its TV premiere. Dallas is perhaps the odd show out, and is only really here because it’s Wednesday, but at least it’s not on Christmas Day like it was in 1980 and 1981. We slagged off Miss Marple earlier on, but although it’s not a Christmas Day show we think it’s just right for the more involved Boxing Day slot and it’s the first one ever too. Then for a while Allen was the official fun-poker at the festive season.
It’s official New Year’s Eve telly is bloody awful. Always has been, always will be. The idea is that everyone’s out, so it’s a waste putting anything new and interesting out. It’s tough to find a great New Year’s Eve, so here’s the least worst.
7.35pm Larry Grayson’s Generation Game
8.25pm Murder On The Orient Express
10.40pm The 70s Stop Here!
12.01am A Toast To The 80s
This is still pretty rubbish, starting off with “an opportunity to see in one evening the story enjoyed by so many as a serial last year”. At least the film’s a premiere, and everyone in the world’s on Penelope Keith’s splurge of clippage, while there’s no better way to welcome in the new decade than with Reginald Bosanquet, Aiden J Harvey and Andy Cameron on the cliched Scotch quota-filler at midnight. In fact the only reason we’ve chosen this is because they repeated the Gen Game on UK Gold a decade or so ago, and left in Larry announcing at the end, “1980 is nearly upon us, and the Orient Express is waiting at the station”. We just wanted to mention that.
As opposed to the previous night, New Year’s Day is the night where you’re not even expected to move away from your sofa. One of the “big” days of the holiday, this is perhaps second only to Christmas Day it terms of prestige, and you expect something extra-special.
5.40pm Blankety Blank
6.15pm Twenty Years Of The Two Ronnies
7.35pm The Bounty
A cracking triple bill of light entertainment kicks the evening off. It’s a bog-standard normal Blank, but none the worse for that, especially with a line-up of, from the top left, Ian McCaskill, Kathy Staff, Sir Ken of Bruce, Bonnie Langford, Bernie Clifton and Aimi McDonald. Then there’s sundry spoonerisms before Wogan, what with it being a Friday, and a pre-recorded show where Fry and Laurie join Dawn French to launch that year’s Comic Relief. We’re not sure if this is the show where the Comic Relief representatives ended up giggling when they had to explain how they were going to try and stamp out diarrhoea in Africa, and then later one (Hugh?) picked up a fact pack only for everything to fall out and said “as you can see, it’s got a trap door bottom”, and another (Stephen?) said, “Ooh, back to diarrhea again”. Maybe that was another year. Either way we have fond memories of it. Then there’s a big brainless Mel Gibson film to round off the holidays, and there was still a weekend to come! Result!See post
Look at his face! Just look at his face! Because it’s week six of…
Here we are with unarguably the four strongest themes yet to do battle. Although, we have to admit, we haven’t been able to procure the golden era World of Sport theme, thanks to the baffling fact someone has actually gone to the trouble of ensuring it’s copyright protected on Soundcloud. Nonetheless, we do like the rather stately version above, but you can still hear the more familiar banners-in-the-sky take at the end of this link.