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Christmas Creamguide 2020: Week One

Hullo there!

And welcome to the 21st annual Christmas Creamguide! We thought we’d be really struggling for new content this year but there’s some very interesting stuff, as well as some intriguing repeats, for your delectation, as well as a host of fascinating films which the Filmguide gang will be here to discuss. The second week arrives in your inbox tomorrow, but off we go to Christmas Day.

SATURDAY 19th DECEMBER

BBC1

17.25 Celebrity Mastermind

The first of fourteen episodes! And if we’ve been relying on this series in recent years to keep the Christmas cheer going well into January, we’re in luck this year as there are only three in the fortnight. Still no audience, to make it even more relentless, and we kick off with Omid Djalili on Curb Your Enthusiasm, a brave choice of subject for Saturday teatime.

21.20 Idris Elba Meets Paul McCartney

Always a treat to see Macca on the telly, though this seems a bit of a low-key show for a post-Strictly final Saturday night slot. We don’t think it’s been filmed yet either, but seemingly the conversation is based around his new LP, though you’d assume the conversation will turn to the Wackers at every opportunity. And if you don’t have a television, a sound-only version is broadcast on the Light Programme on Wednesday.

BBC2

09.00 The Greatest Story Ever Told

And so, once more, to the films. The first flick out of the hat is not, for the first time in ages, The Bishop’s Wife, but pro-celebrity crucifixion with Max Von Sydow and an anecdotal side-order of John Wayne saying “awwww”. We’re not sure which of the film’s many versions this is, but rest assured it’s not the four-and-a-half-hour director’s cut. And none of this nonsense distracts from the fact that Jesus Christ has borrowed his beard from a man with a much larger chin than himself.

13.05 Around the World in 80 Days

Not the Coogan one, so you won’t be disturbed by any gratuitous Richard Branson cameos. In fact, you only really need to watch the Saul Bass closing titles, which recaps the entire story with more wit and flair than the previous three hours combined. David Niven is the lion with the beady, soulless eyes that stare unblinking into the very depths of your psyche, Cantinflas is the sort of cat/bear/otter thing in a bowler hat, Shirley MacLaine is the posh cat with the veils, Robert Newton is the dog policeman who keeps falling in the water, and Ed Murrow does duty as Andy Crane standing next to a prop lamppost. The part of the secondary sidekick mouse/rat thing named after some trendy sherry is played by nobody.

18.10 The Eagle Has Landed

A brief historical excursion, if we may. Back in the last century, Boxing Days on BBC2 (or Channel Four for that matter) were goldmines for the likes of us. That odd melancholy that surrounds the least special bits of a special event, where the freedom to experiment rubs up against your unwavering seasonal traditions, is right up our Strasse. One classic example of this is the BBC2 Festive Musical Fantasy Thing – a weird, ambitious and often luridly realised one-off drama, usually festooned with “rock” numbers and garlanded with fizzing special effects. As with so many aspects of pop culture, the Bee Gees deserve far more credit for their role than they get. Cucumber Castle kicked things off in 1970, a hastily-assembled hour of sub-Help! freeform tomfoolery in wacky costumes to promote the LP of the same name, aided by the likes of Frankie Howerd, Vincent Price, Spike Milligan and Pat Coombs. The following year, the slot was filled by an adaptation of long-running West End Oliver! knock-off Pickwick, adapted for TV by Jimmy ‘KOGVOS ‘ Grafton, starring – who else? – Harry Secombe as Mr Pickwick and – who else? – Roy Castle as Sam Weller. 1972 marked time with the cartoon version of Nilsson’s The Point before yet more Dickensian romping in ’73 with Smike! This time it was Simon May, later to file the engine numbers off Oliver! showstopper Where Is Love to create the theme tune for Britain’s gruffest soap opera, here offering “a pop musical freely based on Nicholas Nickleby” for our delectation, full of numbers like Dotheboys Rock and bracketed by a slightly unwieldy “modern day comprehensive class does a bit of historical Theatre-In-Education” framing device. 1974 brought The Little Mermaid, a Hans Christian Anderson adaptation we needn’t get too excited about, though a certain demographic will be keen to learn that Louise Hall-Taylor plays a princess. (Hello to that demographic, by the way, we hope you’re well and are wrapping up warm. We’ll pop round in the morning to pick up your Ball-and-Stick money, OK?)

21.20 My Generation

No virtual thumbs aloft for the schedulers who put this opposite the Macca show on BBC1, given he’s in this one as well. It sounds an entertaining affair in any case, a lovingly assembled documentary, directed by David Batty and with Clement and La Frenais on writing duties, on how the sixties actually swung, from the perspective of those who did much of the swinging. So that’s Macca, Twiggy, Marianne Faithfull and Michael Caine, who’s on narration duties as well.

22.40 Educating Rita

Columbia originally wanted to cast Dolly Parton in the role of the eponymous pseudonymous mature student, and the thought of Dolly sitting by a two-bar electric fire taking notes from Open University broadcasts at three on a Sunday morning is certainly very… inspirational. She could also have had a crack at covering that Tom Robinson-lite theme tune from the Sociology 101 module. (“We socialise and we vandalise/We lock the sick awaaaay/Politician’s policies/Keep changing every daaaaay…”) Eng. Lit. is the subject here, but there are many other Open University courses that could be used as movie plot devices. There’s a fun superhero origin story to be built around someone taking the Optics course, which in the 80s came with a massive crate containing all sorts of lab equipment, including a high-powered laser. We’ve written a treatment and everything: Sharon, a sales assistant from Rotherham, fails to follow the safety instructions and becomes a laser-toting, steel-beam-melting vigilante, her true identity a mystery to all except a room in Milton Keynes full of defeated-looking men in kipper ties. It soon becomes a fight to the death between Sharon’s beloved science and ancient religion, in the personification of her arch enemy Enid, 73, who was transformed into a fire-spitting demon after an accident with a candle, a Bible and some bread while watching This is the Day. Our DMs are open, Disney.

ITV

20.20 It’ll Be Alright on the Night

Time was this would be the high point of the Christmas schedules, with number three making its debut on Christmas Day 1981, and It’ll Be Alright on Christmas Night, later repeated as just a bog-standard number five, in 1987. The fact those two episodes were six years apart and we’ve now had three this month illustrates that standards for inclusion aren’t quite as high as they used to be, but then we suppose in those days we didn’t have This Morning generating half an episode’s worth of innuendos pretty much every day.

CHANNEL 4

18.30 Barenboim on Beethoven: The Lost Tapes

In the past, Channel Four used to roll out the fine arts on Christmas Day but nowadays they’re just as populist as BBC1 with Home Alone and Gogglebox, and the self-consciously series fare ends up elsewhere in the schedule. That said, they’re not messing about with this, as we head back to 1970 when, to mark the 200th anniversary of Beethoven, the noted composer Daniel Barenboim made a thirteen-part series exploring his work for Granada. It’s barely been seen since, and after this programme selecting the best moments, the entire series is then repeated on More4 straight after it, until half past three in the morning. We are informed that the one to watch is the episode at midnight when his then partner Jacqueline du Pre performs the Cello Sonata.

21.20 Forrest Gump

Ah, Forrest Gump. The early ’90s visual effects envelope pusher nobody talks about any more. And that’s not entirely due to the script, and its well-meaning-but-overtaken-by-changes-in-social-attitudes-to-race-and-mental-health-while-the-negative-was-still-at-the-chemist’s Canyonero liberalism. (After all, it’s not as if it beat The Shawshank Redemption, The Madness of King George *and* Quiz Show to win the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, is it? God, imagine living in that world.) No, the effects themselves have been, if not written out of history, then reduced to a walk-on role over the past couple of decades. That’s not because they weren’t fantastic Silicon-Graphics-and-sealing-wax achievements at the time, but more that they heralded the dawn of the kind of visual effects the visual effects industry doesn’t like to talk about. While Jurassic Park takes its place at the head of the noble tradition of fully animated, textured, lit and composited high-end Hollywood trickery, Forrest Gump, through no fault of its own, is the granddaddy of all the cheap, last-minute, oh-bugger-there’s-no-more-money-or-time-will-this-do bits of fudged, botched and generally compromised work at the everyday two-blokes-with-an-After-Effects-licence-and-a-Shutterstock-account visual effects coalface. Look at that majestic Brontosaurus. How could you not be inspired by the endless creative possibilities it heralds? Now here’s a badly spline-warped John Lennon whose mouth goes all weird when he talks to a clearly-in-a-different-studio Tom Hanks. Yes, we’d be anxiously eyeing the exit too. But that’s 99% of visual effects – inconspicuous, under-equipped and often bodged to within an inch of its life on an overheating laptop in a darkened airing cupboard.

00.10 Carrie

Crackerjack and Dewhurst’s. Check how you mix them.

CHANNEL 5

12.45 Pearl Harbor

16.20 Scrooge

18.10 Geostorm

Here’s your annual dose of Alistair Sim – he’s repeated on the 23rd if you can’t make it this afternoon – and my, isn’t he the meat in a mouldy old sandwich indeed? In case you’re wondering, a Geostorm is to a real storm what Geocities were to real cities. Gerard Butler has ninety minutes to stop the eastern seaboard of the United States being destroyed by a poorly animated “Under Construction” GIF.

BBC4

19.20 Top of the Pops

And so we break off 1990 for a week or two to make way for some more suitably seasonal pop. Along the usual TOTP2 repeats there are repeat outings for Christmas 1988, which was actually last night, 1989 on Boxing Day and 1984 on Tuesday, but here we jump forward to one that’s not been seen since its first broadcast, Christmas Day 1995. This is during the period when Ric Blaxill was producing, whose stunt casting means we get as hosts what we’re seemingly contractually obliged to refer to as the unusual combination of Bjork and Jack Dee. It’s now considered a pretty successful era of Pops, but much like the repositioning of Radio 1 a few years later, while it was very credible within the industry and popular with the kids, the wider audience didn’t want to know, this coming six months before it was dumped in the opposite-Corrie death slot, and also the first year it was moved away from the traditional pre-Queen position, this episode originally shown at one o’clock before a repeat of Only Fools and Horses. It should be a fairly accurate summary of mid-nineties pop – as old now as 1970 was then – with familiar fare from Take That, Blur and Pulp interspersed by likeable dance from N-Trance and others, and just to remind you it wasn’t all Britpop, there’s also lots of Robson and Jerome.

20.20 What We Were Watching

The last episode of this series, on song and dance spectaculars, was probably the best so far, with Grace Dent not being quite as intrusive as in previous episodes and an entertaining selection of clips, mostly shown at a satisfying length. What probably also helped was that it was based on a single genre so there was less need for Dent to extrapolate a theory about the era from a host of disparate programmes, as is the case with the episodes based around a year. This is one of those, and it’s about Christmas 1995, which we don’t recall being a particularly memorable Christmas telly-wise and about the biggest controversy was BBC1 showing Indecent Proposal on Christmas night. But there’ll be people serving you in shops and helping sort out your mortgage for whom 1995 will be ancient history, so maybe there’ll be some interesting stuff unearthed, given we’re promised post-Castle Record Breakers and Rik Mayall in the dying days of Jackanory.

21.20 One Foot In The Grave

And to complete the 1995 triple header, the biggest show on Christmas Day that year. It’s always great when the most popular show on telly is also one of the best, and sometimes it seems hard to believe that this literate, anarchic and surreal show, home to some of the most complex plots in sitcom history, was regularly watched by some fifteen million people. This is one of the feature length episodes that now can’t help but look like a bit of a rehearsal for Jonathan Creek, and it comes from the time when you always assumed any episode might be the last, hence why the promotion for this show revolved around the rumour Victor might die in it. And even though that clearly wasn’t the case, it’s a wonderfully constructed story that might make you wonder at points if you’ve misremembered how it actually ended.

Film4

14.35 The Pink Panther Strikes Again

What you remember of Christmas are those weird little moments, inexplicable to anyone else, where the season’s default level of compulsory merriment, of mechanically recovered fun, is illuminated by a shaft of genuine joy that makes the whole Brazil-cracking, advocaat-slurping, battery-including rigmarole worthwhile. And for us, a surprisingly large number of those moments occurred while a Pink Panther film was unspooling quietly on a TV in the background. From late-night premieres on Christmas Day, when not even the sustained onslaught of those big long adbreak-spanning commercials for Woolies, Hoseasons and/or Country Life butter could spoil the magic, through endless Norden-bookended clips of Sellers pissing himself in costume (if you have time over the holidays do look on YouTube for the very first Alright and marvel at its sedate pace, especially the title sequence, which is just seventy seconds of someone using Letraset) to more recent repeats accompanying present-wrapping marathons in the small hours of the 24th. We’ve even got the odd fond memory relating to the rotten one after Sellers died where they got Blossom’s dad in to do the falling over instead. So Die Hard be damned – this is the festive film franchise for us.

Talking Pictures TV

09.00 Runaround

“Me strides have gone for a burton!” So here we are on the final series, and the first one indeed came from the week of the Royal Wedding, with Mike wishing the happy couple – obviously avid viewers – all the best, and one of the prizes being a digital watch so you could “time the wedding”. Or the marriage, of course. Number one on Royal Wedding day was Shakin’ Stevens and we’re sure the kids were thrilled when Mike introduced music from Shakin’… er, Pyramids. We note Tim is now no longer billed as researcher but with the rest of the guests, the onerous research duties seemingly on the back burner to give him more time to plan comic bits of business.

22.30 Smashing Time

“The end of civilization in your 60-foot, L-shaped drawing room!” Five Christmases ago we acted like giddy kippers when we scanned this channel’s festive schedules for the first time. Seems like a lifetime ago now. We know Runaround has all but taken over people’s perception of this channel this year, but they’re still threading the odd Brit film classic in between the rounds of dollop-walloping, and if you’ve somehow managed to miss this Redgrave-Tushingham-Melly deconstruction of Swinging London, do treat yourself.  Everyone’s in it, from Bruce Lacey to Eddie Yates, and by gum, we wish we were in there with them. We want to buy animal paws from Irene Handl; appear on You Can’t Help Laughing with Peter Jones (‘He’s got a lovely speaking voice you know, and he sounds very nice when he isn’t pretending to be common!’); wear Direct Action perfume; live the high life of ‘pacy’ split-level apartments, doorstep deliveries of Johnnie Walker and meetings with the Bishop of Runcorn; hold parties at the top of the Post Office Tower (‘the scene with the built-in trip!’) and win arguments over cafe bills with the deft facial deployment of a large gooseberry syllabub tart. And the consensus agrees these days, which is nice, as when we first clocked this film on a wet afternoon in the late 80s, it was very much out of critical favour, the music press in particular slagging it off as “square old jazzer just doesn’t get the kids, seen?” But we’ve all grown up now and can recognise this for the masterwork it always was. What a fabulous knockout scene!

BBC Radio 2

13.00 Pick of the Pops

The 1987 Christmas Pops, not that we saw it on BBC4, is a curious affair, only 45 minutes long – much shorter than billed in the Radio Times – and with that week’s chart counted down in the middle with Johnny Hates Jazz performing Turn Back The Clock as a non-mover at number fifteen. Looks like we might get that again in the first hour, though one of the all time great Christmas number ones makes up for that. Neil Tennant’s in the second hour of 1998 as well, backing Robbie Williams. Happily Naughty Christmas by Fat Les has stalled just outside the Top 20, and the chart itself is a curious mix of very famous songs and totally forgotten fare, topped by probably the least memorable number one of the year, which given there were about a million is some going.

BBC Radio 4

20.00 Disorienting: Asians on Screen

Not especially festive, this, but none the worse for that. Here’s Phil Wang to consider how east and south-east Asians have appeared on TV over the years, perhaps the least visible of the UK’s minorities on screen over the years with no equivalent show like The Real McCoy or Goodness Gracious Me, and a depressingly large amount of yellowface and appalling stereotyping instead. Phil will consider what happens next

SUNDAY 20th DECEMBER

BBC2

14.45 Shadowlands

We know “Wardrobe” has a lot of fans, but that kind of respectable, Edwardian-tinged fantasy passed us by when we were illiterate young things, so the name CS Lewis conjures for us not reassuring lions and Turkish delight, but office supplies shops. Well, his middle name’s “Staples”, isn’t it? Then you’ve got The Screwfix Letters. And don’t forget early science fiction work That Hideous Strength, a novelisation of the Solvite “man in overalls pasted to board hanging from helicopter” adverts. And his powerful narrative poem Dymo, about life in a totalitarian state where everything’s labelled “property of Bart Simpson”. Why not amuse yourself over this unprecedented holiday period thinking up similarly weak CS Lewis/office equipment puns? “Er… Voyage of the Dawn Treadguard? Hmm, no…”

ITV

16.40 Diamonds Are Forever

We’ve never made a secret of our ambivalence to the 21st century Bond franchise, but even we find it sad that our local picture house has had No Time To Die “coming attraction” posters up outside the entrance since July. We still stand by this film as, if not the best Bond ever (although it obviously is, just edging out One Hundred Menthol Senior Service in our book), certainly the best Bond film to watch over Christmas, especially this year, as its episodic endlessness and confusingly convoluted plot make it the perfect cinematic lockdown allegory. “Does that make Jonathan van Tam and Chris Whitty Mr Kidd and Mr Wint or Bambi and Thumper?” “That’s entirely a matter for them.”

21.15 Bradley Walsh’s How To Win A Game Show

We’ll be seeing a lot of quizzes on telly over the festive period, mostly because they’ve been probably the easiest genre of programme to resume production of in the current conditions, and indeed on Wednesday we’ll get to see the first socially distanced episode of Pointless. We’ll be seeing Brad later in the week on another quiz, but in the meantime he’s hosting this light-as-a-feather clip show which probably won’t feature much we haven’t already seen before, with another outing for Captain Tom on Blankety Blank, but should be entertaining enough.

CHANNEL 4

14.30 White Christmas

Right, back to the BBC2 Festive Musical Fantasy Thing. On Christmas Day 1975, the BBC2FMFT enters its mint imperial phase, which is rather unfortunately scheduled directly opposite Morecambe and Wise at their own zenith. (“Do you know Marjorie Proops?” “I didn’t know that. How sad.”) As a result, hardly anyone saw that year’s offering (official ratings were famously listed as “-“) but the odd turkey-addled family who forgot to retune gazed in awe upon “a rock-musical romp through the legend of The Wooden Horse of Troy in a version specially written for BBC2… with additional material by Paul Ciani and Jonathan Cohen”. This was, of course, Great Big Groovy Horse, wherein the Play Away/Jackanory axis of teatime celebrity mobilised to recount the Greek myth in full-on “Music Time Live at Budokan” style. Paul Jones was Menelaus, Patricia Hodge Helen, and Bernard Cribbins, in the words of Clive James, “sank bravely as the narrator but can rest content in the knowledge that nobody would have been watching except me.” Perhaps stung by this reception, the slot was then handed to Johns Bird, Wells and Fortune. (Who between them count for a huge swathe of highly original and creative low-budget TV throughout the 1970s which one of those pop culture websites we’ve been hearing about lately could turn into a nice fat feature, hint hint.) Along with composer Carl Davis and Television Centre’s top bluescreen wrangler Andrew Gosling, they produced The Snow Queen, a CSO-drenched “live actors against illustrated backgrounds” adaptation of one of Hans Christian Anderson’s more “difficult” fables, starring Sheila Steafel! Vivian Stanshall! Er, Arthur Mullard! It did well enough to earn the Johns a second stab at the same author and style in 1978’s The Light Princess (the set of which played host to the famous Irene Handl “you’re confusing me with an actress who gives a fuck” anecdote), and a spin-off series, In the Looking Glass, the hallucinogenic titles of which, along with a wealth of other treasures, can be viewed at our website find of 2020, the Ravensbourne University BBC Motion Graphics Archive – https://www.ravensbourne.ac.uk/bbc-motion-graphics-archive/looking-glass-1978

CHANNEL 5

21.00 Victoria Wood: In Her Own Words

Jasper Rees’ apparently fantastic authorised biography of Victoria Wood will doubtless be found under a host of trees this Christmas, and we’ll be seeing more of her before the holidays are over. This is a bit more of a cuttings job of a documentary, but we’re sure there’ll be plenty to enjoy and the likes of Jo Brand and Jenny Eclair are no slouches when it comes to discussing the art of comedy.

BBC4

21.30 Stella Street

We’re going to have to work hard to ensure the Review of the Year in the first Creamguide of 2021 isn’t just a long list of obituaries, but there is an upsettingly large number of programmes across the festive fortnight that are being shown as tributes. Here’s where we remember John Sessions, one of Britain’s top clever-clogs comics and, we think, the only person to appear on Spitting Image as both impressionist and puppet. Indeed Sessions was an incredibly gifted mimic and one of the best ways to remember him is via an episode of this low-budget, fondly remembered series where he and his mate Phil Cornwell essay a thousand voices between them.

Film4

16.40 Carry On Regardless

We’re at that stage of life where we’ve grown immune to those “Want to feel old? Sport Billy was some time ago!” memes, though we were recently taken aback by the thought that there are people around old enough to vote whose *parents* were born after the Carry On franchise ceased production. (We don’t count Columbus, natch.) This means …Emmanuelle is as ancient to today’s kids as the Crazy Gang films were to us, with …Sergeant roughly on a par with imperial phase Keystone Kops. This entry is equivalent to either the Fatty Arbuckle scandal or Rudolph Valentino inventing Turkish delight, depending on your view.

MONDAY 21st DECEMBER

BBC2

10.50 Viva Las Vegas

The Christmas-New-Year period in the 1990s was nearly always accompanied by a mini Elvis season on one or other of the “minority channels”. Either Elvis or Godzilla, anyway – both film series, as semioticians have proved, are essentially the same. Which makes Ann-Margret Megalon. Or maybe Mechagodzilla.

13.10 Doctor Zhivago

The sort of big, grand, sweeping, big, huge, grand and sweeping and big epic film we were told would never be made again if we didn’t go and see Tenet three times each, consuming twice our own weight in Tangfastics the while. Not being Eldest Son in a runner-up Ask the Family team from 1981, we felt the film wasn’t quite our thing and didn’t bother, and to be honest we were glad we stayed away when we read the (incidentally rather nifty) Victoria Wood biography in which Christopher Nolan is introduced to Wood, who mentions that she’s just directed That Day We Sang “for the telly”, upon which “a look of utter horror and disdain came over his face”. So we hope his next ten films all go straight to Realplayer, the charmless nerk.

17.15 Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em

18.00 Butterflies

We’re not billing all the sitcom repeats this Christmas, not least because we want to get this out before the fortnight actually starts, but we know you appreciate knowing where all the familiar favourites are. We’re not sure if you can count the former as one of them, especially as this is the bizarre 1975 special which is clearly two unconnected scripts bolted together, with a memorable cameo from David Jacobs. Then the latter, along with a few episodes of As Time Goes By, serves as a tribute to the much-missed Geoffrey Palmer, who is brilliant in this like he was in everything else, although here in Christmas 1979, after the end of the second series, we’ve already lost the bit with the cars going in and out of the drive which was always our favourite thing in it.

19.30 Mastermind

Yes! It’s time for the grand Creamguide Christmas tradition, up there with The Snowman and The World’s Strongest Man! So, everyone gather around your loved ones (maybe on Zoom), settle back in an easy chair, and away we go. The level of celebrities on this programme is pathetic, you can’t even recog… oh, it’s a normal one. Thanks very much, and do join us again for that joke next Christmas. The regular contest cannot be stopped if we’re to get to the final this side of the summer, though this one is suitably light for the season as someone’s doing eighties kids TV as their specialist subject. You’d assume that TV Cream will have been used as source material for some of the questions, and maybe the contestant is someone who reads this, so good luck if it’s you. Although obviously you’ve already done it.

CHANNEL 5

13.45 Dances with Wolves

As the BBC2 Festive Musical Fantasy Thing stumbled into the punk era, what could be more appropriate for the 1977 entry, in that edgy time of Lydon, Strummer and Otway, than to go full-on prog rock? Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, songwriters extraordinaire behind Legend of Xanadu, Have I the Right? and, most importantly, the theme song from the film of Up Pompeii! (“Naughté, naughté!”) chose this moment to revive a long-dead project. Ark2 was a 1969 space-themed concept album penned by the pair and recorded by Flaming Youth, a short-lived outfit with a young Phil Collins on drums, tunes pitched somewhere between Jethro Tull and The Alan Price Set, and deathless lyrics like “His heartbeat is steady/The heart of a truck driver/Lungs of a college girl hit by a tram/His kidneys are plastic/His genital functions/Controlled by a motor attached to his thigh.” With copious rewrites all round and a sprinkling of additional material by a jobbing Melvyn Bragg, this became Orion, a tunic-clad space colonial Jesus Christ Superstar-type rock operetta which, well let’s be kind here, er… paved – no, *helped* pave the way for the first episode of Blakes Seven exactly one week later. Well, it’s Christmas, isn’t it? Let’s be nice.

London Live

13.00 For the Love of Ada

Forgive the shameless regionality of this billing, but this is intended as more of an “everyone outside the capital can count themselves lucky” public service announcement. This is one of those badly thought-out hyperlocal stations that usually survive on a diet of bought-in slop like The Ronnie Wood Show and the all-new CGI reboot of Vicky the Viking, but here we have a rare screening of quite possibly the brownest of the brown sitcom films. Most of the action is set in an authentically shabby pub that makes the Whitbread Big Head Trophy Bitter ad look like the video for Rio. Historical interest is provided by the presence of Wilfred Pickles, a once-titanic celebrity of the generation before the generation before the Boomers, which we don’t think even has a proper name. Now, the current cultural consensus is that 1986 is some impossibly remote era the fashions and customs of which we can only make the vaguest of guesses at. (We do seem reasonably sure that most of it took place on a bright pink neon grid.) This makes Pickles, who was already a throwback pensioner when Colin Crompton was still in short trousers, positively Pre-Cambrian. Which is a shame, as in his radio days he was behind a slew of programmes that pretty much invented the idea that “the public are the stars”, and hence the reality shows that broadsheets still love to write tortuous, top-of-the-head thinkpieces about. So yet another opportunity to do this archive media journalism thing properly is cancelled due to total lack of interest, and the world turns. Wilfred Pickles is currently appearing in The Gay Dog at the Piccadilly Theatre, London.

Talking Pictures TV

01.40 No Sex Please, We’re British

Oh, the CGI Vicky the Viking? It’s exactly the low-rent How to Train Your Dragon knock-off you’d expect, although for some reason it eschews rebooting either of the original’s two theme tunes in favour of an all-new and deeply unsatisfying Scooby Doo/Cloppa Castle affair. Oh, and everyone in it’s Australian. Looking forward to Dogtanian 2021.

TUESDAY 22nd DECEMBER

BBC1

13.45 Clash of the Titans

After Orion, the BBC2 Festive Musical Fantasy Thing went into decline. 1979 saw a threadbare, single-set version of Baboushka (the festive Russian fable, not the hotcha Kate Bush song) with a heavy Donald “Rustington-On-Sea” Swann involvement, but the glory days were over. The new wave made Orion look painfully old hat, and the seasonal end-of-term variety vibe was now being serviced elsewhere, particularly by that early instance of Light Entertainment Mission Creep, the All-Star Record Breakers special. The Ghost Downstairs, a third Andrew Gosling joint, served time in 1982, followed in ’83 by The Tale of Beatrix Potter, a solid bonnets-and-antimacassars biopic with Penelope Wilton as the author and, thankfully, none of the terrifying sightless animal heads seen in that nightmare-inducing ballet film of nearly the same name. But as a broadcasting tradition, the BBC2 Festive Musical Fantasy Thing was a dead slot walking. What really did for the format, however, was the same thing that did for Play for Today – economies of scale. Christmas 1984 was all about The Box of Delights, a big-name six-parter with enough cutting edge visual effects to keep pop-science documentary strands in material for the rest of the decade. Alongside this, the one-off rock panto seemed redundant, and the slot took delivery of its P45 on Boxing Day, during the closing credits of The Big H, as Tony Harrison dragged the festive rock opera kicking and screaming into the eighties, and it promptly died of shock. The “H” in question is the one the common kids drop from their speech, and a broad, class-war-riven schoolroom version of the Nativity is the conceit, featuring a trio of sadistic teacher-Herods. A far cry from Harrison’s V, admittedly, but an equally far cry from the Bee Gees throwing eggs at Spike Milligan. After that, the BBC2 Festive Musical Fantasy Thing quietly went the way of those other festive fixtures, the Gathering of Celebrities in a Children’s Hospital on Christmas Morning, the Christmas Appeal on Behalf of the Old Folks, Usually by Harry Secombe, and the Big Long Adbreak-spanning Commercial for Woolies, Hoseasons and/or Country Life Butter. Instead of these traditions, we now have Celebrity Reads Julia Donaldson Story Very Slowly and Spotify Unwrapped. We merely present these facts, without comment.

19.55 Spider-Man: Homecoming

No Firestar, no disco dancing down the street, no arriving just in time like a streak of light at the scene of a crime in the chill of night, and no part one of The Deadly Dust being cancelled by Granada due to technical difficulties. It’s time for a literal homecoming as Marvel wrangle back the rights for not so much a back to basics for Peter Parker as a long overdue reinvention as Tom Holland takes time out from responding to every last chat show question with contract-endangering spoilers to do whatever a spider can and finally portray your friendly neighbourhood web-slinger as a gawky awkward teenager when he’s out of costume, and a YouTube sensation relentlessly eighties movie reference-toting blabbermouth when he’s in it, with Aunt May reimagined as a sweary hot soccer mom, Peter’s classmates updated to appear as though they’ve actually experienced some cultural events past the chart peak of Be True To Your School by The Beach Boys, and the action hurtling straight into a stand-off against an alien tech-dealing Adrian Toomes instead of going through the over-‘meaningful’ origin story for the eighteen millionth time. Not Spider-Man’s first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – that honour went to him trying to beat Ant-Man at Pokemon Go in Pret A Manger or something in Captain America: Civil War – but it’s the rip-roaring action comedy Spidey outing that nobody realised had been needed all along. Iron Man shows up to warn him to leave tackling arms dealers to Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Daredevil and/or The Punisher depending on what side he got out of bed that morning – not likely when his sort-of girlfriend’s dad is ferrying outer space military grade hardware around using a big pair of mechanical wings, and in any case they were all too busy thumping a wall – and Captain America cameos in some way-out-of-date isn’t-this-guy-a-war-criminal-now Public Service Announcements about washing behind your ears, but the real wealth and fame-ignoring star of the show is Zendaya as MJ, a sardonic conspiracy theory savvy catch-all replacement for all of those girls that just existed to get a bit confused when Peter disappeared and then Spider-Man showed up a  couple of minutes later and ohhh he just missed him. All of which makes it sound like a comic fan’s Ultimate Prowler-spotting field day, but it’s one of the freshest, funniest and most energetic blockbusters there’s been in a very long time and streets ahead of whatever you were planning to binge-watch on Netflix today. Just make sure you’re prepared for the Avengers: Infinity War cliffhanger…

BBC2

10.30 High Society

First we think of Bing and Frank doing Did You Evah. Then we think of the Iggy Pop/Debbie Harry cover from Red Hot and Blue, probably the most fun of those ten-indie-acts-plus-a-couple-of-big-names-so-as-not-to-affect-sales charity compilation albums that were everywhere for a couple of years either side of 1990. Not that it wasn’t a mixed bag, as these things always are, but while most artists thought “Yikes, Cole Porter, need a string section, best start thumbing through the Dalton’s Weekly”, others did interesting things with the songs. Neneh Cherry, The Jungle Brothers, Erasure and Aztec Camera made it work brilliantly, while at the other end of the scale The Thompson Twins subjected Who Wants to be a Millionaire to a combined Flying Lizards/Soul II Soul assault which is up there with Duran Duran’s Public Enemy covers in the hubris stakes. But Pop-Harry was the standout track, made all the sweeter by a video featuring Iggy trying to eat dog food from the tin (geddit?) and Debbie exclaiming “what cocks!” while sat in a chicken coop. It’s like a trailer for the sadly non-existent Iggy and Debbie’s Stupid Video.

14.15 The Searchers

Our favourite ’90s indie charity covers compilation has to be Ruby Trax, the NME’s 40th anniversary “indie types do the chart toppers” beanfeast which spawned the Manics’ cover of the M*A*S*H theme as its single, but was chock full of grand stuff otherwise. There were the obvious fits: of *course* the Wonder Stuff are doing Coz I Luv You, of *course* Saint Etienne are doing Stranger in Paradise, of *course* the Wedding Present are doing Cumberland Gap. There were the “sounded like a laugh at the time” mismatches: Carter USM doing Another Brick in the Wall almost works in a weird way, The Farm’s scally-trance version of Don’t You Want Me totally fails in a dull way. Tears for Fears did a Rock-School-faithful rendition of Ashes to Ashes, which was every bit as pointless as EMF’s offering, which required reference to dental records before it could be identified as Shaddup Your Face. Also down the “nothing like ’em” end of operations, Charlene’s I’ve Never Been to Me was given a rousing grebo-trance makeover by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, the Fall cheated shamelessly on the whip sound effects for Legend of Xanadu, while Fatima Mansions rode a truly unnerving Madonna-joins-the-Residents coach and horses through Bryan Adams’s Everything I Do. Best of all, though, was Curve’s stupendous goth-trance cover of I Feel Love, which we heartily recommend for your Christmas-trance playlist.

18.00 The Good Life

18.30 All About The Good Life

We think this has been missing from the Beeb’s Christmas schedules for the last few years – although it’s not been too hard to find elsewhere – but we can’t be doing with any more disruption or bewilderment in this most chaotic of years, so we’re thrilled to announce The Ooh Aah Bird is present and correct, followed by the umpteenth repeat of the doc about the series, itself now ten years old.

CHANNEL 5

21.00 All Creatures Great and Small

Here’s one of the hits of the year, the reboot of the much-loved series earning plenty of plaudits, with the cast fitting nicely into the roles, paying tribute to their predecessors while finding their own take on the characters, and enjoying some bumper ratings to boot. A new series is bound to be on our screens as soon as possible, though sadly without Diana Rigg, and in the meantime here’s a suitably cosy Christmas special to snuggle up to.

22.25 Shirley Valentine

Come for Julia McKenzie, stay for Julia McKenzie. The Love Theme from this film is a ballad of the “walking slowly yet purposefully into the wind machine wearing a big billowy frock and elbow-length gloves” tendency. This broke a long-standing tradition for films of popular British stage plays to be accompanied by either a folksy jangle or, for some reason, a country and western-tinged number, partly due to country’s long-standing affinity with telling convoluted tales of personal woe, but mainly because theatre critics love them some hillbilly swing. Hence Tynans in the Stream, If I Said You Had a Sheridan Morley Would You Hold It Against Me?, We’ve Got a Great Big Coveney (Ain’t He a Beautiful Sight?) and so forth.

BBC4

20.00 Yes Minister

People complain these days about Christmas specials being on too early, but the first showing of this in 1984 was back on 17th December. It’s made up for it since with plenty of other repeats, though apologies if you’ve not seen it before as BBC4’s repeats of Yes Prime Minister over the last few weeks have rather given away the ending.

21.00 Mother Love

The Avengers and Bond certainly loomed large in the Diana Rigg tributes after her sad passing earlier this year, but there are many people who still reckon this is the best thing she’s ever done. It was a huge show when it was first shown, being showered with BAFTAs, and we’re sure it’s suitably melodramatic and exciting enough to still catch the eye thirty years later. Shown in an omnibus format it was given for its last repeat in 2003, the second part is tomorrow and after this first part is Rigg’s encounter with Jeremy Isaacs on the revived Face to Face in 1997.

Talking Pictures TV

06.00 To Catch a Yeti

Oh, so you’re pivoting in *this* direction now, Talking Pictures? Well OK, but if we catch you inviting Macaulay Culkin round for games of Jenga we’ll have a word.

23.50 The Lovers!

01.35 Up the Chastity Belt

Two frankly rotten sitcom film adaptations. The Lovers! (I suppose they think if the spell it with a “!” more people will laugh) is as bafflingly bad as the TV original ever was (how the hell do you make Richard Beckinsale unappealing?) but it’s worth it for vintage Manchester street footage, including Edwardia, the George Best boutique, and Old Trafford, complete with the period brown-and-orange frontage to the souvenir shop. They don’t go in the Arndale though, which is a cardinal flaw in the script if ever there was one. And as we’ve said before (and are about to say again), the sole point of interest in Up the Chastity Belt is the brief appearance of one Martin Woodhams, a Croydon schoolboy who became nationally notorious after leading an anarchic rebellion by getting his classmates to pepper the text of a punishment essay with filthy words like “lavotery cleaner” (sic) and “Princess Margaret”, then refusing to accept the cane as punishment for *that* transgression, reducing his teacher to a sobbing wreck. The result: his mugshot all over the front of the tabloids, an item on Nationwide and a cameo in this film. The recent past, ladies and gentlemen. Who *were* those people?

WEDNESDAY 23rd DECEMBER

BBC1

13.45 The NeverEnding Story

There were three of these damn films, don’t forget. The others never boasted a theme song as majestic as Limahl’s original, though. The second one had Giorgio Moroder’s least finest four minutes, a sort of “love theme from The Family Ness” softer-than-soft rock dirge which nobody bought. The third film’s soundtrack featured Seal’s cod-medieval ballad Kiss From A Rose Came Travelling On His Ship From Afar (Oh What a Giveaway) a full year before it was reupholstered and hastily bolted onto Whatever Batman Film Was Out At This Point Forever, where it made even less sense. There’s a great interview with Seal where he reveals that a) he recorded the original version in the late ’80s on what sounds very like an Amstrad Studio 100 (complete with “four mics, four stands and a pair of cans”) and b) he was so embarrassed by the result that he “threw the tape in the corner” and it stayed in the corner until Trevor Horn looked in the corner and asked him “what’s that tape in the corner? Let’s hear it” so he got it out of the corner and it won a Grammy and from that moment on Seal realised “it was more than just a tape in the corner”. Follow your dreams, kids.

BBC2

14.15 Casablanca

Pretty much the last film that was any good at all according to the old Halliwell’s Film Guide we unearthed earlier this year, which also featured a reference to one “Friz Lang”, presumably the director of The Looney, Looney, Looney Dr Mabuse Movie.

17.00 Are You Being Served?

17.30 Dad’s Army

For all that 1977 is considered the all-time great Christmas Day, the big film was The Wizard of Oz in exactly the same slot it was shown two years previously, because it was a Sunday everything had to stop for Songs of Praise, and earlier in the day was a repeat of the previous year’s Are You Being Served. Been a while since BBC2 had nipped into Grace Brothers, with this one from Boxing Day 1978, and then it’s imperial phase Dad’s Army from Christmas 1971.

CHANNEL 5

15.10 All Creatures Great and Small

Currently wowing Express readers up and down the land in its rebooted form as Channel 5’s flagship “Look, mum! A proper drama! With drone shots and everything!” This, however, is the film that predates even the original TV series, with the Duke of Buckingham off the Dick Lester Musketeers films as Wrong Herriot, the bloke off that Armchair Thriller where he kidnaps a dog as Wrong Tristan, and Anthony Hopkins off Wrong Transformers as Wrong Siegfried. To show how little of a toss they gave, the sequel the following year boasted an all-new Wrong Cast, including James Alderton as Even Wronger Herriot, so we can’t recommend this as a substitute for the new series, never mind the old. But then, the late ’70s All Creatures was less a drama than a strategically placed intensifier, emanating Sabbath vibes to make Sunday even Sunday-er than it already was, like an ecclesiastical monosodium glutamate made from powdered communion wafers. Just as the only shops you could go into were garden centres, so the only drama you could watch was similarly stuffed with foliage and ruthlessly targeted at the Darby and Joan massive.

CHRISTMAS EVE

BBC1

22.15 Have I Got 30 Years For You

We suppose the nearest equivalent of HIGNFY is something like The Simpsons, in that in its early days it was an absolute phenomenon, much-anticipated every week and notable episodes becoming a national talking point, while these days it just carries on, and while we watch it most weeks, we only ever do it once and while it sometimes makes us laugh, we’ve pretty much forgotten about it the second it finishes. But this should still be a pretty interesting romp through the archives, and the chance to see some welcome clippage from its glory days (“Some of those letters are upside down!”), while we’re promised contributions from Ian, Paul and sundry participants, though conspicuous by his absence from the guest list is Angus. Presumably he’ll be in the clips… won’t he?

00.15 Ghost Stories

Bit of dearth of ghosty business that we can see this festival carnival – or at least, proper ghosty business – though if you’re keen on the textbook 70s telly genre (if not, why not?) look up the GMS: The Weekend Edition podcast on BBC Sounds for a long interview done this very month with Ghost Story for Christmas supremo Lawrence Gordon Clark. Would that the makers of this spooky film had paid a little more attention to LGC’s extraordinary and definitive works before launching upon this attempt to reinvigorate the portmanteau, and yeah OK it’s nice. Not thrilling, but nice.  It has two big reveals, one of which seems achingly obvious and the other which appears almost completely unnecessary. However, come for the Freeman – taking time off from union busting in New Zealand presumably – and stay for Paul Whitehouse, since his segment is easily the best. We saw this at the pictures. Remember that?

ITV

20.15 Alan Carr’s Epic Gameshow

Bit of an end of an era on Channel Four as Alan Carr doesn’t appear on Christmas Day for the first time in about a decade, as while his regular series ended several years ago it still used to turn up on the 25th like an annual for a long-folded comic. We were saying for ages he needed to go somewhere else and we were delighted this year that he made a successful debut on primetime ITV. We love a quiz so this turned out to be a pretty entertaining series, albeit some formats were better able to be stretched out to an hour than others. While they recorded the series they also filmed a Christmas episode, making it one of the few new shows this Christmas with a live studio audience, though unfortunately the game they chose for it was The Price Is Right, which is never our favourite, and in this form rather drags on a bit and includes a pretty incomprehensible end game. But if you’re after brainless entertainment to entertain the very all ages on Christmas Eve, this should be your best bet.

CHANNEL 4

07.20 The Snowman

08.20 Father Christmas

It seems to have been decided that The Snowman is a Christmas Eve tradition, though in the eighties and nineties it was always on Christmas Day. And these days the Christmas Eve broadcasts are just one of several on this channel during December, one reason for its early outing presumably being so it can go up on All4 for the entire month. Here it is again, plus at five o’clock this afternoon, and Father Christmas, a year away from its thirtieth anniversary, slots in nicely alongside.

12.40 A Christmas Carol

The portmanteau horror is actually pretty much back! Back! BACK! anyway and we’d point to things like The Mortuary Collection as proof that it ought never to have gone away in the first place. Still, we don’t miss things till they’re gone, eh? Like Spangles. And all your relatives. Still, it’s just about Christmas so the best thing to do is scare shitless the junior element of whatever bubble you were unable to avoid being included in with the very obvious competition on show here between George C ‘Football in the Groin’ Scott and Edwood Woodwood in the best colour-but-non-singing Scrooge. Be grateful it’s not the Bloody Reginald Owen One. Pandemics? I’ve shit ‘em!

CHANNEL 5

17.25 Jason and the Argonauts

Turns out Ray Harryhausen’s daughter lives in Edinburgh. Who’d have thunk it? Anyhoo, since we’re deep in present-wrapping territory here as our eyes gain thon fixed angry glaze as we collectively long just to sit at peace and stare at something on telly,  you could accompany the time-honoured exercise of looking for the join on that sticky backed plastic with a lot worse than RH’s magnificent opus. And a chance to honour Blackman. Bless her.

22.00 Cliff Richard: The Christmas King

Used to be that it was actually Shaky who was supposed to do a record every Christmas, and we remember Smash Hits once holding an inquiry when he failed to release one. But it’s Cliff who has the bigger festive back catalogue, and we inevitably bill this in the hope it includes the majestic Little Town, which we really think is a super record. It’s not just the records too, diligently catalogued on this show by Gambo, but his appearances on Christmas TV, like his 1970 show where he informed the Radio Times “Christmas is like driving a car in fog”. Thanks Cliff.

CBBC

17.30 Blue Peter

It should have been the Christmas show here, of course, but such is the requirement for each episode to have a full week of repeats that was actually last Thursday, so you’ll have to synchronise your viewing on iPlayer instead. But here’s another festive tradition, the Review of the Year, and for all we’ll hear about the broadcasters going to extra mile to keep programmes on air, few have done a better job than Blue Peter, their lockdown episodes ensuring they remained a rock in the audience’s lives, and since they’ve come back to the studio they’ve done an exceptional job at making it more or less business as usual, with studio action, makes and action films all present and correct, just stood a bit further apart, as you’ll see here.

Talking Pictures TV

20.00 Ooh, You Are Awful

Everything’s done – hopefully – and it’s time to relax a little with the linear TV equivalent of Creamguide (Films). Yes! It’s Talking Pictures TV, the channel we ought to have been if any of us around the Filmguide fireplace had ever had any of the know-how,  sense or energy. Gizmo the Filmguide cat was always at us to get on digital (do you see?) but we were too busy trying to find a decent copy of Gasbags. Serve us right.  We console ourselves that the TPTV advent calendar we got (Day 13! Sam ‘Orlando’ Kydd!) is as pleasingly ramshackle as ours would undoubtedly have been.  But would we have had the imagination to schedule Get Charlie Tully! (US release title) on Christmas Eve? We doubt it. We’d likely still be holding on to it in order to swap it out as the replacement for something unseemly at the time of a national tragedy,  like BBC One did when they took off rootin’ tootin’ Nevada Smith on the night of the Hungerford Massacre and put this on instead.  Pity it features about a dozen grisly murders. Heigh ho. Two stars in the Radio Times is pitiful, it has to be said; just the jazz organ solo across the titles deserves that. Let alone the fact that the old Italian bloke who is diddled by Charlie and Reggie is Kurt the Chef from off of the Gourmet Night Fawlty Towers as well as the delicatessen owner who lets Hilda and Stan take the money from their trolley dash (in the world’s biggest deli, by the looks of it too) so they can pay back the telly hire man after Stan set fire to the set that was broken to pretend it had been defective but made an arse of it and left him and Hilda with a big bill and therefore no telly in Proper Corrie.

BBC Radio 4

18.15 Excuse Me, Are You John Shuttleworth?

We saw John Shuttleworth live about fifteen years ago in the most suitable venue imaginable – a library theatre in a Lincolnshire market town, on a Sunday afternoon. Graham Fellows’ wonderful comic creation is nearly forty years old now, which came about when Fellows discovered his deliberately bad songs were doing better business than his self-consciously serious material. Here he is on how it all happened, with suitable interjections by John and Ken.

CHRISTMAS DAY

BBC1

11.55 Top of the Pops

A bit of a rollercoaster when BBC1 announced their Christmas programmes and BBC News announced there wasn’t going to be a Top of the Pops, which would have been a real end of an era given it’s been on every Christmas Day since 1967, to some kerfuffle on Twitter. But it turned out that they’d just put two and two together as it wasn’t mentioned in the press release, and within an hour or so the Beeb confirmed there was going to be one after all. A bit different this time, mind, with no audience, so it’ll probably feel a bit like Noel’s Broom Cupboard affair from 1978, and about as exciting as that for today’s pop kids.

15.00 The Queen

Last year this was the second most-watched show on Christmas Day just counting the audience on BBC1, even before you added on those watching on ITV and Sky One – and as someone we’ll see in it a minute once had it, those six or seven people would have made all the difference. There haven’t been quite as many tabloid antics this year to create an audience-grabbing sub-plot this year, mind.

19.00 Blankety Blank

Last time we saw this venerable old format was at Christmas 2016 with David Walliams on ITV, who said “We’re calling this a special rather than a pilot so if it doesn’t work out we can pretend we only meant to do one”. And here we are four years later with another “special”, though at least back in its original home for the first time in twenty years. Bradley Walsh is our host this time around, who seems more of a Wogan than a Dawson figure, and the line-up of panellists seems a bit uninspiring, but maybe this time it’ll catch on again. Otherwise, see you again in 2024.

BBC2

16.15 The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show

17.20 To The Manor Born

19.40 Dad’s Army

As we’ve argued frequently over recent years, people who suggest that BBC1 ratings on Christmas Day are going down because of boring, samey schedules might have a point if the channels where ratings were going up on Christmas Day weren’t Channel Four showing Home Alone 2 every year, ITV2 with its Bank Holiday Bond and the parade of vintage comedy here. Happily the To The Manor Born here is from 1979 rather than 2007, while the top pick is of course Eric and Ern, especially as it’s 1975 which means their memorable encounter with Deaf O’Connor, where he really is brilliant and just as amusing as the other two.

20.20 Victoria Wood’s All Day Breakfast

“Ooh, now, where’s that? Sorry, we’re terrible, we live in Knutsford.” Well, here’s a bit of excitement in among the festive repeats, it’s Victoria’s 1992 Christmas special, shown on Christmas Day that year, repeated on Easter Monday and then, amazingly, never again on the Beeb, until now. So this’ll be a treat to see again, and given This Morning now seems to envelop much of the day on ITV – it’s even on this morning, though Pip will doubtless be in his element and it might have a nice Noel Up The Post Office Tower vibe – it should be even more relevant.

21.10 Victoria Wood’s Secret List

And after that, a new bit of old Victoria. As we mentioned, Jasper Rees’ book about Victoria seems to be a cut above your average showbiz biography, and this looks set to be a cut above your average clip show, given the contributors including Russel T Davies, Joan Sundaytrading and Abi Morgan. The whole thing is based around a planned programme from a decade ago where Victoria would select her favourites of her sketches, but which was aborted in production and forgotten about. But the paperwork has just been discovered, so over the next two nights we’ll get to see what she thought was the best of the best.

22.10 La La Land

See, the problem for films like this is lowering of expectation. We say problem,  though the condition was enough to carry LLL to a number of baffling major awards.  None of which it deserved. Yeah it’s nice. Yeah it’s fine. Yeah it does no harm. But no one involved would’ve gotten a spot in the background of, for example, Singin’ In The Rain which was on today as well.  It’s just that people on the whole don’t have the breadth of examples on view to be able to discern competent from stunning.  Vide: Hail, Caesar! with Channing Tatum being very cute and charming as the leading dancer in the quasi-MGM number in the bar. Thing is, by the time he and his pals had danced on some table tops with mops,  Ray Bolger would’ve been tapdancing on the optics in a pair of carpet slippers while he took an order for toasties. Your Mum will love it, mind. Though if your Gran is in the bubble, better hope you taped Gene, Debbie and Donald this morning.

ITV2

20.00 Spectre

It might be known to some of you – if indeed any of you are reading this bit – that the Creamguide (Films) fireplace has experienced its share of the film business. That is to say,  eleven days queueing up for dinners in an abandoned hospital in Livingston with Our Very Good Friend,  Mr Adrien ‘Adrien Brodie’ Brodie. But what’s not so well known is that we had another brush with ‘the biz’ a little while ago when we felt the need to email EON Productions (letter on file). Now, we’re not letter writers. We may have urged the populace to contact Channel Five and ‘Show Alf’s Button Afloat!’ in the time before genesis but since no one did that probably doesn’t count. EON make the Bond films of course, thus tends all this preface, and we were becoming restless at the continued postponement of their new offering 007: That Wind Will Keep The Rain Away. Not for our part really – since Spectre is actually about the only Bond film we’ve really liked in nearly 30 years – but for pals who were becoming miffed both at not being able to see it but also at having to write more and more stoopid bits of copy about it. So, to the keyboard! We suggested,  perfectly seriously, that if EON wanted actually to get their film an audience, make some money and earn shedloads of goodwill,  they show 007: It’s Too Cold To Snow for a few days streaming across the Christmas period, or on the telly and iPlayer and then stream it for a bit. Broadcast a wee live sequence of Bond finishing watching the Queen and then turning to the audience and cueing-in the movie. Boom! Everyone in the world watches it, or at least hears about it, and then streams it. Then we can stop talking about it. We didn’t get a response. Must’ve seemed daft.  Until Warner Brothers and HBO Max did their deal to stream all the movies on the WB slate until the end of next year in conjunction with a limited cinema release. Harrumph. You had your chance, Babs!

Sony Movies

14.30 The Remains of the Day

Set yourself up for your lunch with a good solid dose of emotional repression,  winsome longing and the voicing of far-right sympathies. So just any Christmas Day then. (Creamguide (Films) is currently appearing at the Alhambra Theatre Bradford in Old King Cole.)

Talking Pictures TV

21.30 Without a Clue

Unfairly criticised hoary old bobbins with the Holmes-Watson role-reversal gag actually warming its welcome throughout. Chuck in Paul ‘raspberry ripple’ Freeman and Nigel Davenport and some gorgeous art design and you could stuff down that last  box of Meltis with worse. And when things flag,  tell everyone that Davenport is the dad of Miles from off of This Life! And you’re back in the game!

BBC Radio 2

10.00 Junior Choice

14.00 The 40 Most Played Christmas Songs of the 21st Century with Gary Davies

19.00 The Muppets at Christmas – It’s Time To Play The Music

22.00 Don Black’s Christmas Crooners

A motley selection of entertainment on the Light Programme to accompany the potato peeling during the day. First up it’s Anneka with another edition of the bafflingly perennial show, then at lunchtime there’s Gaz with a chart that makes use of PRS records to include not just songs played on the radio but in shops and pubs as well, which will presumably mean it includes all the songs you’ll now be massively fed up of hearing. More fun at teatime with OJ Borg celebrating Muppet music over the years, and then at ten it’s what will presumably be the last show from Don Black, although his departure from Radio 2 isn’t because of any falling out but because as the age of 82, after a bout of Covid and with numerous other jobs on the go, he reckons it might be pushing it to try and squeeze in a regular show too. But here’s some suitable music for an old-fashioned austere Christmas to see him out.

And that’s that…

…but only for the first week because the second part of our listings service for the festive fortnight will be appearing online tonight. See you then!

By the way…

We send out Creamguides every week via email. If you’d like to receive it – it’s free, there are no ads, we don’t sell on your address, you can unsubscribe whenever; we’re basically soppy like that – then fill in your details below.


1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. THX 1139

    December 18, 2020 at 10:15 am

    TV Creamguide always finds something worth seeing that I’ve missed in the Radio Times, and I liked the BBC2 musicals article snuck in by stealth, too.

    Also, damn right on Spider-Man Homecoming, how nice to see a superhero who doesn’t want to kill someone and was even trying to save the baddie at the end. Pity the sequel was basically National Lampoon’s European Vacation (Spidey Edition) and pretty rubbish, but I like the sound of them doing a Spider-Verse for number 3, because that cartoon was a marvel. Hey!

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