TV Cream

Cream over Britain

Christmas Creamguide: week one


Only the opening titles will be festooned with tinsel
17th-23rd December 2016
Merry Christmas!

And welcome to the eighteenth annual Christmas Creamguide, via your new look www.tvcream.co.uk. To add to the general uselessness of 2016, this is one of those years where we give up before New Year, and this first week doesn’t include any festive days at all, but that’s the hand we’re dealt.

But before we go on… why not subscribe to Creamguide and get this kind of stuff emailed to you once a week?


SATURDAY, 17th DECEMBER

BBC1

Hope Richard says, “Absolute pleasure” when Xander thanks him for his summary

17.50 Pointless Celebrities
So, let’s set off. As ever this is your double Christmas Creamguide, though last year we realised we could only send one email a day, the exact moment we tried to send a second, so it’s part one today and part two tomorrow. Still all in good time for you to plan your festive viewing, mind, and the Filmguide gang will be with you very soon with their picks of the flicks. This is as good a way as any to kick off, the first new one for a couple of weeks, and it’s a sporting special with Mary Peters, Robin Cousins and Torvill, but no Dean.

BBC2

08.15 The Bishop’s Wife
It may be false memory syndrome, but we always seem to kick off the festive film countdown with this enduring little dollop of class A, uncut sentimentality. Note to R Curtis: see, *this* is how you do a gooey Christmas feelgood film two years after a world-shattering disaster without being deeply offensive.

18.25 Dad’s Army
James Drew says, “Just a small point, how come you never write anything about Dad’s Army? For the sake of posterity, my personal favourite moment from the entire institution comes in Don’t Forget The Diver when Mainwaring, after hearing an interminable yarn about a diving suit says ‘So, we take it you have a diving suit, then?’. Just class, do give us a few more of your thoughts on this irreplaceble series, pretty please.” Well, we’ll try, James, though we’re not sure how much we can add to the million words that have been written about the show, plus it’s always very convenient as an intro because it’s usually the first thing in Creamguide, but if anyone wants to improve our billings in 2017, do send in your comments to creamguide@tvcream.co.uk. We’ll certainly have the chance, as after we reached the final episode last week, inevitably we’ve gone right back to the start.

19.55 Walt Disney
Disney at Christmas when Creamguide was growing up usually meant Disney Time on the Beeb, and a host of rather dull B-list fare on ITV, only very occasionally supplemented with a proper imperial phase affair like Dumbo. These days if you pay for it you can have nothing but Disney 24 hours a day, and to kick off the season here’s the second part of this profile. Presumably they’ll mention the freezer.

23.10 Porridge
The first Christmas special we’re billing this year, and as far as some experts are concerned it’s the best ever, so it’s a bit of a shame it’s relegated to this rather unimpressive slot. The whole of Christmas 1975 was a cracker, though, surely the greatest telly Christmas ever, as Genome illustrates. And we include a Ministerial Broadcast by Michael Foot on the implementation of the Equal Pay Act on the 29th in that.

ITV

09.30 Carry On Follow that Camel
On they come, the Carry Ons, undimmed by the passage of time and progression of society. And, naturally, the main channels end up screening the very worst ones, like this shameful waste of Silvers. And what about that new Carry On announced in May, that was meant to be a Britannia Hospital for the 21st century, written in the style of Two Pints of Lager and produced by Joanna Southcott’s box? Not stuck in development hell like all the other attempted Carry On revivals of the past twenty years, surely?

22.55 Private Benjamin
Perennially shown yet perennially unloved Goldie Hawnathon, described on release by Dear Old Philip French as a “Ms-MASH” (geddit?) and compared unfavourably to Abbot & Costello’s debut star vehicle Buck Privates, which featured Costello losing his army pants and having to go on parade wearing a barrel with straps. Mind you, pretty much every comedy would look lacklustre alongside that.

CHANNEL 4

21.00 It Was Alright In The 1970s
We thought last week’s instalment of this was probably one of the least interesting they’ve done so far, although there were still some fascinating clips including Mike Reid’s jaw-dropping stand-up routine and that nice Derek Griffiths saying “sluts” on Battle of the Sexes. This one promises more in the way of shit-scary telly, which means loads of PIFs and the girl guides’ fire on Blue Peter, which is brilliant fun.

ITV3

06.10 The Belles of St Trinians
Proof that you can still see a black and white film on a free-to-air British commercial channel if you get up early enough. But for how much longer?

ITV4

18.10 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
There’s always a Bondathon happening somewhere in the Freeview miasma, and this one’s entering a crucial stage, with Big Fry’s much misunderstood outing upping the silliness quotient (breaking the fourth wall, references to “the other feller”, hilarious puns on henchman deaths, etc – that’s Simon Raven, the drinking man’s Anthony Powell, on script doctoring duties) to make way for the full-blown madness of the Moore Era. But first they had to fit a giant set of inverted commas round a returning Sean Connery…

Film4

15.05 Carry On Regardless
This is more like it. Not even a pretence of a plot, just loads of mostly charming vignettes, especially Kenneth Williams going head-to-head with Stanley Unwin, and lashings of Esma Cannon. But never mind our verdict, let Ken himself be your judge. He had a ball filming this, especially the chimp scenes, in January of 1961. (“What a fantastic paradise to imagine working in nothing but Carry Ons!”) Then in March, he saw the finished product. (“Quite terrible. An unmitigated disaster.”) The truth, we feel, lies somewhere in between.

Drama

17.00 Ten Little Indians
19.00 Murder Most Foul

The first comes from the iffy stable of shoestring producer Harry Alan Towers, he of the knock-off Fu Manchu films; the Italian erotic dramas that are based on a Balzac short story, honest; films of the sodding Gor novels of John Norman, of all benighted things; and an adaptation of HG Wells’s Things to Come that looks like an episode of Space 1999 filmed entirely on location at Leicester Forest East Services. The second one is the one you should watch, being the third of the four Margaret Rutherford Miss Marples, complete with sprightly “harpsichord goes mod” theme tune and Something for Stringer to Do.

Sky Movies Disney

23.05 The Watcher in the Woods
This live-actioner is one of those films with a history more interesting than the film itself. The sainted Brian Clemens was enrolled to adapt a “ghostly goings-on in old house” novel into Disney’s answer to The Exorcist. The end result was, inevitably, rejected by the studio’s top brass as too scary, and a rather more wholesome affair was commissioned, with Carroll Baker and David McCallum, plus regulation pair of toothsome offspring, moving into Ettington Park. Said Gothic pile is owned by Bette Davis, who presumably made a fair bit of cash when the house was used to film The Haunting some sixteen years previously, though oddly nobody mentions this. Table-tapping duly follows, along with some Tron-esque “blue light bouncing off a strut” visions in the surrounding woodlands. It climaxes with a spectral showdown in the crypt which, for this screening, will most likely end with some perfunctory beams of light, but originally featured a bizarre skeletal sardine-bat creature made out of bin liners, which fired laser beams out of its eyes before returning to its home planet. That effect was judged too poor to put in the finished film, though that’s a bit rich coming from the people who waved the effects in Pete’s Dragon through a couple of years previously.

Sky Movies Greats

13.55 The Birds
16.00 Psycho
Two Hitchcock films where he thankfully gets his cameo out of the way in the first reel, unlike Rear Window where it comes about half an hour in, thus pulling you out of the film rather annoyingly. Mind you, in The Lady Vanishes he doesn’t turn up until right at the end, and that’s never bothered us. Shedding new light on the classics, that’s our speciality.

Talking Pictures TV

06.00 Monster from Green Hell
This channel was around last Christmas, but we foolishly ignored it as it’s not listed in the Radio Times, which is a shame as it could very well save the festive film season. First up, Jock Ewing fires wasps into space, but they land in an African volcano and go all massive, so he has to go over there and blow them up by hand. Now, that’s a plot, Hollywood.

07.25 The Final Test
What’s best, cricket or poetry? There’s only one way to find out: get Terence Rattigan to write a screenplay about it. Jack Warner is a retiring batsman whose disappointingly wet son would rather be turning spondees into dactyls than turning inswinging yorkers off a slow wicket. Famous poet Robert Morley to the rescue, who takes the kid under his wing, but happens to be a cricket fan himself, so they both roll up at the Oval just in time to see Warner’s heroic last innings, and Warner duly goes out for a duck. Len Hutton, Jim Laker, Denis Compton and Alec Bedser make the expected cameos, plus Richard Wattis in the stands, Valentine Dyall on the radio, and Fred Griffiths in – surprise! – a taxi.

09.15 Behemoth the Sea Monster
“He’s eating everything in his path!” An inspiration for the Chewits marketing department, possibly even more so than Gorgo. Andre ‘Quatermass Mk III’ Morell, Jack ‘Wonderwall’ MacGowran and Leonard ‘A pantechnicon of pedagogic prestidigitation… ooOOooh!’ Sachs stand around in lab coats looking worried and delivering daft dialogue. (“We must find a way of destroying this creature in one piece!”) The monster is the main draw of course: a mixture of stop-motion dinosaur plus actual Dinky toy cars when on land, and in the sea, a totally unarticulated head and neck that can’t be more than eight inches in length, judging by the massive globules of water dripping off its snout. Surface tension’s a tell-tale bastard, isn’t it?

16.00 The Night Caller
Cheap-as-chips sci-fi pot-boiler about a disfigured alien arriving on Earth in a cosmic football, on the prowl for “swinging” ladies with which to repopulate his home planet. Well, quite. Almost worth watching for Aubrey Morris as a sleazy bookseller, and Warren Mitchell and Marianne Stone as a fantastically banal couple blandly worried about their disappeared daughter, in a rather neat and presumably semi-improvised scene that sticks out a mile from the stiff exposition all around it.

00.40 Au-Pair Girls
Dreary early ’70s sexcom from Val Guest and the ever-unpopular Tigon Films, following the saucy misadventures of Gabrielle Drake and assorted other “foreign lasses” who come to Britain for the titular job but completely fail to grasp our sovereignty and way of life, especially the bit about not walking blithely around in the nuddy when assorted character actors are within ogling distance. As ever, the real visual interest is in the background, especially during the opening ten minutes, which offer a comprehensive tour of 1972-vintage Heathrow Airport (you know, between this and The VIPs, there should be enough material for a full recreation of the place, should any Model World of Bob Symes types be passing); and the still-just-about-swinging King’s Road. Then everyone decamps to George Harrison’s much-photographed Oakley Court, presumably trying very hard not to bump into a Hammer film crew simultaneously working down the other end of the place. In the cast: John Le Mesurier, Richard O’Sullivan as his son, Johnny Briggs, Geoffrey Bayldon, Harold Bennett, Rosalie Crutchley, Trevor Bannister and Marianne Stone.

04.10 Every Day’s a Holiday
Swinging youth go wild at Clacton Butlin’s in this teen pop turkey with Mike Sarne to the fore. Also Ron Moody, Liz Fraser, Freddie and the Dreamers, Nicholas Parsons and Richard O’Sullivan again. One of only two significant productions by Fitzroy Films, the other being familial horror Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly, which was filmed at… you guessed it. Clacton Butlin’s. No, sorry, Oakley Court.

BBC Radio 2

13.00 Pick of the Pops
Bit of an odd one here, as we’re promised 1982, which we’re quite familiar with at the moment, but it says here Wizzard and Slade are going to be in it, and this was one of the few years of the eighties when neither of those bands’ famous festive songs got anywhere near the chart again. And they don’t come from the other year either, because that’s 1966. So who knows what we’re going to get, other than, as seems to be the case far too often these days, nothing we’re especially keen to hear.

SUNDAY, 18th DECEMBER

BBC2

All that, and plasticine opening titles too

19.40 Victoria Wood – As Seen On TV
Any other year, Victoria’s death would be the most tragic and most shocking of all, but sadly she has to share screentime with lots of other much-loved personalities. We’ve got a whole evening of programmes here, none of them new, but it’s a decent selection in any case. This certainly is, one of the funniest programmes of the eighties, represented by the special that rounded it all off at Christmas 1987.

20.20 Best of British: Victoria Wood
21.00 Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas
22.00 Victoria Wood At It Again
The first one here was part of the short-lived series of tributes to living icons that ran in 1998, though we suppose the benefit from showing this rather than a new tribute is that Vic is actually interviewed for it, and we can enjoy contributions from the likes of Thora Hird. After that it’s her 2009 Christmas special which we’re afraid is probably one of the weakest things she’s done on telly, and then it’s her at the Albert Hall in 2001 which was released on DVD but we don’t think has ever been on telly before.

ITV

14.55 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
16.45 Santa Claus: the Movie
ITV sticking with two old traditions, certainly the second of which we’d have thought could be quietly dropped by now. But no, here’s Dudley Moore’s least finest hour slap bang in the middle of the schedules. Again, the history of this is far more entertaining than the results: over a decade in development hell; originally slated as a Gene Kelly film, then a John Carpenter production; John Lithgow’s role offered to Dustin Hoffman, Burt Reynolds, Harrison Ford; Paul McCartney roped in for an abortive theme song; Burgess Meredith’s cameo offered to Jimmy Cagney, Fred Astaire… think about all the dozens of chances it had to get canned, but still they made it, and now it’s here again. Merry Christmas, Mr Salkind.

CHANNEL 5

17.45 Scrooge
Here’s a Christmas tradition that will hopefully stick around forever. Albert Finney shins down the bannisters after Edith Evans and Kenneth More tell him where to get off, miser-wise.

ITV4

18.40 Diamonds Are Forever
Connery’s back, and Cubby celebrates by making six films at once. A ten minute clip of this is still worth an eternity of latter day Daniel Craig “look, it’s all grey and serious and Bond is actually a very, very cross man, there, you can see it” folderol.

Gold

14.10 Up the Chastity Belt
16.00 Up the Front
Two cinema outings for Frankie Howerd’s brand of frame-shattering historical digression, the first being worth the candle for characters called things like Sir Grumble de Grunt, and lines like “Sod this for a lark, I’m off to the Crusades.” Hyper-trivia note: there’s one pretty bland scene involving a rude boy. Said boy is played by Martin Woodhams, a Croydon schoolboy who’d made national headlines in the spring of ’71 as the ringleader of a wave of misrule in Shirley Secondary Modern. As punishment for reducing a teacher to tears, Woodhams and his naughty pals were set an essay on “family life”. The 250-word apercu he turned in was judged to be “obscene” and “flippant”, concerned as it was with idle dreams of going off to live in the jungle “like tarzen”, “with all my trophies of lions, elephants, tigers, buffolo and ect. But also this is a dream a dream world just a dream world so as I have had my dreams I shall go back to work as a public lavotery cleaner.” Pretty strong stuff, we think you’ll agree. Another boy, egged on by Woodhams, also mentioned “lavotery cleaners”, while girl miscreants signed their essays “Raquel Welch” and “Princess Margaret”. Anyway, Woodhams was threatened with the cane for this impertinence, but sensationally refused it, and so was expelled instead, and his unrepentantly grinning, Grange-Hill’s-Alan-Humphries-on-Slimfast face was plastered all over the national papers. The national papers. Broadsheets included. And bloody Nationwide to boot. Then Howerd’s producers rolled up, decided it’d be a lark to cast Woodhams in the film, and thus created the most rapidly-dating in-joke ever committed to celluloid. Permit yourself a knowing chuckle when he pops up, and be a winner in the game of life. We’ve got no such info about Up the Front, other than it’s crap.

Talking Pictures TV

13.20 Christmas Runaround On Ice
BREAKING! Our friends at Talking Pictures TV has alerted us to this jewel from 1980, the game show’s last ever festive outing. Mike Reid takes up a brief residency at the Torquay Pavilion to bait children with just the mere vision of possible prizes. Featuring guests Madness, Big Daddy and Frank Au and ‘some Eskimos’.

Sky Movies Hits

15.55 Back to the Future
18.00 Back to the Future II
20.00 Back to the Future III
The fate of the second film intrigues us. Back in the day (to be precise, back in the day before white people could get away with saying “back in the day”), everyone loved the first picture. Then, when news came out of the Zemeckis back-to-back filming stunt, glances askance were cast his way, along with low mutterings about “conveyor belt cinema” and “orgies of product placement”. When II hit the screens, the pitchforks came out. A nasty, spiteful, confusing mess, they said. It just doesn’t make sense. Half the actors are different. It’s got a bloody trailer for the next one tacked on the end. And why all the shouting? When the third one came out, everyone calmed down a bit, as it was a western, and they were comfortable with westerns, the cinematic equivalent of a faithful old slipper full of St Bruno. But slowly, as the date of II’s most notorious scene edged closer, priorities switched, and now II is regarded with almost as much awe as the original, while the third one’s never mentioned. Not saying that’s a good or a bad thing, just interesting.

Talking Pictures TV

07.35 Radio Cab Murder
Looks like TPTV have got access to the whole Eros Films catalogue. This is a prime example, a sort of Carry On Cabby for straights, with Jimmy Hanley as the honest driver caught up with the crims, among them Sam Kydd.

09.05 Strongroom
This budgetless supporting flick is infinitely better than it needs to be, with not a note of musical score as a stockinged Derren Nesbitt and chums rob a bank and lock the staff in the airtight vault, then get pangs of conscience during the getaway. It all gets rather messy.

12.05 Kid from Canada
13.00 Juno Helps Out
Dull CFF effort with Bernard Braden sending his son over from Canada to do horsey activities with some stage Scottish kids. Then it’s half an hour of hilarious Great Dane frolics with Barbara Woodhouse en famille.

MONDAY, 19th DECEMBER

BBC1

Hacker T Dog

Can Hacker – ho ho! – hack it?

19.00 Celebrity Mastermind
Surely the official start of Christmas these days, yet another run for this series where, as ever, we express our amazement that they’ve managed to convince forty celebrities to traipse to Salford and potentially look very stupid, but we’re always pleased they have. And yet again they’ve failed to fit all ten in the festive fortnight so we end up with a bit of Christmas telly in mid-January. Not sure they’ll top this first one, though, because among those taking part is Hacker T Dog off CBBC, and rather brilliantly choosing a non-comedic subject in the Pet Shop Boys.

19.30 Panorama
The problem with Christmas at the weekend is that you end up with a load of non-festive fare to kick the fortnight off while everyone’s still in work, so please welcome the first ever appearance of Panorama in the Christmas Creamguide. Or in Creamguide full stop, probably. But it’s justifying its place with this special edition where John Simpson celebrates his fiftieth anniversary of foreign reporting by revisiting the scene of some of his most memorable reports, then tries his best to figure out what he might be reporting on in the future.

BBC2

21.00 Lenny Henry – A Life On Screen
Lenny Lenny Len also appeared on that Best of British series in the late nineties, which was a bit of a lost weekend for him career-wise, appearing on a host of rather dull shows that could have featured anyone. But happily since then he’s enjoyed a real renaissance, enjoying huge acclaim for his serious acting and campaigning, so this tribute will be well worth seeing. That said, for most of us we’re sure the best bits will be at the beginning, where his mates including Tarrant and Trevor McDoughnut remember the ‘was and Three Of A Kind, where he was every kid’s favourite person on telly, while also breaking new ground as a black performer on primetime BBC1.

ITV

23.40 Carry On Camping
Golden Carry On Rule: the more famous the Carry On, the worse it generally is. Mind you, this one’s become so tediously “iconic” we don’t know what to think about it any more. Ken? “My stand-in is Micky Clark who I really like. He is great, and calls the bingo sessions on the Granada circuit and comes from Feltham.” There you have it.

BBC4

22.00 Timeshift: Booze, Beans and Bhajis – The Story of the Corner Shop
This looks set to be another top edition of the series, ideally placed in a week where many of us will doubtless find ourselves nipping in when we realise we’ve forgotten or run out of something at the most inappropriate moment. The world of My Mum’s Cola and penny sweets will doubtless be hugely evocative, though this programme will also examine their other major role in British society, that being a major employer and revenue source for Asians.

ITV3

16.00 Carry On Cleo
Exception to Golden Carry On Rule ahoy! Amanda Barrie amazingly retains her dignity throughout this agglomeration of other films’ sets, getting in good practice for her later encounter with the phallic proboscis of Humphrey Cushion. As far as Kenny W was concerned, the film was no classic. (“It’s all like an incredibly tired echo of the beginning of the series. Surely the wheel can’t turn much further?”) But it had its plus points. (“This Roman tunic I’m wearing is really quite attractive. I continually lift it up and expose my cock and everything at the Unit.”)

ITV4

21.00 Live and Let Die
Derek Cracknell (Hey kids, did you know his infant daughter Sarah was nearly used for the Starchild at the end of Kubrick’s… KIDS: Yes, that fact is common knowledge these days, Grandad, and there’s soup on your trousers.) has probably helmed more cult films as 2nd Unit AD than any main director. This Mooreathon of course, A Shot in the Dark, a brace of Kubricks, O Lucky Man! And The Medusa Touch, plus Aliens, Krull and Lifeforce for the geeks, and Heavens Above!, The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins and Ghost in the Noonday Sun for the likes of us. Plus the all-conquering Whitbread Big Head Trophy Bitter ad. A documentary on the man is long overdue and would be fascinating. We know for a fact he amassed a stack of on-set home movie footage which would be a spectacle in itself.

Film4

16.45 Master of the World
We’ve always said that the internet will truly have come of age when we can call up at the press of a button the details of all the wacky flying machines in that silent newsreel compilation that heralds the start of both this Vincent Price adventure and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. And we’re glad to report that, although it still takes a bit of slog to get the goodies, progress has been made. For instance, we can now say for certain that all the planes were designed and built, contrary to the narrator’s insistence, *after* the Wright Brothers developed an exciting new way to escape those hordes of news reporters on bicycles that were always chasing them around. The one with the seven sets of wings that collapse down the middle was called the Gerhardt cycleplane, and it actually worked, after a fashion. The bloke with the canvas bird wings who jumps off a rock and lands on his face is one Willard E Blain. The bedstead with the giant umbrella going up and down is a version of John W Pitts’s Skycar, and was probably set up as a gag for the cameras rather than a serious attempt. The rocket-pack-and-roller-skates guy is a ringer, being part of a US government film about developments in rocket science rather than an actual attempt at flight. One day the entire film will be available in comprehensively annotated form, with maps of test locations, links to patents, etc. When that day arrives, we’ll buy Tim Berners-Lee a scone.

Sky Movies Select

02.15 Nineteen Eighty-Four
The passage of time has led to the reassessment of many once-reviled artefacts, but the stuttering theme song to this doomed and dated adaptation ain’t one of them. Even at the time, director Michael Radford pulled a massive BAFTA hissy fit when Smiling Dickie Branson slotted the Eurythmics’ least finest four minutes into his sombre Orwellathon. Well, fair enough, Sexcrime *is* bloody terrible, but that sort of precious over-seriousness is exactly what made this film such a brittle, airless chunk of O-level textbook ho-hum in the first place. Happily, Radford seems to have lightened up since, and was at one point rumoured to be working with the Jim Henson Company. The Muppets’ Two Minutes Hate, anyone? Stadler: “They say you should imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever!” Waldorf: “They’ve saved us the bother, the bear’s on next!”

TCM

15.00 The Hound of the Baskervilles
It wouldn’t be Christmas without Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, would it? So here come the old Fox Holmeses once more, and they scrub up as well as ever, provided you’re not a Sherlockian, or whatever they call themselves. This is tremendous fun, though, full of smoke-riddled back projection and obvious model work as it is, with a hilariously obvious Holmesian rustic disguise that’s fun nonetheless, especially as it’s perpetrated largely to piss Watson off.

Talking Pictures TV

07.55 It’s a Wonderful World
George Cole plays jazz standards backwards and flogs the results to the avant garde set. Jon P’twee makes with the comedy conducting, and Richard Wattis, James Hayter and Ted Heath (the bandleader, not the three-day-week bloke) scoot by.

14.00 The Naked Truth
Dennis Price, in evidence a great deal over the festive period and no bad thing for all that, sets up a gossip magazine to blackmail celebs with dirty secrets, including Peggy Mount, Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers. There’s good fun to be had with Thomas squirming and Dame Peggy falling about, but Sellers is the main attraction, donning a variety of disguises from phlegmatic waterways council dogsbody to bleary stage Irishman. In an early example of what the young people call “fan service”, clips from his various personae were taken entirely out of context and stuck together, with little holes round the edges, as a “yours to own” 8mm film print called The Five Faces of Sellers. And the film’s tempestuous director, Two Cities kingpin Mario Zampi, would later provide the bones for a further Sellers incarnation, the mamma-mia-ing hotheaded filmmaker Federico Fabrizi, whose pretend neo-realist epic provides the cover for an audacious gold bullion robbery in messy crime comedy After the Fox. Actually, we’ve just had to go and check that the majority of Sellers’ film projects have him playing just the one character instead of two or more. They do, but there’s not much in it.

03.30 A Place to Go
Mike Sarne and Rita Tushingham make a go of it against authentic sixties Bethnal Green backdrops. Fans of distressed brickwork and rickety iron railings will be in clover. Bernard ‘M’ Lee tries to make a go of it as an escapologist, then keels over. Roy ‘Mother Nature’s Bloomers/They’re you madame, and you sir!’ Kinnear and Yootha Joyce swan through. Lovely.

BBC Radio 2

22.00 Tommy Steele at 80
Such has been the carnage in 2016 we often find ourselves double checking whether an entertainer is still alive these days before we write about them, though we’re pleased to say that England’s answer to Alex Harvey is alive and well. Indeed, here he is chatting to Bill Kenwright and reflecting on his life as a teen idol in the days when they were strictly rationed.

TUESDAY, 20th DECEMBER

BBC1

Will it be – here we go – Shappi talk for her?

19.00 Celebrity Mastermind
We’re not sure about people not taking this show seriously, so we’re not entirely impressed by Scott Mills’ Radio 1 sidekick Chris Stark picking Scott Mills as his specialist subject. Rather more decorum from Piers Taylor on Bob Dylan and Shappi Khorsandi on Charlie Chaplin.

ITV

20.00 Hilda Ogden’s Last Ta-ra – A Tribute to Jean Alexander
And the next obit, please. It’s quite interesting that surely the most famous character from the most famous programme ever to come from Manchester was played by a Scouser, but Jean Alexander was Mrs Coronation Street and some would certainly argue it was never the same after she jacked it in. As for Jean herself, she never really seemed that interested in talking about herself or her role, simply considering just another job, but happily the clips will speak for themselves.

CHANNEL 5

21.00 The Graham Norton Story
We’ve checked, and this tribute is to someone who’s definitely still alive. Channel Five can probably count Graham as one of their own, as he was the first person ever to become famous via that channel, progressing from occasional appearances on Father Ted and stand-up shows to actual starring vehicles like Bring Me The Head Of The Light Entertainment and, of course, The Jack Docherty Show, a show virtually everyone did well out of apart from Jack Docherty. OK, so he then had to go off to Channel Four to be really famous, but they certainly gave him the hours to learn his trade. These days he’s one of our favourite people on telly, our best chat show host by miles and seemingly a really nice man in real life, though we’re not sure this unauthorised biography will be the best showcase. Maybe some interesting clippage, mind.

Movies4Men

11.10 What a Carve Up!
Well-loved send-up of the “spend night in spooky house to get inheritance” chestnut. Sid James plays  surprise! – a bookie (complete with holdall marked “HONEST SYD”), and Kenneth Connor is a reviewer of paperbacks (earning 5/6 per book for horror, and 3/6 for the sexy ones, since “I get two bob’s worth of pleasure out of reading ’em”). Donald Pleasence creeps in to inform Connor of his rich uncle’s demise (“I’m a beneficiary!” “You filthy swine! How long can they give you for that?”) and the pair set out for a crumbling pile on the Yorkshire moors to claim the booty. Unfortunately several other relations have been likewise summoned, including Dennis Price, George Woodbridge, Shirley Eaton and Esma Cannon. As the night draws on, claimants are picked off one by one in the familiar ways (dagger in back, chandelier drop, blowpipe from behind portrait with eyeholes cut out, etc.) Could it be the creepy butler Michael Gough? (“Ring up Madame Tussaud’s, see if anyone’s missing!”) It’s deftly put together in full black-and-white horror style by GPO Film Unit alumnus Pat Jackson, with great attention to detail (right down to a cod-Saul Bass title sequence) against which Ken and Sid take the mick royally. Spoiler: Adam Faith turns up at the end, and our heroes exit through the floor, playing Chopsticks on the organ. More Jonathan Cohen than Jonathan Coe.

Sky Movies Crime/Thriller

00.55 New Jack City
In which Ice-T goes down some stairs on a BMX, like a later day Angelo D’Angelo. The whole hip-hop film explosion of the early ’90s now looks like a quaint little time capsule all to itself, and indeed at the time was at least 50% composed of spoofs (Fear of a Black Hat, Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood etc.) Counting Do the Right Thing as a precursor rather than a part of the genre proper, Boyz N The Hood, Noddy Holder spelling aside, was probably the better film of the bunch, but lumme that’s not saying much. Still, these little cultural bubbles are fun to prod in retrospect, and more rewarding to revisit than the musical equivalent. We stick to the rule that 90% of gangsta rap was just heavy metal for suburban kids who fancied themselves too cool to listen to heavy metal, and it’s a massive shame that it managed to crowd out all the genuinely creative stuff that was around at that time. Have a listen to Mr Hood by KMD some time, and marvel that this album ever managed to sink without trace, while House of Pain went about the place unashamedly existing.

TCM

15.00 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The first, the best, and possibly also the worst of the Rathbone rambunctions. Roll-call of stuff: the portentous (and signed!) opening caption in large print for the elderly; a brilliantly perfunctory opening in which Holmes and Moriarty basically say “Let’s do a mystery!” “Righto!”; Moriarty’s conservatory headquarters, complete with menacing bloke constantly playing the flute and an unwatered rubber plant; Holmes playing his violin like a ukulele to a brandy glass full of flies (in a scene that sees the first outing for *that* catchphrase); a woman bursting into 221B in a very melodramatic way and promptly apologising for “bursting in in that melodramatic way”; Watson putting a man’s life needlessly in danger and being called an “incorrigible bungler” by Holmes in the manner of June reprimanding Terry for getting orange juice all down him on the patio; a textbook fogbound death scream followed by montage of London stereotypes going “‘ere, what’s that?”; Watson getting the deductive shit kicked out of him by a small boy and going into a massive sulk; a set of bolas beheading a statue (as homaged in Moonraker); the immortal line “Captain Mainwaring? Raise the portcullis!” and of course Holmes’s ace and totally superfluous Mr Pastry-style song-and-dance act to Oh, I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside.

Talking Pictures TV

09.45 The Madame Gambles
Petula Clark and Mr Pastry – together at last – run a quaint old dress boutique that’s in danger of being overtaken by a bunch of hard-nosed horse racing types. Can they band together and stop it going down the tubes, with Pet modelling Pastry’s deranged dress designs while Pastry falls over while dancing The Lancers? But of course!

14.00 Subway in the Sky
“The ageist beneficiaries are howling at the Alps, incensed dissenters still breathing the polluted air of their fathers’ industries. The dollar is climbing. The dollar is falling. Inflation. Stagflation. Yes, yes, I know you know.” If that means anything to you, you might want to catch this Berlin drug drama, in which Hildegard Knef, the sultry Ulm-born chanteuse with eyelids weighed down by this weary, dreary holiday time, steals the show from her stiffo Yank co-stars. Somewhere in the background lurks Edward ‘Think Once, Think Twice, Think Bike’ Judd.

20.50 The Big Money
The Rank Organisation pulls off a true J Arthur by casting Ian Carmichael as a petty thief who falls on a suitcase full of notes that are not so much consecutively numbered as identically numbered. Cue frantic attempts to launder the notes one at a time before the police and/or original owner Robert Helpmann closes in. James Hayter is Ian’s dad, Miriam Karlin, Renee Houston and Leslie Phillips fill out the underworld.

00.25 Gonks Go Beat
This indoorsy Romeo and Juliet for the Freddie Garrity generation has had its undoubted novelty value somewhat milked to excess in the last few years, but there’s still much to enjoy in the tale of an alien Kenneth Connor finding his way through the warring territories of Beatland and Ballad Isle: The extended scenes of Drumming in Prison with Ginger Baker (“Idea for a programme, Lynn…”); Terry Scott as Prime Minister (though what with Recent Events, that seems less a hilarious fantasy than a warning prophecy); the threadbare animated titles;  Lulu flunking Juke Box Jury; and Casualty’s Charlie Fairhead in full song. Undoubtedly more fun than its contemporary The Cool Mikado, but for our money less interesting than early Amicus swinger Just for Fun, in which Prime Minister Richard Vernon bans pop off the telly, with Dick Emery doing the “every member of Juke Box Jury panel” shtick, and a finale the makers of Pacific Rim would kill for. Alas, the presence of a certain former Radio 1 DJ probably means we’ll never get to see it screened at all, let alone as it should be – in tandem with top Chubby Checker/Deryck Guyler vehicle It’s Trad, Dad. “You’ve got/To heat/The pot!”

BBC Radio 4 Extra

23.00 Victor Lewis-Smith
This channel often digs out some obscurities, and here’s a programme that’s only ever been broadcast once, on Boxing Day 1992. It’s VLS’ last broadcast for the station with his usual blend of fast talking links, obscene phone calls and bizarre archive clippage, back in the days when he hadn’t done all the jokes ten million times. Hopefully they keep the moving tribute to Johnny Beerling in at the end.

WEDNESDAY, 21st DECEMBER

BBC1

Will Lauren’s quizzing dreams be made extinct?

19.00 Celebrity Mastermind
Halfway through the week and still nowhere near Christmas, and indeed a distinctly workaday line-up on all channels tonight, with only this to remind you the festive season is almost upon us. As ever this show is stuffed with CBBC people because they’re right next door, hence current Broom Cupboard occupant Lauren Layfield is quizzed on Jurassic Park, while David Aaronovitch does The Archers.

BBC2

08.35 Flight of the Navigator
Yet another non-Christmassy Christmas film that’s somehow become festive due to repeated scheduling around the sainted day. Anyway, we could bore on about the pioneering reflection mapping technology on this 30-year-old charmer but you’ve all got better things to do, right?

ITV3

20.00 Les Dawson Forever
“Every year for the last seven years we’ve had the wife’s family up for Christmas dinner. This year, for a change, we’re going to let them in.” As we’ve said before, it was a shame Les died when he did because it looked like he was making the first steps towards to a Bob Monkhouse-style renaissance, and surely the likes of Have I Got News For You and QI would have swiftly followed. We’ve still got plenty of clips to enjoy, though, so while this is the umpteenth tribute to him, which continues tomorrow, they’re always worth a look. Indeed, this one looks particularly good, as the contributors including Doddy and Johnny Ball.

TCM

15.00 Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman
“When a man slips away four times in an hour to change his fly I’d call that being mendacious!” Off to Universal Pictures for Rathbone and Bruce, and into the present day  well, 1943. It’s the one where Holmes fakes his own death in a Scottish stream at the start, then turns up just as Watson’s shifting his old books, dressed as a cockney postman. Much consternation follows. “Necessary me Aunt Dinah’s bustle! You’ll give yourself a treat acting about all over the place!” And when the game’s afoot, we get a slightly unfortunate Maharajah disguise, complete with unevenly applied dubbin. Then it’s an orgy of spooky silent kids, tarantulas crawling through air vents and being handily illuminated by a torch beam, and a grand shot of Watson in profile, playing the tuba. Plus, there being a war on and everything, we get a scene in a Hitler/Mussolini-themed fairground shooting gallery. “Hit ’em where their hearts ought to be and listen to the ‘ollow sahnd!”

Talking Pictures TV

07.45 Gorgo
Second most famous of the British monster attack films, coming in just below The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and directed by Eugene Lourie, who’d assisted Ray Harryhausen with the effect shots on that very film. The promotional material for Gorgo had an oddly technical flavour: instead of the usual “shocking spectacle!”, “heartstopping terror!” etc., the big orange captions zooming onto the screen read “shockingly convincing!” and “incredibly realistic!”, directly appealing to the nascent generation of special effects connoisseur that would come of age during Harryhausen’s imperial phase. Which is fair enough, except that Gorgo wasn’t shockingly convincing, even at the time. As the monster appeared so often, stop motion was ruled out as far too costly, so a Godzilla-style rubber suit it had to be, and unfortunately the Brit costume department just hadn’t clocked up enough experience in that field to produce a result that was anything less than 95% pantomime. Certain viewers will be forcefully reminded of Croc, Grotbags’s limp-wristed reptilian henchman from Emu’s All-Live Pink Windmill Show. What is admirable, though, is the way the simpering rubber fellow is integrated with his environment, thanks to visual effects legend (look, he had a Clapperboard special all to himself, that’s legendary in our book) Tom Howard. While not every one of the many composited shots holds up (the budget was clearly under strain from the start, hence the high amount of stock military footage edited into the action sequences), many are models of the craft: the perspective of the various elements often matches perfectly, as does the lighting, and Howard’s not afraid to jazz up a potentially dodgy-looking shot of Gorgo in front of a street scene with further elements of crashing masonry in the foreground. (These were the days when each additional layer meant a huge reduction in the quality and sharpness of the final image, so you had to be parsimonious with your passes.) While it still comes off a distant second to Farciot Edouart’s miraculous achievements on Dr Cyclops from twenty-one (count ’em) years earlier, Howard’s work here deserves plenty of respect, not least his heroic decision to hand-trace outlines of crumbling masonry, which must have resulted in many sleepless nights and eye-strain-related headaches. So, Gorgo: a sow’s ear for sure, but an immaculately presented one.

10.55 A Cry from the Streets
Back to Eros Films for a tearjerker (well, you’ll certainly pull something watching it) about social workers and lovable cockney orphans and Max Bygraves. Marianne Stone plays a charlady, and Fred Griffiths plays something other than a taxi driver. The McWhirters have been informed.

00.35 The Family Way
A Boulting brothers oddity here, a weird sort of halfway house between a “misunderstood young couple on the lam” kitchen sinker and the Brewer Street sexcoms that were starting to materialise around the mid-’60s. Hywel Bennett and Hayley Mills are the newleyweds whose bedroom tribulations become the unwanted talk of their close-knit Lancashire community. John Mills is Bennett’s insensitive dad, Murray Head his brother, and John ‘Sid off of Summer Wine’ Comer Hayley’s old man. Oh, and Macca is credited with doing the score, though some allege that George Martin ended up shouldering most of the composition. We may have to wait until Mark Lewisohn gets to 1966 to know for sure.

04.35 Night Ride
A British & Dominions picture from the days when cinema was bought and sold by the yard, starring the great Wally Patch and the… well, the Jimmy Hanley as lorry driving men out to rescue some flooded miners. Come for Patch, stay for the endless footage of old lorries trundling aimlessly about. Or just go, it’s all the same to us.

BBC Radio 2

22.00 When Kenny Met The Fab Four
We think Les Dawson and Cuddly Ken might also be the only comedians who were better on ITV than the Beeb, unless you can offer any other suggestions. If we’re naming Fifth Beatles, Ken has a bigger claim than most, we think, thanks to the period in 1966 when Radio London sent him off to America to report on the Wackers’ US tour. The resulting reports, played on a tape recorder down a phone line, were totally unintelligible but terrifficially exciting, and the five all became great mates during it, leading to Ken producing their Christmas records. Plenty of ace clippage is promised here, plus new stuff too.

THURSDAY, 22nd DECEMBER

BBC1

Not only, but actually a round on Celeb Mastermind

Not only, but actually a round on Celeb Mastermind

19.00 Celebrity Mastermind
Last one of these this side of Christmas. Sam and Mark are definitely better kids TV presenters than they ever were pop stars – indeed, we don’t suppose any of their audience even knows that’s what they used to be – and we’re pleased to see they’re still going strong on CBBC after a decade or more. Sam can’t be bothered with this, but Mark’s taken the plunge, and is answering questions on wrestling. Also on this show is Mitch Benn, talking Peter Cook.

CHANNEL 5

10.30 The Water Babies
Lionel Jeffries hit directorial paydirt in the early seventies with the period cosiness of The Railway Children and The Amazing Mr Blunden, so letting him loose on Charles Kingsley’s whimsical wonderland seemed a no-brainer. Sadly fumbles aplenty occurred, from giving Billie Whitelaw about a dozen parts for no reason, to hiring a Polish studio to produce the lengthy underwater cartoon segments, and basically instructing a Worker-and-Parasite animation house to turn in a chunk of Disney. The boggle-eyed unease that results speaks for itself. Still, there’s Cribbins, there’s Pertwee, there’s Tomlinson and Stubbs, so it’s watchable morbidity at least.

CBBC

17.00 Blue Peter
There’s no real need for us to bill this here, because it’s a repeat of last week’s episode. However, it is the Christmas Blue Peter and this is a far more appropriate slot for it than the original transmission, so if you’ve already clocked off work for your Christmas holidays, here’s your chance to catch it, and realise it’s pretty much as good as it’s always been.

Gold

14.15 Who Done It?
Absurdly quaint Ealing Studios vehicle for Benny Hill, who chucks his job sweeping the ice rink at the Empire Pool when he wins a hundred quid and a bloodhound, and sets himself up as a private detective. And the rest of the film’s straight out of the Beano too, with detectives exclaiming “Stop! There’s villainy afoot!”; Belinda Lee as a strongwoman who just can’t get a feller (“No man can bear the idea of being dominated by a woman. At least… no real man”); Brezhnev-browed spies from Russia – sorry, Uralia – who bungle about chasing after “zer micarofilm-ah!”; a street brawl between an “end is nigh” sandwich man and a one-man band; a top-secret weather machine that runs amok, resulting in instant blizzards and little comedy icicles on the ends of people’s noses; a rampage through a gadget-stuffed Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre, and a climactic chase involving a Watney’s lorry in the shape of a giant beer barrel. Plus guest appearances from the Holiday on Ice Corps de Ballet (their wording, not ours) and the Dagenham Girl Pipers.

Sky Arts

23.00 The Rocky Horror Picture Show
We’ve always been lukewarm about this cult behemoth, mainly because we were introduced to it through the interpretative acts of some of its fans, which is the worst way to discover pretty much anything. Halfway through a school end-of-term knockabout show circa 1986, half a dozen of the lower sixth decided it’d be a great wheeze to dress up in half-arsed tranny clobber and prance about on stage to the accompaniment of the LP version of Time Warp. Not singing it themselves, no, that’s too much effort. The kids in the sound booth, perhaps intentionally (they were metallers to a man, after all), put it on first at the wrong speed, twice, then kept nudging the record deck so it skipped and stuck constantly. The kids on stage just stood there embarrassed for about five minutes before shuffling off. Shortly after they came on again, to do it “properly”. The record played correctly this time, albeit with the output level set so loud it sounded like a Swans gig, and an audience mostly unacquainted with the film wondered why the music kept stopping for some bloke to talk about jumping to the left. The general impression was one of massively annoying self-indulgence, brought to a close when one of the male dancers got his arse out. (Half an hour later, he was frogmarched back on stage by the headmaster to cravenly apologise. No Martin Woodhams he.) So our opinion of the whole Rocky Horror shebang has been irreparably tainted by that goofery. Which is a shame, as we like Tim Curry, we like the idea of Richard O’Brien, and Shock Treatment is a nifty little film, all told.

TCM

15.00 Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror
A full-on wartime episode here, with Holmes set against a Lord Haw-Haw-esque radio propagandist. Some fantastic over-the-top deductions in this one (“adhering to your boot is a type of clay found only in Sevenoaks!”), plus Holmes phoning the Beeb with a record request and hearing it on the wireless three seconds later, and the duo trekking into the dreaded East End. (“This is Lime’ouse, and we don’t fancy your sort of bloke in these parts!”)

Talking Pictures TV

08.10 The Happiness of Three Women
Sweet-natured Welsh comedy romance from the pen of bus-driver-turned-playwright Eynon ‘Welsh Rarebit’ Evans, with Donald Huston in a wheelchair and a song from Petula Clark.

09.50 Piccadilly Third Stop
Misfit criminal gang pot-boiler with Dennis Price as a gambling den boss, William Hartnell as a safecracker and eyeblink cameos from Judy ‘Mrs Peter Cook’ Huxtable and Clement Freud.

23.00 The Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn
Pretty nifty pseudo-Goonish short film with Milligan and Sellers joined by Dick Emery in lieu of Secombe. Not featuring Freda Clench, Jim Pills and Lurgi the Wonder Dog. It’s a shoot-and-run job from those virtuosos of the taut purse string, Merton Park Studios, but it’s still great fun, even if, by all accounts, the filming process wasn’t. Milligan had a breakdown and Sellers, in between reducing female crew members to tears, kept inventing his own surreal and unfunny gags, then went off into a massive strop when nobody felt like filming them. Point of order: the immaculate brick-theft opening visual gag (which we’re sure must be a Milligan original) turns up in variant form in Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run, an example of the awe in which the Hollywood comics of the ’60s (Mel Brooks was another) held the Goons. Does Adam Sandler have the Day Today box set on the shelves of his “man cave”? Bet he chuffing doesn’t.

01.30 Brandy for the Parson
Cheapo would-be Ealing clone from documentary pioneer John Grierson’s government-backed film unit Group 3, later best known for having a hand in the making of Space 1999. It’s a “plucky band of smugglers beats post-war rationing” romp in the mould of Whiskey Galore and Green Grow the Rushes. Kenneth More steers the boat, Charles Hawtrey drives the van.

FRIDAY, 23rd DECEMBER

BBC1

Oh… something about SEVEN

19.00 Strictly Len Goodman
Len’s the only regular on Strictly to have also participated in the original Come Dancing, where he would appear in the eighties and nineties to judge the quaintly-titled “offbeat” round as the show desperately tried to drag itself into the twentieth century. We’re not sure how close to transmission he was hired for the current incarnation, given the billing for episode one suggests someone totally different was supposed to be head judge  but hired he was and he became an overnight star in his sixties. He reckons he’s too old for it now, though, so here’s this special tribute to see him off, with clips and contributions from friends and colleagues, though alas it doesn’t sound like Brucie’s involved.

BBC2

17.15 Porridge
Hopefully by now you’ll have swapped your secret Santas and put on your out-of-office and the holidays can officially begin. Even though obviously this week’s just about to finish. What better way to start the season proper than with one of the greats?

00.05 And Now for Something Completely Different
There’s a whole generation of Python fans, too young to catch the first broadcasts and too old for the late ’80s repeats, who know the most famous sketches primarily through either the LPs or this oft-shown-at-Christmas compilation, and for them these versions, not the TV originals, are the definitive readings. Just as well this is a largely well made collection, then, though some sketches are totally blown: the version of Blackmail here is nowhere near as good, for instance, especially Stop the Film, which not only loses the mad strobing effect (which admittedly wasn’t for everyone – can that even be broadcast today in its original form?) but isn’t accompanied by the fantastic farty brass pomp of Jack Trombey’s Roving Report Number Two. In fact Trombey – real name Jan Stoeckhart – is responsible, often pseudonymously, for some of the catchiest TV music of all. Themes to Junior Showtime, Van der Valk (yep, he’s the I-Level guy) and Never the Twain, for instance. You’ll have had a good few Trombey compositions rattling round your head in your time, believe us. And now you’ve most likely got another one. Enjoy.

CHANNEL 4

12.10 Miracle on 34th Street
“Jolly holiday, jolly holiday, jolly holiday, merry Christmas time!” Oh no, that’s something else, isn’t it? Anyway, this is the original “look, we’ve just had a big old war, let’s think nice things for a bit, eh?” heartwarmer, not the ’90s “hey, Dickie Attenborough just grew a beard! Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” remake.

BBC4

19.00, 00.30 Top of the Pops
No Christmas shows this year, just the last few knockings of 1982 before we proceed apace into another year in January. The shows last week were a bit weak, we thought, with barely any acts in the studio, the production team seemingly having invested all their money into pumpkin stocks. Still, the comic stylings of Simon Bates made it all worth it, we’re sure. The best thing was it was days away from Halloween. Been a bit of a ropey few weeks musically, we think, but don’t worry, because this episode is fantastic, as even Peel himself points out.

19.30, 01.05 Top of the Pops
And the next one, please, although we’ve skipped a week in the thirty seconds or so between episodes, so this might be a rather repetitive half hour, though good news for Modern Romance fans, if any exist. The big news as far as Radio 1 went in December 1982 was that enough pennies had been found for them to broadcast from 6am to midnight every day and all Radio 2 programmes were finally expunged from the airwaves, which meant the arrival of a host of new DJs. We get to meet them here, two of whom became the most familiar faces and voices on this show of the decade, while the third is perhaps the only DJ who became more famous when they left.

20.00 Darcey Bussell – My Life at the BBC
And after we’ve seen off Len on BBC1, we can switch over for one of his colleagues. Of course, Darcey has been on telly regularly much longer than Len, thanks to her appearances on Blue Peter and Going Live while in her teens, and she’ll look back on those – and some slightly more formal appearances – in this programme.

CHANNEL 5

21.00 The Morecambe and Wise Story – Look Back In Laughter
Looks like Channel Five have stopped showing the Thames stuff, with Tommy Cooper’s Christmas absent again after about a dozen consecutive appearances, while the Thames Eric and Ern shows aren’t on anymore, which is a bit of a shame even though we’d probably seen 1981 more than some of the seventies ones. There’s this new documentary, mind, but there’s more interesting stuff from the pair to come later in the holidays.

TCM

15.00 Sherlock Holmes and The Scarlet Claw
Ideas are really running out now, hence this Canadian retread of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Some fun can still be had, though, with the extraordinarily bad acting of some of the locals, and Watson getting pissed on wine and banging on about old Father Brown mysteries, thus raising the tantalising prospect of a pan-detective cinematic universe.

Talking Pictures TV

06.00 Under Your Hat
If you heap big fan Cicely Courtneidge, it’s worth getting up early for this, in which she roams Europe on the suspicious trail of her dickhead spy husband, and real-life non-dickhead actor husband, Jack Hulbert, performing songs by Jack’s brother Claude Hulbert. It’s all very rum indeed.

14.00 A Place of One’s Own
We’ve had What a Carve Up! from the working man’s point of view, now it’s time for a “spooky house on the Yorkshire moors” chiller with a rather posher pedigree. From Gainsborough Studios, via the pen of Osbert Sitwell no less, comes this tale of James Mason retiring to a stately pile and experiencing ectoplasmic conniptions. Could something be taking control of “lady’s companion” Margaret Lockwood? Dennis Price is the cast member linking this to Carve-Up, and ‘The’ Moore ‘The’ Marriott does the gardening.

23.30 A Couple of Beauties
Rum short vehicle for Endsleigh League drag act Bunny Lewis, on the run from gangsters against an authentically grim Mancunian backdrop, with a pre-Wheeltappers Manning and Crompton dropping in.

02.00 Confessions of a Sex Maniac
Barrel-shredding sex… well, “comedy” would be going a bit far here. Roger Lloyd Pack, with Richard O’Sullivan hair, is the eponymous randy architect, given three weeks to design a big new marina complex for Derek Royle, which he decides should be shaped like a knocker, which in turn means he suddenly has to look at loads of knockers. Mildly interesting Soho street scenes and Lloyd Pack’s fantastically un-arsed acting style – every line sounds sarcastic – almost save the day. In fact, the entire thing was filmed on location, as the deafening roar of traffic all through the middle of the interior scenes attests.

It’s Christmaaaaaa…

Several thousand words and we’re not even at Christmas Eve yet! But that’s to come in the second part of your Christmas Creamguide, which will be right here on TVC in about 24 hours time. So hold your breath, and we’ll be back with you soon.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Applemask

    December 15, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Yes, because any adaptation of Nineteeen Eighty-Four needs to be expansive and uplifting. Put a few laughs in, Eric.

  2. THX 1139

    December 16, 2016 at 10:20 am

    If you want to see Nineteen Eighty-Four with laughs, you could always watch Brazil.

    The lukewarm response to The Family Way is odd, it’s a terrific film, but it’s also written by Bill Naughton who wrote Spring and Port Wine, so I thought it would easily be a Creamguide recommendation. Is it because he wrote Alfie, too? It’s a Christmas mystery.

  3. Old Applejack

    December 17, 2016 at 9:25 am

    Can’t seem to get Talking Pictures TV on Virgin. Boo, and indeed, hiss.

  4. Droogie

    December 21, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Regarding which 70’s kids TV show used America from West Side Story over an animated bit, it was Record Breakers. They’d play it whenever they had a filmed sequence of Roy Castle on location in the USA for some record-breaking attempt. A million points to me?

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