TV Cream

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Christmas Creamguide 2018: Week One

Hullo there!

And welcome to the maybe-legendary-but-it’s-not-for-us-to-say Christmas Creamguide, back for a nineteenth festive season. As in previous years, it’s so big it arrives over two posts, with TV, radio and a full film guide. Hope you enjoy it!

SATURDAY, 22nd DECEMBER

BBC1

17.20 Celebrity Mastermind
As usual about 10% of the Christmas Creamguide will be devoted to billings for this show, so it’s good to start as we mean to go on. As Pointless has frequently illustrated, Joe Pasquale is a master of general knowledge so we don’t doubt that he’ll absolutely storm this edition with his specialist subject of horror films. Bad luck for fellow Pointless regular Toyah Willcox who’s also here, while Newsround’s Ricky Boleto is quizzed on nineties pop.

18.10 Pointless Celebrities
A fine double bill here, although Xander never seems to sing on these Christmas shows any more. Nevertheless, some top lateral thinking in the guest booking department here as everyone’s been number one at Christmas – so that’s Dave from Slade and Rob from Mud, while the three incarnations of Band Aid means we also get the ‘rams, Sonia and the great Jamelia. But special kudos for coming up with Roger “Scaffold” McGough and Sally “St Winifred” Lindsay.

BBC2

18.00 The Good Life
18.30 Porridge
Both of these were missing from the BBC2 schedules last Christmas, much to our dismay, but we’re pleased to see them back in their rightful place this time round. Meanwhile if you only look in at Christmas via the website, don’t forget that we do this kind of thing – only less amusing – the rest of the year, and we always welcome your comments at creamguide@tvcream.co.uk.

22.15 Goodness Gracious Me: 20 Years Innit!
We were always very fond of this series, especially because a few months before its first broadcast, we attended a workshop at the Edinburgh TV Festival with the show’s producer Anil Gupta and co-writer Sharat Sardana, the latter sadly no longer with us, and when they showed us the pilot, an Asian girl who’d never heard it on the radio cried with laughter and couldn’t believe they were doing comedy about her life on telly. And for a while it was a proper cultural phenomenon, bursting out of the minority ghetto into a fully-fledged hit, although it probably went on a bit too long. The gang all seem proud of it and happy to reunite, and here they are again for this anniversary retrospective.

ITV

18.30 Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Paul Morley writes: “AT-STs! AT-STs!”

23.25 Jaws the Revenge
The film that took nine months to make! Everything fails here. Michael Caine’s more distracted than ever, and the shark has somehow got worse, degenerating into something Inigo Pipkin would think twice about stocking. Oh, and now the shark’s got some kind of telepathic link with Ellen Brody. After this, the director went straight on to make The Karen Carpenter Story.

CHANNEL 4

18.10 “Crocodile” Dundee
One of the clear benefits of the information age making knowledge more widely available is this film being billed with its full complement of inverted commas intact, both staying true to the original poster and making Hogan’s hero sound like a World of Sport wrestler, coming on your screens after the half-time scores to take on “Cyanide” Sid Cooper at the Liverpool Stadium.

BBC4

23.35 Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas
A rather odd slot for this seemingly new programme, though it’ll be well worth your while hunting it out as it examines how so many of the most famous songs marking the ultimate Christian festival were written by Jewish songwriters, most famously Irving Berlin but also Mel Torme, Jay Livington and the rest. Here’s how they put aside wishing us a happy Hannukah to create some of the best-loved music of all.

ITV3

10.55 Santa Claus: the Movie
13.00 The Wizard of Oz
15.00 Carry On Up the Khyber
There’s a knack to scheduling a good festive afternoon triple bill. It’s not just about filling up space, oh no. Here, for instance, we have what looks like a cut-and-shut of three random titles, with tone and entertainment value all over the shop, and little or nothing to link the second and third entries at all, beyond some vague innuendo about the Lollipop Guild. This is 2018, we need a series arc, here. Can do better.

More4

12.45 Carry On Cleo
Normally at about this point in the festivities, the film billings start going off on one vis-a-vis some vanishingly tedious obsession of their own limp devising. And this year, we think we’ve found the next genuinely successful cinematic universe based on a pre-existing entertainment property: the Films in Which Mary Woronov and Paul Bartel Played Some Kind of Nutty Couple Cinematic Universe. Just think, you’d have characters from Rock ‘N’ Roll High School (ie. The Ramones) co-exist with those from Eating Raoul (cannibal off-licence assistant), Heartbeeps (robot Andy Kaufman), Get Crazy (Malcolm McDowell as one Reggie Wanker, Ramones again), and Mortuary Academy (which is indeed, as its title suggests, Mortuary Hour meets Police Academy). Something for everyone. If we can just get a studio to commit to back-to-back reboots of all of those we’ll be sitting pretty.
5 Star

22.55 Under Siege 2
Among the year’s many film-related losses, we were sorry to note the death of Geoff Murphy, the New Zealand auteur Peter Jackson hopes you won’t ask too many questions about, who enlivened many a late-’80s TV schedule with demented wide-angle Maori western Utu, and the singularly brilliant The Quiet Earth, the best post-apocalyptic film ever to be comprehensively ruined by its own poster. Murphy then went to Hollywood and did Freejack and this, but never mind. The first Under Siege, wherein Steven Livingstone Seagal is a chef on a boat and things start exploding, coincided with Creamguide holding a cheap student cinema pass, so of course we went and saw it. Learning nothing, we also went and saw Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. And Eddie Murphy’s Boomerang. And yet here we are, holding forth about films in some kind of assumed critical capacity. The internet continues to delight.

Sky Action

02.45 Red Sonja
A hard-going film that marks the mid-career trough of screenwriter Clive Exton, who started out writing cosmic satires for Armchair Theatre, and ended up adapting the Fry and Laurie-vintage Jeeves and Wooster series, and creating Rosemary and Thyme. How did it come to this? Directed by the capable Richard Fleischer (Fantastic Voyage, Soylent Green, 10 Rillington Place) on an 18 million dollar budget at Cinecitta, with a score by Ennio Morricone. So why does it look and feel like Deathstalker II?

Talking Pictures TV

06.00 The Ghost Camera
Of course, this channel’s like Netflix now, with Radio Times picks and celebrity endorsements all over the shop, but we remember when it was half a dozen Anna Neagle Films, a tattered print of Somewhere in Camp and a Max Bygraves short about decimalisation. (“Five new pennies are like a shilling and ten new pence is a two-bob bit/A fifty pence piece hasn’t got a milling, it’s seven-sided and half a quid/With a half, and a one, and two new pence/Decimal shopping will commence!”) Anyway, not meaning to get all “we saw them first”, but their meteoric rise means you now get stuff like Cabaret and The Tamarind Seed in the schedules, which are actual real proper things. Conversely, of course, you still get the mad stuff – they recently showed the Smothers Brothers comedy series where one of them’s an angel. And here’s an ancient comedy mystery, based on a story by top West Coast psychedelic author Jefferson Farjeon, brother of “Morning Has Broken” composer Eleanor. Henry Kendall, in a winning Bernard Levin-y nerdish manner, finds a mysterious Pentax with macabre images on its film roll (“The hotel people must have placed it in the car erroneously!”), has his house broken into by someone who’s after it (“Under the circumstances I feel fully justified in developing the remaining negatives!”), and is led to the house of Ida Lupino, whose brother (John Mills) recently went missing. After lots of umming and ahhing (“I don’t know that I shall go. It might very likely prove abortive.”) the pair set off on a jaunt about the country, spotting the locations in the developed photographs like Michael Palin in that Python Night documentary. It’s a delightful mix of the classy and the crass. Two credits set the tone: “Editing by David Lean”, and “Coiffure by Charles”. Plus there’s Kendall’s relationship with his cockney manservant Sims (“’Ello guv’nor!” “Hello Sims, how’s everything doing?” “Oh, lovely! The shop’s doin’ lovely! Old Mrs ‘Arris, she’s ‘ad stomach ache all the week!”) and some great music hall turns from Victor Stanley as Sims, and Davina Craig as a stroppy maid, combining Mrs Overall with Susie Blake’s continuity announcer. (“Take yer ‘at orf, I said you was a gentleman!”) So we don’t begrudge the channel its dalliance with Liza and Julie, if it continues to subsidise the small-hours hard stuff for us connoisseurs.

07.15 The Trollenberg Terror
We’ve often wondered how the Talking Pictures offices work. At the start, we liked to imagine it as Fairburn Publicity Services before Michael Rimmer got his hands on it, with executives listening to the test match or practising ballroom dancing in the office. These days no doubt it’s more like Eight Star, Rula Lenska’s conglomerate from Take a Letter, Mr Jones, as repeated on TPTV this year. Dead Ernest next if you can please, lads.

08.50 Oh, Mr Porter!
“How can the charge be robbing a bank? We haven’t even robbed it yet!”

16.10 Sparrows Can’t Sing
“She’s fahnd anuvver man, Dad!” Salty seaman James Booth comes home to Barbara Windsor, only to find she’s shacked up with George “Special Branch: the Surrounded By Film Years” Sewell. Also with Roy Kinnear! Brian Murphy! Yootha Joyce! Queenie Watts! Avis Bunnage! Harry H. Corbett! Bob Grant! Stephen Lewis! Victor Spinetti! Wally Patch! John Junkin! “Brilliant almost beyond praise!” – The New Yorker. (That’s the film as a whole, not just John Junkin, but you’re free to infer what you will.)

22.05 All the Way Up
Slightly odd, this one. David Turner, of Swizzlewick fame, had a boffo stage success with Semi-Detached, starring Leonard Rossiter as a suburban social climber in the Henry Root mould. This was relaunched as a bigger stage version with Laurence Olivier in the title role, and as this film, with Warren Mitchell. Both were disastrous. Moral: needs more Rossiter.

TCM

19.20 The Hound of the Baskervilles
Rathbone and Bruce present and festively correct as ever. This is tremendous fun, 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.

BBC Radio 2

13.00 Pick of the Pops
This show does seem to have the knack of picking particularly unfestive charts at Christmas, although given every other show on the radio will be playing Christmas records it’s no great tragedy. Actually 1985 has its fair share of Christmas records, they’re all just re-releases or leftovers from 1984 so it’s not a particularly vintage year. Then it’s 1991 where, like in 1980, a famous pop star had the misfortune to die just before Christmas and so rather dominates proceedings.

BBC Radio 4

20.00 How Santa Stole Christmas
This looks set to be a pretty miserable affair, though if you find the traditional newspaper stories of swearing Santas and half-arsed Winter Wonderland attractions your favourite thing about December then it may be to your liking. Christopher Frayling presents and he examines how all the traditional elements of Christmas from across Europe have been rather smothered in the last century by American imports, most notably the man in red himself.

SUNDAY, 23rd DECEMBER

BBC1

10.15 Mr Peabody & Sherman
We’ll pass over the sheer outlandishness of this second-string Jay Ward cartoon being rebooted, let alone said reboot appearing all over the Regent Street Christmas lights a couple of years back, and instead just celebrate Ward himself, who pretty much invented TV animation seventy years ago, when Crusader Rabbit laid down the thrifty rules: 1) If you can get away with it, loop the motion, and 2) if you can get away with that, see if you can get away with avoiding showing the motion at all. The first episode of CR has a quintessential example of this, where a radio announcer has a twenty-second speech, and thoughtfully reads it out with his broadcast script entirely covering his mouth. Every piece of animation made for television ever since has employed a variation on that theme as the only possible way to get anything done at all. Apart from Richard Williams, who was completely mad.

CHANNEL 5

18.40 Scrooge
With Finney on the wing it’s all gravy, but do make sure you catch the best bit: the self-threading projector of the Cinema Centre Films logo at the very start.

BBC4

20.30 What We Were Watching: Christmas 1988
A top night on BBC4 here with plenty of agreeable nostalgia, and this should be an entertaining affair, especially given it’s based around leafing through a back issue of the Radio Times, and presumably there’s the potential for it to be a long-runner if this one does well enough. 1988 doesn’t especially seem to be a vintage telly Christmas, but one reason why we’re alighting on it is because that year’s Radio Times was the best-selling magazine of all time. And here’s an hour of what was between the covers, some familiar fare like Only Fools, but also some lesser-spotted stuff, happily promising Going Live and – yes! – Bruce and Ronnie. Wonder if Marcus Mortimer will turn up to say how he came into rehearsals in tears after learning it was going out at eleven o’clock.

21.30 The Secret Story of the BBC Christmas Tapes
Yes! As far as we’re concerned this is going to be the most exciting programme of this or any other Christmas, thanks to Rhys Thomas and some friends of TV Cream lurking in the background. Christmas Tapes really do make for fascinating viewing, albeit we’ve always found them terribly eerie, thanks to the unsettling sight of familiar friendly faces swearing like troopers and participating in off-colour routines. It also doesn’t help that they’ve mostly been seen via grotty multi-generation VHS dubs, but we hear this show has made a great effort to restore them to their original glory – apparently it’s almost like they’re in HD! – while there are contributions from such famous backroom names as Dave Rixon who made them, all well as those who regularly appeared on screen, including Bill Oddie, Pip Schofield and even Carol Chell. Pick of the fortnight, this, by miles.

22.00 Bros: After the Screaming Stops
It took thirty years to finally happen, but the national Bros re-evaluation was the big political story of 2018 and no mistake. And, we surmise, it would have happened sooner if it wasn’t for Viz’s weirdly enduring “Ken” running gag. If nothing else, I Owe You Nothing’s opening couplet “I’ll watch you crumble/Like a very old wall” is every bit the lyrical equal of Take That’s “In the twist of separation/You excelled at being free”. Although both have been trumped this year by the opening couplet to Don’t Start Without Me, the 2018 Christmas single from “The Fizz”: “Everybody comes home at Christmas time/It’s the family thing to do.” Indeed it is.

Sky Thriller

16.30 Minority Report
“How can the charge be robbing a bank? We haven’t even robbed it yet!”

Talking Pictures TV

16.55 Ring-a-Ding Rhythm!
Often referred to as A Bout de Souffle to Footloose’s Breathless, this assortment of vocal fruits (internationally known as It’s Trad, Dad) was selected by Amicus supremo Milton Subotsky and directed by Beatles man, for which thank heavens. Subotsky’s script pitches the traditional “town that banned sexydancefun” parable as a children’s story, complete with Deryck Guyler’s “once upon” narration, and he casts Felix Felton, voice of the Mayor of Toytown in the old BBC Children’s Hour radio series written by Samuel Beckett, as the knees-up-vetoing alderman of the parish keen to crack down on “creeping jazzism”. Chubby Checker, Del Shannon and Gene Vincent rub shoulders with Helen Shapiro, Acker Bilk and The Temperance Seven, alongside Fabrizi (Mario), Derek Nimmo, Thornton, Mullard, Fluff.

TCM

15.00 Westward the Women
“Claire says can she have seven birthday hops from Wally Wallaby? No, she’s getting four, I’m not Fatima bloody Whitbread.”

CHRISTMAS EVE

BBC1

17.00 Mary Poppins
If you feel the need to go and see, or have already seen, Mary Poppyns II: Rise of the Robots you’re as well giving up on us at this early stage as our collective differences are irreconcilable. In short; this is a perfect film and is better than the new one. No, we haven’t seen it yet. Yes, we’re right. No, we don’t need to. Possibly, we might be. No, we aren’t.

BBC2

09.25 Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines
It’s all very well enjoying Nosher Powell doing a particularly damp Riverdance in a pointy helmet – and there is at least a strong Bank Holiday vibe to this sprawling Rushtonesque Technicolour miasma, albeit more suitable to a rainy Easter Monday – but this is about as good as it gets in what must be the most lamentable filmic festival carnival on proper telly channels for many years. Or possibly since last year. But in any case, a sad shadow of the Films of Christmas Past. It makes one weep for the days of Jagged Edge of a Christmas Eve. There’s not even any Doctor Snuggles on before dawn. We blame Brexit.

ITV

15.25 Santa Claus: The Movie (bill it right, Radio Times!)
Eye-rolling and sighing. Sighing and eye-rolling.
21.30 Gremlins
Was that recent bizarre “Is Die Hard a Christmas film or not?” farrago a spectacularly subtle, not to mention obscure, PR exercise on behalf of, er, someone, or just one of those viral thingies got out of hand, like Rick-rolling, or herpes? Our bafflement was twofold thus: one, because neither outcome mattered a fuck; second because anything can be a Christmas film, in our view. Die Hard might have the odd Christmas tree and gaily wrapped teddy bear but that means nowt. Meanwhile, Batman Returns is riddled with seasonal shrubbery, snow and tinsel but came out in June and is never counted as a Festive Flick. In any case, we have asserted of old the position of Seven Hills of Rome for us as a Christmas film since it happened to be on telly for two consecutive years on the day we were putting up our decorations. Christmas is what you make it, kids. Go with what feels right. And don’t trust whitey.

CHANNEL 4

11.45 A Christmas Carol
It’s a bumper day for versions of Dickens’s classic rip-off of an ancient Roman ghost story and this is the one with George C Scott and Ewa Woowa as Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present respectively vying with each other to be the scariest thing on screen (Eddy wins.) Should you wish to watch this as part of your personal schedule there is, in fact, a very good quality file of it on YouTube. It is, however, introduced and interspersed by two tinsel-festooned middle-aged and bearded gentlemen of a friendly disposition – with each other, if no-one else – who smoke throughout in such an accomplished manner that even were you to watch them in an exposed location in a high wind you’d find yourself a trifle stifled. The internet’s a funny thing when you really think about it, innit?
18.00 Miracle on 34th Street
The miracle now would be a department store still being this busy (joke courtesy of this year’s exclusive The Economist Christmas crackers: a joke, hat and PSBR forecast in every one!)

CHANNEL 5

13.30 The King and I
Yul Brynner scolds attendants for leaving lit fag-ends on the palace floor which burn his feet and make him scream and hop around. Or is that Sid Caesar? Anyway, this guy goes into a barber, see…

16.20 Scrooge
We appear to be avoiding The Bloody Reginald Owen One this year with no channel attempting even to sneak it out at daft o’clock in an effort to disappoint, then frighten, shift workers coming off the parcel frames or the mashed potato track. This is the superior of the non-Muppet versions (don’t argue) but with Alistair Sim in the shafts and Brian Desmond Hurst at the helm of this particular mixed metaphor it’s hardly surprising. Michael Hordern not in a toga is Marley, as is a nascent Patrick McNee, still building up that acting experience in preparation for Rolling Thunder. Be a shame to miss it. And that’s a remark we’re not going to use much this year.

BBC4

22.00 The Dead Room
Mark Gatiss is always talking about the glories of the Christmas ghost story, and after adapting MR James the other year, he’s now put his money where his mouth is and written one himself. Should be pretty good, too, Gatiss making the most of his low budget to set it at the Beeb’s evocative and sadly soon to close Maida Vale studios and with a tiny cast headed by Simon Callow, with most of the thrills coming from, of course, the power of suggestion.

22.30 Lost Hearts
23.05 The Ash Tree
And to accompany Gatiss’ new ghost story are two of the much loved originals from the genre’s imperial phase of the seventies, none of which have been on proper telly for a very long time. The first is from 1973 and the second, which gains extra Cream points for co-starring Lalla Ward, is from what we reckon is the ultimate telly Christmas, 1975.

ITV3

11.30 Holiday On The Buses
13.15 On The Buses
Why are these the wrong way round? And where is Mutiny…? Considering the year looming ahead these ought to be broadcast as Government instructional videos on how to live on six quid a week whilst enjoying holidays at home centred around ballroom dancing competitions while bogs explode. And get bloody used to it.

ITV4

15.55 Escape to Victory
18.10 Kelly’s Heroes
Wasn’t the war great? You really knew where you were with widespread malnutrition and murder falling randomly from the skies while half the family had their arses shot off up a hill in Italy. Life really made sense then. At least those jumped-up Bonapartes in Brussels or those liberal elites Down That London can’t stop us watching films like this, no matter how much they try. You know they’re trying to stop war films being shown cos they offend Buddhists? It’s true, I read it on Facebook! That Jancis Robinson is right.

More4

12.40 The Jewel Of The Nile
These are the wrong way round as well, with Romancing The Stone on Thursday, but both remain good fun in a wee sequence of films everyone involved had the good sense not to kick the arse out of by spinning into a lamentable ‘franchise’ (Alien: Coventry, anyone?) Remember when Danny DeVito was still “that wee guy from Taxi”? Speaking of which, if you haven’t yet seen it, go to Vimeo and watch Curmudgeons. It’s free, it won’t take long and we guarantee it will be the best thing you will see the whole season. And if you don’t like it? Well, we can but weep for you.

Universal

20.00 Scrooged
This was the first film we ever saw at one of the sparkly new multiplexes Tom Brook was always telling us about in FilmEightyWoteva and which we could scarcely believe had actually arrived here, let alone in Clydebank of all places. And exciting it was! With popcorn you got butter (?) squirted on, not to mention something called ‘nachos’ and upwards of three screens – THREE SCREENS! – in the one building. It was like Blade Runner! If Blade Runner smelled of feet. Of course it was a bit disappointing when you actually got inside and found out the halls were far, far smaller than we were used to. But that was offset by their being furnished with seats you could actually sit on without either sticking to or losing the feeling in your thighs. Good first film to see in a multiplex too, given the American mass media theme. Best bit: Murray’s epic Richard Burton impression. Worst: shifting in uncomfortable silence with the rest of the audience at the bit at the end where he breaks the fourth wall to have us singalong. Nope.

BBC Radio 2

06.30 Chris Evans
And so, in rather less rancorous fashion than the end of the last one, Chris Evans says goodbye from his current stint at BBC Radio. It’s been by far his longest stint, too, his first show on this station coming back in 2005 when he was coming back off a lost weekend that lasted about a decade. And it really has been the making of him and we’ve loved the fact that he’s been a proper company man, never causing any trouble – virtually holding the station together during Sachsgate – and being trusted to do things like the anniversary of VE Day and doing them really well, and even now he’s leaving he’s given plenty of notice and happily promoted his replacement. So well done to him, and it’s worth remembering that at the end of the day he’s a massive anorak – the show he did from Maida Vale the other week where he interrupted an interview with Denzel Washington to show all the old technology that still existed was a delight – who just loves being on the radio. So his departure will be worth catching, no doubt.

17.00 Mark Goodier’s Christmas Number Twos
The Human League once did a great anecdote about how they were listening to the Christmas chart in 1981 and when ABBA were announced at number two, such was their naivety, they assumed they’d fallen out of the chart completely. Actually for all the excitement of the Christmas number one race, the number two record in the big week could often be something pretty unfestive that just happened to be there, so Goodiebags will be offering up some right odds and sods here.

CHRISTMAS DAY

BBC1

12.30 Top of the Pops
Hard to know what today’s kids make of Fearne Cotton still hosting this show, doing so now for the fifteenth consecutive year, given she’s now regularly on Radio 2, seemingly the equivalent of David Hamilton still presenting it in the mid-eighties, though we suppose it makes some sort of sense in illustrating that this show is aimed at the widest audience possible. We think this show’s place in the schedule is more secure now that at any time in the past two decades or so, and certainly the format has never been more stable with many of the same bands turning up year after year. But here’s your annual chance to find out who did that song you only know because they danced to it on Strictly.

15.00 The Queen
We shouldn’t, really, but when watching footage of royal gatherings we do like to make sure that Phil is there and looking OK. Been a big year for the royals, what with all the weddings and that. but unlike in 1969 Liz doesn’t think she’s been overexposed and is back again for his usual word in the nation’s ear. Presumably tomorrow the papers will say it’s been the most watched thing on the day if you add BBC1 and ITV together, but no other programme is shown like that so it’s a pointless thing to do.

BBC2

12.45 Guys and Dolls
Park your gran, peel your sprouts. Can do!

19.35 Dad’s Army
And no Doctor Who today, of course, although we’re not desperately broken-hearted because we think that for many people Christmas Day is the least convenient day to watch television over the holidays with over-excited kids and trips to the tea table making it hard to concentrate, and you want something familiar and untaxing as distraction instead. Indeed in the past we’ve often alighted on this as the least objectionable show on Christmas night, and this is the best one too, from 1971.

CHANNEL 4

12.05 Father Christmas
12.40 The Snowman

A long time since Channel Four offered up opera, ballet and religion on Christmas Day to delight an audience of dozens, as these days they’re probably more populist than BBC1 with Home Alone, Bake Off and Alan Carr. These regulars are still about, mind, although unlike in the past when it would be your one and only chance to see it for the year, these have been on the repeat rota for the last few weeks.

16.00 The Muppet Christmas Carol
The best non-Sim version of this (don’t argue) with a splendid performance by Michael Caine, who must’ve forgotten to be a twat during principle photography. In that new feature documentary about him is he dreadful? Yes, we thought he would be.

CHANNEL 5

10.45 Scrooge: A Christmas Carol
The Albert Finney one. With added Anton Rogers.

15.10 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Channel Five seems to be the last of the proper channels to actually ‘get’ programming on Christmas Day, the films on elsewhere being either mediocre or almost entirely absent. Promoted from its more usual Boxing Day slot, it remains important for this fantasy fun to be shown on an annual basis so that thirty years hence rolling generations of bores can pretend to have been scared by the Child Catcher on hologram clip shows or compilations broadcast via wireless water, or something.

21.15 Tommy Cooper In His Own Words
About the only good things on ITV on Christmas Day in the seventies were the Stanley Baxter clip show in 1977 and Tom’s two Christmas shows in the early part of the decade, so he seems as suitable a subject for Channel Five on Christmas Day as anyone else. He seems to have been rather badly served on clip shows in recent years, mostly because all the clips seem to come from the same handful of shows, but with two hours to play with, and contributors including Barry Cryer, this should hopefully be an interesting affair.

BBC4

21.15 The Two Ronnies
Sadly we’re not getting another outing for the highlight of BBC4’s Christmas Day last year, Christmas Night with the Stars 1972, which we really enjoyed (“The Archbishop of Canterbury has given a Christmas address – 29 Stuffing Road, Turkey!”). They’re not showing any of the other years either, so instead we’ve got this, which is billed as “Christmas Comedy Cracker”, which sounds quite interesting but it looks like they’ve just cut and pasted the title from a repeat in the long-forgotten BBC1 Christmas Day lunchtime strand in the early nineties. In fact it was just Christmas 1985, which would have been a bit interesting as we don’t think it’s been repeated for a while, but we now hear it’s just 1982 again which has been repeated quite a lot. Never mind, still good.

ITV3

08.35 Carry On Cruising
10.25 Carry On Abroad
12.10 Carry On Up The Jungle
13.50 Carry On Follow That Camel
15.50 Carry On Screaming
17.45 Carry On Matron
19.30 Carry On Camping
21.15 Carry On Up The Khyber
23.00 Carry On Girls

Same every year and so okay, fine. But does anyone actually sit through these or is the point just to have something to flick the channel over to during ad breaks and monarchical speeches to enjoy for a few minutes at a time as we now do? Who knows. Who. Nose. Oh and just presume these are on every day on this channel. We can’t be bothered writing them all out.

Sony Movie Channel

10.00 Gold
16.10 The Guns of Navarone
18.20 The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

Good old Sony Movie Channel. You could do a lot worse than expend an E240 on long play across the afternoon here. Then re-record etc etc.

TCM

14.00 It’s A Wonderful Life
16.35 The Wizard of Oz

Just rejoice.

BBC Radio 2

09.00 Junior Choice
There are always some Christmas traditions where nobody seems exactly sure as to why we’re still doing them, and this is certainly a great example, especially as Stewpot isn’t around to do it anymore, with Anneka Rice hosting it for the second year running. Still, seemingly enough people have happy enough memories of its unchallenging whimsy to see it return on an annual basis, though we’re sure any greater frequency would soon wear out its welcome.

BOXING DAY

BBC1

13.25 Raiders of the Lost Ark
Our favourite bit is where he runs through the field in a suit of armour with a French loaf spinning on his helmet.

BBC2

17.15 Porridge
18.25 Dad’s Army
19.05 The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show

Quite a lot of Ronnage around this Christmas, and here he is again as part of a splurge of archivery tonight on BBC2 which means you barely have to enter the 21st century until bedtime. Eric and Ern is from 1971, one of the greats of course with Jackson, Bassey and Preview, though it’s clearly a bit of a ruthless edit given it’s about twenty minutes shorter than it was at the time.

19.50 The Morecambe and Wise Show – The Lost Tapes
After the very familiar, here’s some excitement, with a double bill of shows that haven’t been screened for fifty years. That’s because the programmes, from their first Beeb series in 1968 when Sid and Dick were still turning out the scripts, were long-wiped, before Philip Morris, very much the Indiana Jones of archivery, found them in Sierra Leone and they’ve now been restored to their former glory, in full colour. It’s not quite imperial phase Eric and Ern as Eddie Braben hadn’t arrived yet, but it’s still a real novelty.

21.00 Ken Dodd: How Tickled We Were!
Doddy used to be renowned as a student of comedy, making copious notes on what routines worked in what particular place, although we’re not sure how that then informed his live shows given he seemingly told every joke he knew at every show. But those marathon performances mean that he was never really entirely at home on TV, his last proper starring series coming back in 1982, and he was certainly more at home on the theatre stage. He was an absolute force of nature, and this should be a suitably weighty tribute, with numerous family and friends taking part.

ITV

11.05 The Witches
So, farewell Laughing Nicolas Roeg. Ye shall be missed. Insignificance shall not but then luckily nobody chose to mention that in the obits much. But then neither was this, an oft-forgotten but superlative film for kids which adults can enjoy too and probably the only adaptation which has come genuinely close to capturing the true atmosphere and spirit of Ronald Dahl. Not that the old misery was happy with it, furious as he was at his ending being changed upon which Dahl threatened to campaign against the film. Bet he never gave the money back though. Miserable old bastard. Cheers!

CHANNEL 4

09.20 Short Circuit
We’d say it seems a bit early for kids to be watching a film like this but knowing C4 executives, they probably reckon it’s a giggle to stick it on for Millennials stumbling home from a festive all-nighter. We’re not sure which categorisation we hate most.

BBC4

20.00 The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures
This show is we think the only one that harks back to the very earliest telly Christmasses as it was part of the line-up of the nascent pre-war television service, testament to their continued determination to move with the times. They’ve shuffled around a lot since, and we reckon they’re probably the most prominent now than they have been for many years, in primetime on a channel they seem perfect for, and we especially like them as they seem to be the only surviving example of the pop science show with a studio audience that James Burke and the like used to do so well.

22.30 Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em
Someone we follow on Twitter said that when they were a kid they assumed this programme was one of the oldest telly shows ever made, simply because the incredibly low-tech opening title sequence, such as it is, with the “BBC Television presents”, looked so primitive it must have come from an era before proper title sequences were invented. This is Christmas 1974 when Michael Crawford was very much the Beeb’s biggest name, from the Radio Times cover downwards.

ITV4

14.45 Ben Hur
18.55 Where Eagles Dare
22.00 Jaws

Or as we call it: Scheduling For Dads.

Sony Movie Channel

14.30 *batteries not included
With the iPods and the Androids and the chargers and that, would kids even get the joke in the title for this? Still a nice wee film though. If you set aside the dementia, homelessness, racial stereotyping…

BBC Local Radio

18.00 Carry On Up The Archive
We are indebted to Creamguide subscriber Richard Latto who drew our attention to this programme, which he has a special interest in because he’s produced it. Richard says, “It’s a celebration of the Carry On films in the sixtieth anniversary year, featuring stacks of rare and rediscovered interviews from the key cast members, pulled out of archives and attics across the country. I also managed to get the lovely Jim Dale to present it.” Sounds top stuff, and among the delights is Sid James’ last ever interview. It’s on every local radio station in England over the next few days, plus of course it’s on BBC Sounds, and Richard also tells us it’ll be on Radio 4 Extra in the new year, where we’ll presumably plug it again, if Richard reminds us.

THURSDAY, 27th DECEMBER

BBC1

13.30 Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom
We refer you to our previous thoughts on the subject. You’ll never be the same again!

19.00 Celebrity Mastermind
A top Pointless Celebrities repeat before this with top kids TV stars although it’s quite sad to see John Craven crashing out in round one yet again. Then this looks like being the most enjoyable episode of the series as Shaun Ryder is in the chair! Amazing he can remember anything, to be honest, but we’re so looking forward to the chat with John and we’ll be rooting for him on his specialist subject of, natch, Manchester. Arabella Weir’s been on this show before because she famously got one of the lowest ever scores in its history, so let’s hope she does a bit better when she’s quizzed om Motown, while Sean Fletcher off Countryfile’s picked Sesame Street.

BBC2

19.00 Dad’s Army
And there are new episodes of Pointless at teatime from tomorrow, which seems a rather odd time to start the run although presumably there’s a sizeable number of people about at teatime at the moment. A few leftover Christmas specials to fill in some gaps as well, like this.

BBC4

19.00 Top of the Pops
And so we reach the end of 1986 and happily we get the Christmas show in full. It’s not one that gets plundered for clips very often, so it’ll be quite a novelty, although this year has seen Pops become a bit less of a spectacle and that’s the case here with a pretty perfunctory selection of live bands, many performing ballads, and a load of videos, and not much in the way of atmosphere, while Peter Powell even wears a hideous blue tracksuit to introduce it. Certainly not a vintage year, but with the Pet Shop Boys on it, it can’t be a complete write-off, and with the chart being published on the 23rd it means Bates has to hurriedly record a voice-over to say what’s actually number one, so it’ll certainly while away an hour. And if you want to know how bad a Christmas show can be, the appalling 1978 is repeated at midnight.

CBBC

17.30 Blue Peter’s Big 60th Birthday Year
And not only do we get the Christmas show very close to the big day, we also get the Review of the Year on the first Thursday after Christmas, as we should. Been a top year for the show including, as mentioned in the title, the anniversary celebrations which were pitched absolutely perfectly and we were delighted all the former hosts turned up and had such a brilliant time. No doubt we’ll see more of that here, plus the great stuff they get up the rest of the year.

ITV4

19.45 Cannonball Run II
It takes a bit of doing to make a film starring Dom deLuise, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr and manage to get one single joke in it. Even better to make sure it’s in the first five minutes. Go online, find a YouTube supercut of just Captain Chaos and go and change the Harpic in the loo or something instead.

Gold

20.00 Morecambe and Wise in America
You can’t move for rare Eric and Ern this Christmas, as after last night’s archivery rescued from Sierra Leone, Gold have crossed the pond to bring us unfamiliar footage of the pair’s attempt to crack America in the sixties. This was something Ern was particularly excited about, and always a bit disappointed they never quite made it, but Eric was happy enough with their lot. Some interesting clippage is promised in the first of these three programmes, including their appearances on the ultimate showcase to middle America, The Ed Sullivan Show.

FRIDAY, 28th DECEMBER

BBC1

13.15 Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
The inevitable daily cart-hurdle through all three of the Indiana Jones trilogy swashbuckles its way to its conclusion today, with this saga-swansonging cliffhanging yarn about Indy smashing his knee while trying to win some rum by limbo dancing. Radio Times rather bafflingly offers the opinion that Temple Of Doom – the oh-so-over-extending second film – had seen the franchise only just manage to retrieve its hat before it flew over a shark, but even so few can deny that this Connery-bolstered Holy Grail-grabber was a great note to go out on. There’s something listed as Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull on BBC1 tomorrow, but we’re guessing that it’s some kind of witty prank.

19.00 Take That: We’ve Come A Long Way
We were supposed to be getting the ABBA reunion this Christmas but that’s been delayed for some reason or other, so here’s some musical nostalgia of a different kind. This is apparently to celebrate their thirtieth anniversary, although that’s not actually for ages – Gary met Nigel Martin-Smith in 1989 but they didn’t get anywhere near being a band until 1990 – so clearly it’s just an excuse to get them on the telly. The ‘that were a real breath of fresh air when they arrived – we remember Robbie ill-advisedly telling Smash Hits “there are no Dannys in this band” in reference to New Kids on the Block’s less photogenic member – although it took them ages to have a hit. We’re promised all kinds of clips here, plus a reunion, though it’s not perhaps the most exciting one as Robbie last met up with them a few weeks ago and Jason’s not doing it. Never mind, the songs are good.

BBC2

19.30 Mastermind
The level of celebrities on this programme is pathetic, you can’t even recog… oh, it’s a normal one. The cavalcade of showbiz is briefly interrupted so we can help get the proper tournament done and dusted in good time, though it’s pleasingly populist for festive viewing with rounds on REM and the FA Cup.

21.00 Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland
Lots of the Big Yin on the telly at the moment, and if this burst of activity has been set in motion as an attempt to prove Parky wrong then we’re all for it. This is the first of a two-part authorised biography of the great man, for which he’s interviewed while a host of comedy mates like Tracey Ullman and Eddie Izzard pop up. But definitely no Parky.

ITV

10.25 Kindergarten Cop
Failing @Schwarzenegger makes likeable comedy film for all the family playing police, not active serving duty, under cover in one of our excellent schools for teaching children words I already know longer than. Sad!

CHANNEL 4

06.00 Short Circuit 2
“Some say he’s nuts… some say he’s bolts!” ran the tagline for this barely noticed sequel to one of those unexpected video shop hits you used to get all the time in the eighties – the equivalent now would be if everyone suddenly went bananas over one of those eighteen thousand million films you get on Netflix all called things like A Royal Bride Holiday Switch For A Princess – in which Johnny 5 was decked out in the same colour scheme as Bertha from Neighbours for some reason. A textbook example of the ‘The entire collection is now yours to own!’ – ‘But I only liked the f-‘ – ‘YOURS TO OWN!’ phenomenon, frankly.

01.50 Vertigo
One of the weirdest things about the Top Of The Pops 1986 repeats on BBC4 has been involuntarily remembering odd things Smash Hits said about some of the artists. There’s Joey Tempest being scrupulously polite about lots of famous women he was asked whether he fancied or not only for them all to basically say ‘EWWWWWWW’ when asked about him, the Walkman rated ‘Beloius’ ‘Some’ out of five, and most of all a baffling explanation from Duran Duran that Notorious was called Notorious because originally all of the songs on the album were going to be named after Hitchcock films, but then they weren’t, which occasioned a time-honoured ‘(?????????????????????????????????????????????)’. Anyway, one of the ones that did sneak through was Vertigo (Do The Demolition), which is not as good as this film.

CHANNEL 5

09.15 The Cowboys
Something of an ‘old-timer’ waving pitchfork on a porch and snickering wiseacres asking “where you from, stranger?” hoedown on Channel 5 today, kicking off with Big Leggy himself helping Slim Pickens and Bruce Dern win at hide and seek and ‘forgetting’ he’d stuffed his sheriff’s badge in his pocket, followed at 11.15 by his Marks And Gran-scripted Bowie-inspiring endeavours to defend the border from a marauding Ozzy Osborne in The Alamo, and finally at 15.15 by a late entry in the Wayne Canon, A-Team Gone Wrong confederacy revenge thriller Rio Lobo. They should never have cancelled that show.

BBC Radio 4

11.30 There Was A Young Fellow Named Palin
Surely our greatest renaissance man, this year Michael Palin has mostly been on our screen in straight acting roles, where his performances have of course been immaculate, alongside his fascinating documentary in North Korea. But it’s always nice to see him return to comedy and here’s a chance to enjoy a lesser-documented but always enjoyable part of his career, as a writer and enthusiast of limericks, as here, partly in verse, he traces the history of the artform.

That’s it for now, but part two will follow shortly!

By the way…

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