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Christmas Creamguide 2017: Week One


Merry Christmas!

And welcome to, heavens, the eighteenth annual Christmas Creamguide where once again we collate all that’s worth watching and listening to over the next fourteen days, including once again a full film guide. It’s in two parts, the second tomorrow, and we hope you enjoy it.

SATURDAY, 23rd DECEMBER

BBC1

13.15 Cool Runnings
Not to be confused with Cool Munnings, our perpetually in-development blaxploitation reboot of the adventures of the Trumpton printer, this is a middling vehicle for “Wagons East with the late great” John Candy, nothing more, nothing less. Speaking of reboots, we were mildly spooked to see the resurrection treatment meted out to Jumanji, a film we’d previously filed in our brains as the epitome of ’90s mediocrity, but which turns out to be a much-loved nostalgic touchstone among those fine young people the crankily middle-aged feel obliged to call “Millennials”. (On a semi-serious note, if you have a look at the questionable work of the sociologists who came up with that term, and “Generation X” and the rest, we swear you’ll never touch the phrase “baby boomer” again.) So, look out for multi-hundred-million-dollar reprisals of Twister, Space Jam, Dragonheart and the like. Or, at the very least, a much-garlanded Netflix series cerebrally deconstructing The Last Action Hero. We like to think we’re not quite at the pipe-and-slippers stage yet, but popular culture is definitely starting to give us the willies.

18.15 Pointless Celebrities
The way the days fall this Christmas means we’re onto the proper festive shows right away. This is now surely the traditional curtain raiser to the big day, although sadly we don’t think Xander is going to sing on this one, seemingly in deference to the guests who have all had Christmas hits, including Jimmy Osmond, Jona Lewie and Mad Mike Bonkers Batt.

21.30 Our Friend Victoria at Christmas
Victoria Wood was one of those stars who became so famous that after a few years she only tended to appear on telly via Christmas specials, not many of which had much to do with Christmas. Nevertheless it’s reason enough for this supplement to the tribute series from earlier this year, with Lovely Anne Reid, as she is officially known, on hosting duties and a host of stars showing up to pay tribute.

BBC2

06.45 The Bishop’s Wife
Cary Grant swoops down from heaven to help Bishop David Niven with his plywood totaliser in this festive feelgooder that we’re saying outdoes It’s a Wonderful Life, which came out a year earlier.

20.30 Dad’s Army
Perhaps surprisingly there aren’t many of the familiar sitcom repeats on the Beeb this Christmas – no Porridge, no Blackadder, not even the Ooh Aah Bird – while Channel Five’s jaunts through the Thames archive are now, sadly, a thing of the past. There is something a bit interesting in a few days to make up for it, mind, and all these are present and correct, of course.

CHANNEL 4

14.10 “Crocodile” Dundee
The comedy sketch that became a film franchise by way of a series of beer adverts. This film always drags up slightly bitter memories for us of failing to get the last tickets for a pre-Christmas screening and ending up having to sit through dire Eddie Murphy vehicle The Golden Child instead. Still, good to see the Radio Times endow its billing with the correct quotation marks. They were there on the original poster, go and look.

CHANNEL 5

22.50 Chas and Dave’s Christmas Knees Up!
This is still here, mind, though heaven knows why because it’s a total shambles, and once more we note Jim Davidson is mentioned in the EPG even though they’ve edited him out every single time they’ve shown it. In fact the most interesting thing about the whole thing is that LWT created a genuine pub in the studio, with proper working pumps and everything, making it totally realistic apart from the fact it didn’t have any toilets in it, so the audience were traipsing in and out of the studio all night. At least it’s not on Christmas Day this time, we suppose.

Gold

16.00 Smashie’s Xmastastic Playlist
As you’ll see it’s quite a big Christmas for the return of some favourite comedy stars and characters from previous years, though this one seems to have flown under the radar a bit. Nevertheless, Mike Smash is going to popping up on this channel throughout the festive season to introduce Christmas records, and if that all sounds a bit half-baked, few people are as consistently funny as Paul Whitehouse so even if he knocked the whole series off in an afternoon we don’t doubt there’ll be plenty to enjoy.

Talking Pictures TV

10.05 The Galloping Major
Based incredibly loosely on that “bumpity bumpity bumpity bump” song specially written for grandads to bounce toddlers on their knee to, in which the various characters of a fictional, Hapstead-ish London village club together to enter a racehorse in the Grand National. Sounds like a nice little Ealing number, doesn’t it? But this comes from the stable of John and James Woolf, of Romulus Films (get it?) and Room at the Top fame. Basil Radford, who came up with the plot, is the eponymous major, Jeanette Scott his daughter, Hugh Griffith a lawyer, Joyce Grenfell a waitress, Jimmy Hanley a bus driver, Kenneth More a director, Alfie Bass and Sam Kydd newsagents, Thora Hird a tea lady and Sid James – would you credit it? – a bookie. Interesting side-note: the posters for this film claimed “The producers of Passport to Pimlico and Whiskey Galore do it again!” We tend to think of “From the producers of…” as a very recent and unwelcome innovation, but there it is, bold as brass in 1951. The best thing about the producer angle is that it means nothing to your average filmgoer in terms of transferred prestige. Stars, directors, fine, but producers? And of course, the film this line is plugging is usually a comic let-down. (“From the producers of The Mask, it’s… Barb Wire!”) Although we do recall one instance of the plugged film being better than the line suggested: a poster for not-bad Kathryn Bigelow vampire pile-on Near Dark claimed it came “from the producers of The Golden Child”. Brrrrr.

20.00 Heavens Above!
Smart Boulting Brothers satire in which Peter Sellers’ ingenuous Brummie vicar moves into a snooty rural parish and starts redistributing the pineapple titbits in earnest, and takes in a poor family headed by Eric Sykes and Irene Handl, both at the top of their game. But the real fun is spotting the many, many big names in the supporting cast, including Ian Carmichael, Bernard Miles, Miriam Karlin, Miles Malleson, Eric Barker, William Hartnell, Roy Kinnear, Joan Hickson, Kenneth Griffith, John Comer, Ludovic Kennedy, Malcolm Muggeridge, Derek Nimmo, Cardew Robinson, Marianne Stone, Thorley Walters, George Woodbridge, Rodney Bewes, Tim Brinton, Fred Griffiths, John Junkin and Steve Marriott.

BBC Radio 2

13.00 Pick of the Pops
It’s a special edition, although inevitably with Gambo in charge that means he’s doing the American chart as well as the British one. Well, given it’s Christmas we suppose it’s OK, but this had better not become a regular thing. It is at least worth a listen if you’re thoroughly sick of Christmas records, mind, because the year is 1970 and at our end, at least, there wasn’t a single Christmas song in the entire chart, topped by one of the least festive number ones imaginable.

BBC Radio 4

20.00 Lenny Henry on Richard Pryor – The Making of a Satirist
There’s more of Lenny Len later in the holiday, but here he is paying tribute to a man who, back in seventies Dudley, blew Len away and became a total inspiration. Sounds a fascinating programme too, as the story starts in 1971 when Pryor moved to Berkeley, California, home of the Black Panthers, which was the cue for him to introduce a heavy dose of politics alongside the punchlines.

CHRISTMAS EVE

BBC2

15.20 Guys And Dolls
Luke Be A Jedi Tonight! Brando, Sinatra, Simmons and Blaine line up for a movie adaptation of the stage musical that nobody has ever seen outside of countless performances by the cast of the latest revival on editions of Blue Peter when they realised that they couldn’t just get away with telling the story of The Stone Of Scone for the eighteen millionth time that week. Doctor Who fans might like to note the presence of Stubby Kaye, TV’s ‘Weismuller’, primarily because it will annoy a lot of them.

19.00 Dad’s Army
Here’s another one, and if you only watch one this Christmas we reckon this is the one, because it’s the only one with James Beck in it. Of course this billing in your regular weekly Creamguide (yes, we do this all year round) usually serves as something of a noticeboard so if you have anything you’d like to share with our vast readership then creamguide@tvcream.co.uk is open throughout the holidays.

ITV

00.45 Casino Royale
Yes! The proper one, with Niven, Sellers, Allen, Corbett, Nimmo and O’Toole. Perhaps some unobservant Daniel Craig fan will record this by accident and take their first steps into a wider world.

CHANNEL 4

18.40 The Muppet Christmas Carol
Of course, all the professional film critics OMG lovelovelooooooove!! this film now, and sneakily maintain they always did, though we seem to recall only Barry Norman was really supportive at the time. The rest were too busy mulling over the mechanics of Robert Downey Jr’s Charlie Chaplin impression to give the poor Hensonites their full attention. “Jokes are thin on the ground, as if only a certain amount of piss-taking was thought appropriate” – the Guardian. “In the spirit of seasonal goodwill, I will refrain from comment” – the Observer. You get the idea. Nowadays Downey’s the cool exec with a heart of steel, and the broadsheets are all extremely relaxed about this sort of stuff, which is all to the good, but let’s not pretend it was ever thus.

BBC4

19.30 Top of the Pops
Well, here’s a bit of a treat, as we break away from 1984 to return to Christmas Day 1973. For us, this brings back happy memories not of the early seventies, but of 1991 when it was repeated as part of BBC2’s fondly remembered Perfect Christmas day, and it was very exciting to see an actual old episode of Pops on TV. Of course, that’s now longer ago than it was from there to the original transmission. Brrr. Lovely to see it again, though, probably the ultimate seventies Pops with a classic glam-festooned line-up, and it all ends with Noddy Holder getting a pie in the face.

20.15 Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?
Inevitable that this would get a repeat somewhere over the festive season, what with Rodney Bewes’ sad death a few weeks ago. It was the last one they ever did, before the film which seemed to put the kybosh on the pair’s relationship, but let’s hope this is the start of a series of repeats during 2018 in tribute, eh?

23.20 The Signalman
00.00 Christopher Lee’s Ghost Stories For Christmas

And you don’t have to go anywhere near the 21st century on BBC4 tonight as the rest of the evening is devoted to the art of the Christmas ghost story. There’s nothing new, but none the worse for that as we get Mark Gatiss’ tribute to MR James and repeats of the most recent adaptations of his work. Then that’s followed by this hugely memorable one-off from Christmas 1976 and finally a series that was dotted about through the schedules in Christmas 2000. And the fact we’re now billing stuff that was new during Creamguide’s lifetime is surely the scariest thing of all.

Talking Pictures TV

11.30 Runaround
We had the special on ice the other day, and now here’s the other one they’ve shown a couple of times before – but, crucially, before this channel was as widely available as it is now – from Christmas 1979. Although it’s safely studio-bound, it’s just as chaotic, from the moment Mike asks if we want “a nice game of Runaround” in tones that make it sound more like a threat than a promise, through to the item involving a pack of huskies that make such a racket it has to be abandoned.

CHRISTMAS DAY

BBC1

12.20 Top of the Pops
This was the year we finally got that Top of the Pops replacement we’d promised for the last decade, and despite the lukewarm response, Sounds Like Friday Night, for it was that, has been recommissioned, and apparently it got much better as it went on. The two shows can seemingly co-exist, though, hence the return of this. In many ways it had been pickled in aspic since the weekly show ended, but now Reggie Yates has had to, er, go away and in his place Clara Amfo, owner of the best hair on TV, is alongside Fearne Cotton, whose own presence seems somewhat tenuous these days given she’s now a Radio 2 DJ.

15.00 The Queen
As we saw in last week’s Creamguide, there was no Queen’s Speech in 1969 because she felt she’d been on telly too much, and only did a written message instead, but seemingly that’s never been an issue in the five decades since, even when we’ve had Royal Weddings, Jubilees and anniversaries aplenty. Indeed we’d be happy for Liz to be on telly more, because surely forty years on from her jaunt to The Good Life, it’s about time she was in the audience for another telly show. Give us Strictly Royal Dancing in 2018! It’ll be better than a Bank Holiday!

17.30 Doctor Who
In recent years, Who on Christmas Day has been richly entertaining but perhaps a little disposable with a couple of adventures that could really have appeared on any day of the year. Not so this year, though, as it’s regeneration time! That’s not before Pete has one final adventure, and it’s a tantalising multi-Doctor adventure with David Bradley as the first one to boot, which should be great fun. Then it’s the sad departure of Capaldi who we think has been brilliant, although for some viewers we’re sure the exit of Pearl Mackie will have just as much impact.

22.35 300 Years of French and Saunders
The response to the title of this show on certain forums was a top one for Yes That’s The Joke on Twitter. It’s three decades since Dawn and Jennifer got their first series on the Beeb, where they were a real breath of fresh air and hugely acclaimed, though we would suggest they went off the boil a bit later on with the shows getting increasingly self-indulgent, their film parodies looking fantastic but with the budget getting in the way of the jokes, as well as being somewhat impenetrable if you hadn’t seen the originals. But this should be an entertaining affair, because while much of it is based around old clips, they’ve found a few pennies for some new sketches which are apparently cheap and cheerful affairs, so that sounds all to the good.

BBC2

17.35 The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show
The grand Christmas tradition these days seems to involve the ratings coming out on Boxing Day and everyone being underwhelmed by them and suggesting viewers are “bored” of the same shows every Christmas, despite the fact nobody remembers what was on last Christmas anyway, and they’re not bored of Strictly any other day of the year. And besides, when this show made up The Greatest Light Entertainment Line-Up In The History Of Television in 1977, it had been on seven of the previous Christmas Days and nobody was bothered about that. Of course, it helps it’s one of the most famous television programmes ever made.

19.45 Dad’s Army
Another reason why BBC1’s ratings on Christmas Day aren’t all that these days is that in the past it would be competing with BBC2 and Channel Four being self-consciously alternative with opera and ballet, whereas now Channel Four, especially, is almost as mainstream as BBC1 with Home Alone, Bake Off and Alan Carr. BBC2 at least are whacking out some Proms and period drama, but this’ll probably snare a million or so too.

ITV

09.25 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
12.50 Santa Claus: the Movie

Two latter-day traditions are being observed here, the first entirely understandable, but how Dudley Moore, Don Estelle and Melvyn Hayes came to be preserved for the ages we’ll never know. Anyway, here they are. “Standard”, as we believe the kids say.

CHANNEL 5

08.55 Scrooge
11.05 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
13.05 Singin’ in the Rain
15.10 Oliver!

Five’s usual Christmas morning musical excuse-me. That’s the Albert Finney Scrooge up top.

BBC4

21.00 Christmas Night with the Stars
Wow! Here’s the most interesting repeat of the festive season, from 1972, which we don’t think has been shown in full since then. In fact it’s the last one they ever did, though it certainly went out with all guns blazing, with a pretty much faultless line-up including imperial phase Dad’s Army, The Goodies and The Liver Birds, while Ron and Ron are on hosting duties, so this should be a hugely welcome alternative if 2017’s fare doesn’t appeal. And then…

22.15 Christmas with Val Doonican
They’ve shown this one a few years ago, but we don’t mind because it’s fantastic. It’s from 1986, after Val’s regular series had come to an end but the Christmas show continued for several more years like the annual for a long-folded comic. It’s everything you could ever want as well, with loads of Val’s wonderful comic bits of business alongside the songs, including a snooker lesson from Dennis Taylor and, rather wonderfully, a special appearance from Jan Leeming to talk about reading the news on Christmas Day and being serenaded by the orchestra playing the news theme. And that’s what we call entertainment!

ITV3

06.55 Carry On Cowboy
08.50 Carry On – Don’t Lose Your Head

10.45 Carry On – Follow That Camel
12.40 Carry On Doctor
14.40 Carry On Up the Khyber
16.30 Carry On Camping
18.20 Carry On Again, Doctor
20.05 Carry On Up the Jungle
22.00 Carry On Loving
23.50 Carry On Henry

The now-traditional unwatched festive Carry On-athon, with a couple of popular favourites and a lot of chaff. As ever, we defer to Kenneth Williams’ judgement, so, from top to bottom: “The first Carry On to be a success on every level. It’s got laughs, and pathos, some lovely people and some ugly people”; “The fight sequence went on too long and Sid James really does look terribly battered and old”; “V. well written and actually had a tagline!”; “A v. good vehicle for Frankie Howerd but all the other parts are lousy”; “Roy Castle is v. good in the rushes and photographs v. handsomely”; “It was freezing cold in the orchard and the mud is thicker than ever!”; “It moves along at a spanking pace, the cutting is excellent and the situations all hold… the incredibly banal lines which I have to say are made quite acceptable by the sort of style and panache I bring to the role”; “I was staggered to see what they got away with!”; “The end is a big party shambles where everyone throws custard pies and seems to be the bottom of the barrel, but for Talbot Rothwell bottoms are capable of infinite variety”; “A collection of such rubbish you’re amazed it could ever have been stuck together”.

Sky Movies Christmas

16.10 The Polar Express
If Millennials are to have their nostalgia as rigidly ordered and multi-tiered as ours, then this abomination must serve as their equivalent of Raggety from Rupert the Bear, or Paulus the Wood Gnome. Hideous, rough-hewn marionettes are replaced with hideous, sightless uncanny valley CGI Tom Hankseses to full-strength bed-wetting effect. As a bearded, bespectacled YouTube “geek culture” expert might put it, so many questions here. What collective trauma has given everyone on the titular express that broken, thousand-yard stare? And why are they, the train and indeed the north pole itself, all made out of the same brand of shop-soiled marzipan?

Talking Pictures TV

16.00 Scrooge: A Christmas Carol
With Finney on Five, good old Talking Pictures give us Sim. That “gravy”/”grave” pun will probably sit uncomfortably with many people viewing at this time of the big day, but this makes for better vintage “nodding off” fodder than, say, BBC2’s Vera Lynn tribute. Christmas Day ends with a Tums festival.

20.00 Laughter in Paradise
We used to think the “eccentric millionaire leaves grasping descendants a series of out-of-character tasks in his will” was a mini genre in itself, but really there’s only this film and its iffy ’70s remake with Michael Hordern and Ronnie Corbett. And The Legacy of Reginald Perrin, but the less said about that the better. This is the business, though, with Alistair Sim doing some marvellously nervous farting about with a brick, Fay Compton being run into the ground by a bedridden John Laurie, Joyce Grenfell in full-on Lumpy Latimer mode (“You promised to take me out tonight and I’ve had a bath specially!”) George Cole robbing a bank and, famously, Audrey Hepburn making her screen debut with the memorable line: “Hello, who wants a ciggie?”

22.00 Bedazzled
We were mildly perturbed recently to hear that the wrong version of this film – the Liz Hurley one – has started to gather some amount of stand-alone cult status for itself, meaning there are people out there who, on encountering the name, will smile wryly to themselves while having absolutely no idea who Peter Cook is. This worries us in no small measure, but thankfully there will always be space on the screen for (adopts Ian Dury sing-song tones) Pete and Dud and Racquel Welch, as there is here.

BBC Radio 2

10.00 Junior Choice
We assumed this show had ended with the death of Stewpot a year or so ago, but after a suitable hiatus it’s back. With Tony Blackburn in their employ you may assume he’d have taken over, as he did in 1980, but no, perhaps not surprisingly given he bloody hated it. Instead, for some reason or other, it’s our favourite foul-mouthed Tweeter in Anneka Rice, who might make it a little more palatable.

20.00 George Michael at the BBC
Last year ended up being a pretty shit Christmas Day as we heard that George had died during the course of the evening. No doubt a lot of us will be remembering the great man at some point, and Radio 2 are doing the same, with clips from his often massively indiscreet and gossipy interviews over the years.

BBC Radio 4

18.30 Just a Minute – 50 Years in 28 Minutes
Some of the other Radio Four panel shows can feel a bit like they’re pickled in aspic, Quote Unquote being the obvious example, but Just a Minute remains as popular as it ever was, helped by Nickle Arse Parsons’ determination to move with the times. And that’s some going given loads of people assumed it’d be over when Kenneth Williams died nearly thirty years ago now. Here’s some memorable moments.

BOXING DAY

BBC1

15.45 Mary Poppins
Lord alone knows what this sequel that’s coming out next year is going to be like, but it’s set in the thirties, so here’s hoping some diligent researcher has augmented the authentic period London streets with a cinema showing Alf’s Button Afloat.

BBC2

11.55 A Hard Day’s Night
Fab Gear accompaniment to discovering that box of Matchmakers is actually empty as John, George, Ringo and ‘Dinners’ give their manager the slip and go on the rampage through a train, a TV studio and some place full of suits. One of the best films of the entire sixties and kickstarted the still-persistent craze for movies with pop stars in; the only problem was that The Beatles were talented actors and comics as well as being excellent musicians, songwriters and suckers for tosspot conmen wrapped in orange curtains. Not many others, it has to be said, ever were. Apart from Herman’s Hermits, obviously.

CHANNEL 4

14.00 Back to the Future
As we’ve mentioned before, it’s interesting how the second film in the trilogy has gone from “noisy, charmless, confusing cash-in” on release to part of the cultural bedrock, thanks in part to endless whimsical “where’s my hoverboard?” articles; while the third, which was better liked in 1989 by the senior critics as it was a western and they knew about those, has more or less vanished from the Earth. Mind you, even the original was met with guarded praise back in 1985. One hack summed it up as “virtually impossible not to enjoy in some way or other.” Eh?

BBC4

20.00 The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures
We hear a lot about festive telly traditions but we think this is the only thing on this Christmas which was also on the first telly Christmas eighty years ago. For a while back there it looked like they might not have made it that far, doing the rounds of various channels in the bowels of the EPG, but we think nowadays they’re in the perfect place, where we’ll see them for the next three nights.

Talking Pictures TV

12.00 A-Bob-In-The-Pound with Tommy Handley
Nothing says Christmas 2017 quite like an animated song encouraging the folk of war-torn Britain to invest in government bonds, does it? Seriously, there’s something about Tommy Handley’s relentless Hitler-bashing cheeriness that makes Samuel Beckett look like the Fresh Prince.

BBC Radio 2

20.00 Roger Moore – Nobody Did It Better
As we mentioned last week, we don’t seem to get massive seasons of whoever had died that year on Christmas telly anymore, more’s the pity, although you can probably see Roger on telly most weeks anyway thanks to ITV4’s never-ending Bond marathons. He’s definitely the favoured Bond in TVC Towers, and if there’s not much of him on TV, Radio 2 are doing him justice with this two hour tribute.

WEDNESDAY, 27th DECEMBER

BBC1

19.00 Celebrity Mastermind
We always love this series, because the questions are pitched just right for watching with the family as you’ve got a fair chance of getting them all correct and looking dead clever. And it’s always fascinating to see the kind of people who appear, the requirement to ship forty celebs up to Salford meaning they often pick some interesting names. Sadly we don’t know at the moment what any of the specialist subjects are, but we can’t wait to see what’s picked by Pam Ayres, Rich Hall and, of particular interest to us because we’re fascinated by football commentators, Guy Mowbray.

BBC2

12.10 The Red Shoes
Ahhhh, BBC2. Bless your wee heart. Not being able to simulcast Darcey DeFarcey pirouetting across the stage of Saddley Balls, or whatever the fuck ballet is, for six solid hours on Christmas Day anymore, they’ve got as close as they can with this story of dancing dementia. It remains an immense film, good enough even to survive four decades of Ludo Kennedy whining about Michael Powell being beastly to Moira Shearer. But it’s worth continued viewing just to appreciate the sheer effort and sincerity Anton Walbrook puts into playing a heterosexual man and if you tune in then you could probably live tweet along to it with Martin Scorsese. Robert Helpman plays the part of the dancing cobbler. We don’t know who plays the other one (copyright, Spike Milligan.)

19.00 Dad’s Army
As we always say, it’s bizarre to look back at the schedules from Christmasses past and see enormous shows like this in unglamorous slots miles away from the big day, although it’s worth remembering that there were loads more films in primetime those days too, whereas this year it’s only Gone Girl and The Avengers anyway near a prime slot. Anyway, they’ve made up for it since.

21.00 Alan Partridge: Why, When, Where, How and Whom?
Interesting interview with Steve Coogan recently where he said that for all of Alan Partridge’s immense popularity, if anything there are more people in the public eye these days with the total lack of embarrassment and ludicrous opinions that he’s sending up, which tells you something about the amount of influence this kind of thing actually has. Still, it does also illustrate how Partridge remains relevant and there aren’t many characters who can continue to develop and entertain over 25 years, which is especially impressive for someone who was just created to take the piss out of Elton Welsby. There’s a new series on the Beeb in 2018 and to whet our appetite here’s a special show featuring clippage, interviews and unseen footage.

CHANNEL 5

10.30 North Sea Hijack
16.55 The Guns of Navarone

We lost the epic Sir Roger Moore this year of course – the man classed as Britain’s Pre-Eminent Post-War Film Star (by us) – and Creamguide(Films) still isn’t quite over it but hopes any day now to stop watching The Wild Geese on multiple televisions at once while rocking back and forth in formal pyjamas like a character from a film Terry Gilliam hasn’t quite thought of but really ought to make; like Twelve Crunchies, or The Adventures of Barry’s Cheap Housing. Leave it to Channel Five, the last surviving bastion of Films On Telly in any meaningful sense, to bring out one of Earl Moore’s very best outings. We already consider North Sea Hijack a Xmas Film thanks to it being one of the films scheduled in early pages (pre-holiday supplement, that is) Double Issue Radio Times in about, oooooh, 1988? It’s difficult to recall precisely cos the film schedule Back In The Day was many and varied. Unlike this year, which is limited and pish. Anyway, we can relive watching it at our Gran’s in the company of Rog, James ‘cheese toastie’ Mason and Tony ‘Dorothy’ Perkins. Do you like cats? You fucking better. Oh and then it’s Navarone. Like Zavaroni. That’s how you say it. FACT.

BBC Radio 1

21.00 Radio 1’s Stories
Undoubtedly the radio highlight of the year as far as we’re concerned was Radio 1 Vintage, the fantastic pop-up station which spent an entire weekend reliving fifty years of the station. What was especially great is that it was clear everyone involved had a genuine love and affection for the material, and wanted it all to sound brilliant, and it’s not often that comes across on air. On the station itself, Annie Nightingale presented a series of musings on pop and pop culture over the past five decades, which were hugely entertaining though we neglected to actually bill them at the time because we’re rubbish. But here they are again, over the next three nights.

BBC Radio 2

23.00 Stanley Baxter’s Musical World
After The Greatest Light Entertainment Line-Up In The History Of British Television forty years ago this week, you could have switched over and watched one of the few stars the light channel had whose shows reached the heights of Eric and Ern in the shape of Stanley Baxter, albeit in clip show form. As every schoolboy knows, they came to an abrupt end in the eighties because they were too expensive, but it’s great to know Stanley is still working, albeit mostly on the radio these days. Here’s a two-part tribute tonight and tomorrow where Paddy O’Connell talks to the great man, and also plays some of his favourite records.

THURSDAY, 28th DECEMBER

BBC1

19.00 Celebrity Mastermind
One of the other grand Christmas traditions these days is moaning that you don’t recognise any of the celebrities on this, but so what, eh? It’s not like it used to be Kylie vs Obama, and the point is what they’re doing on it, not who they are. If you’ve never heard of them it’s just a normal quiz, isn’t it? Anyway, Dom did alright when he was on a year or so ago so here’s Dick helping us find out who’s best once and for all, while other guests include poet Lemn Sissay.

CHANNEL 5

10.25 The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad
12.15 The Vikings
14.30 Jason and The Argonauts
23.45 The Taking of Pelham 123

Much as we appreciate these pages are becoming a reprint of Five’s entire schedule, there’s not much else suitable going on elsewhere. Still, an extraordinary run of toppermost business to enjoy here, helpfully timed to allow for dinner, doing the dishes and a wee sleep between the Harryhausens and hijackings in the evening. We were pondering producing an elaborate multi-layered joke here, founded on a fictional movie which combines the stars of these four films building to a zinger about Robert Shaw doing the ‘running of the third rails.’ But then we opened a box of Elizabeth Shaw’s Prometheus mints and that was that.

CBBC

17.30 Blue Peter
Although we’re a bit sad the Christmas show isn’t just a day or two before the big day like it used to be in the past – with the tree going to the Blue Peter Old People’s Centre in Deptford straight after the show – at least these days the Review of the Year is in its rightful place on the first Thursday after Christmas. It’ll be our last chance to see Barney, of course, but Lindsey and Radzi have been an excellent duo since his departure, and there’ll be plenty more to look forward to in 2018 with not just the sixtieth anniversary but the five thousandth episode.

BBC Parliament

20.25 Kings of Swing
So, what’s the family’s festive favourite got for us this Christmas? Well, actually this was on the other week, but we didn’t know about it until it was too late. We were massively going off the idea of staying up late to watch election results as they were all getting a bit depressing, but this year’s poll turned out to be surprisingly entertaining. And we always enjoy harking back through the decades, and this programme looking at the evolution of statistics and graphics on election night should be hugely entertaining, not least as it means lots and lots of Bob McKenzie.

ITV3

12.25 Carry On Don’t Lose Your Head
14.15 Carry On Loving
16.10 Carry On Behind
00.15 Carry On Cowboy

These non-terrestrial bundlings of Carry On… films have become a new festive tradition, like the John Lewis advert but actually of some remote interest to people who aren’t insufferable enough to run digital radios and hummus blenders off their own self-righteous smugness. Should you wish to glance at other days in this time and place you’ll notice pretty much every other entry in the canon (but not the black and white ones and not, thankfully, England or Emmanuelle.) But does anyone actually sit down and watch them all? We reckon these are pure Tivo fodder, with dads setting the Sky+ to record them all before getting narked that the documentary on the shark Nazis of Patagonia running on Discovery Tomes and Blether they really wanted to keep turns out to be labelled with the dread words ‘partially recorded’ when they finally get round to watching it at 1am on 4th January.

FRIDAY, 29th DECEMBER

BBC1

19.00 Celebrity Mastermind
And as ever the other brilliant thing about this series is that it carries on long into January so Christmas feels like it’s still going on. We’re sorry to say that often at this time of the evening we find ourselves drifting to Hollyoaks, although we rarely ever watch it properly but just find it suitable background noise while we’re washing the pots. Hence we’re quite excited that Anna Passey, who plays the awful Sienna, is here tonight, alongside Radio 1’s Nick Bright. No, not one of the best, this one.

BBC2

20.00 Eric and Ernie’s Home Movies
Lots of the magnificent two this Christmas across the Beeb, tonight across two channels. BBC2’s contribution comes in the shape of some previously unseen footage of the duo at work and at play, which is apparently absolutely fascinating and often very moving. Joan and Gary Morecambe are among those taking part, as well as seemingly an especially poignant moment when two people who saw them in panto sixty years ago get the chance to finally see it again. And then it’s an almost equally cherished double act…

21.00 Vic and Bob’s Big Night Out
“I put so much petrol in my car the other day… I couldn’t get in it!” Reeves and Mortimer have done plenty of telly over the past 25 years or so but we still look fondly at the original Vic Reeves Big Night Out, and it’s easy to forget what a distinctive show it was at the time – all filmed as-live, seemingly in a single take and with most of the props home-made. Indeed we remember when they started doing Smell there was some pondering as to whether fans would take to the show including proper exterior filming. We’ll never be able to recreate the impact that show had, but tonight Vic and Bob are going back to the roots for a one-off revival (except they’ve already commissioned a series), with some new characters and some old favourites, including a lard-obsessed newsagent.

CHANNEL 4

05.15 Young Sherlock Holmes
A welcome showing for a cracking fun wee film but what’s with the timing? This used to be shown at primetime Saturday nights and, in fact, by rights should be BBC1’s Big Xmas Eve film. Not for returning ravers and rappies glaring at a screen with a trembling fistful of toast scouring the EPG for Weir’s Way.

CHANNEL 5

09.00 Arthur 2 On The Rocks
11.10 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
13.20 Labyrinth

Now here’s a mixed selection box of variable treats; two big bars of chocolate and a packet of Parma Violets in film terms, if you will. The Oddfellow in the quarter of Bon Bons, in non-festive terms. Will Drop Pants For Food-era Dudley presumably got a giant fistful of dollars (not his own fist, then) for the first of our trio which really does try to recapture the magic of the original but falls short. Not badly short but just short enough for the whole exercise to be in vain. The weirdest choice by the producers was to engage the otherwise excellent Paul Benedict as the replacement for Hobson. Now, Benedict is (was) a worthy fellow – you might remember him as Plunkett, the Governor’s messenger in The Front Page, or Matthew Broderick’s over-impressed lecturer in The Freshman, or the butler in The Man With Two Brains – but he was no John Gingold. DRS remains the finest outing of non-Hester Anton Rodgers and Labyrinth is as Labyrinth does. Whatever the fuck that means.

21.00 Victoria Wood By Her Friends
We’re not entirely sure what Victoria’s friends are going to say that they haven’t already done on the Beeb’s Our Friend Victoria, but any programme about Vic is probably welcome, and even if there’s nothing on here we haven’t seen umpteen times before, we don’t especially mind seeing it again.

BBC4

20.00 Top of the Pops
And so here we are with the last Pops of 1984… and, we might suggest, the last great episode. It was certainly the end of an era as this was the last year we had two Christmas shows, which is a shame because while the show on Christmas Day itself is unsurprisingly devoted to the big hitters, the second show allowed them to present some of the less familiar hits of the year, some rightly forgotten but some we’re delighted to hear again. Meanwhile, unlike Christmas Day we do have a Radio 1 DJ in charge, but not one who normally presents because it’s Lenny Henry, who at the time was a regular on the station and was absolutely at the height of his powers at the time. Inevitably he has a whale of a time and some familiar characters make an appearance, and the whole thing is enormously entertaining, so make the most of it.

21.00 Eric, Ernie and Me
The second Morecambe and Wise show of the evening is also that lesser-spotted thing, a BBC4 drama, and we can’t remember the last time we had one of those because they abandoned them a while back for costing too much. Clearly a few pennies have been found for this, and we’re glad that’s the case because it’s the story of Eddie Braben, who played an absolutely pivotal role in their rise from being one of a myriad of double acts to the most beloved entertainers in Britain, but at some personal expense. Stephen Tompkinson’s in the starring role and by all accounts it’s a very entertaining and poignant affair.

22.00 Elvis – The Return of the King
These days the common consensus is that you can more or less write off Elvis’ Vegas years as an undistinguished period where an increasingly ill Presley went through the motions in front of bored audiences. But this documentary suggests we’ve got that all wrong, as when he first arrived he was at the height of his powers, with rekindled enthusiasm after several years making crap films and virtually inventing the whole concept of the Vegas entertainer while he was at it. Seemingly there are plenty of clips to illustrate that too.

And there’s more…

That’s the end of the first part of this Christmas Creamguide, but we’ll be back tomorrow with the rest of your holiday viewing and listening. So go away, have a lovely evening and come back and join us in 24 hours.

By the way…

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. George White

    March 29, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    Benedict often imrpove the brief bits of various 70s comedy/dramas – a genre of US cinema I don’t espec. enjoy. And Steve Martin’s schtick I grew out of.Just watched Man with Two Brains. Warner’s good in it, and I like the backlot Austria – but it’s just a better-produced version of the likes of Dr Jekyll Together Again

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