As is traditional here at CRT Towers, I brush the cobwebs away and cast my weary gaze over the television schedules for the Christmas and New Year fortnight. All done with the aid of the double issue of Radio Times, several large gin and tonics and boy slaves massaging my manly body. Alas, as I peer at the listings with my trusty pair of specs it is very obvious that Channels 4 and 5 have pretty much given up the fight for ratings and have basically stuffed their schedules with the same old crap they peddle to us during the year only with added repeats. It is left, as usual, to the BBC to continue to maintain standards but even here, BBC4's schedule is groaning under the weight of repeats. C'mon BBC4, you can do better. And BBC3 really should be put out of its misery.
Part One covers 20th December to Boxing Day and not only gives you an insight into what CRT recommends for your tellybox viewing but also a glimpse into the terrifying level of alcoholic poisoning and sheer gluttony committed in the name of reviewing. Oh, and one must say a word or two about Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple. If you recall, last Christmas was dominated by Hetty Wainthrop investigating the contents of your bins. She was on fast cycle across BBC2 and (R.I.P) UK Drama. This year Murder She Wrote and Miss Marple are trading places across BBC2 and Alibi. So, as you lie there, stinking of your own vomit, reeking of beer and Babycham, you might be disturbed to see Joan Hickson and Angela Lansbury fading in and out of your consciousness. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Their odyssey begins on Monday afternoon 22nd December.
BBC1 - 7pm - Strictly Come Dancing (also on BBC HD)
The finale. I have a real soft spot for Strictly. It just feels like the ghost of variety isn’t dead. No. It’s haunting Television Centre and looks like Bruce Forsyth. Get the gins out and thrill to some gawjus dancin’, Craig Revel Horwood nit-picking and upsetting Len, Arlene flirting at anything wearing trousers and Bruno generally getting hyperbolic. Must be the trousers he’s got on. Plus we get the results show on the same night too. Fab – u – lous.
BBC4 – 8.10pm - Judy, Frank and Dean: Once in a Lifetime
Wouldn’t bother with the other channels. ITV is showing an All Star Mr. And Mrs. Special and C4 something rude sounding called Willie’s Perfect Chocolate Christmas. Sounds horrid. C5 should be renamed NCIS 5 or CSI: C5 in my opinion. Off to bed with a rude book by 11.30pm.
Very little else on the other channels. BBC snob. That’s me. I shall settle down with a Dick... Francis.
BBC4 – 10.30pm - Crooked House (also on BBC HD)
All hail Mark Gatiss. Thank our lucky stars he managed to twist the arm off the controller of BBC4 to get this compendium of ghost stories made, in the great Amicus tradition. The first story tonight, The Wainscoting, establishes the format. A schoolteacher discovers an old knocker and Gatiss plays a curator who tells stories about the house to which the knocker belongs. Loads of old knockers jokes later and I suspect you’ll be cringing behind the sofa rather than laughing into your cocoa. Two further stories follow during the week with an omnibus edition too in case you couldn’t even be arsed.
You must make it your mission to support Top Of The Pops. There is a groundswell of opinion (what is a groundswell, anyway? The garden with a bit of water retention?) that the BBC will bow to pressure from the industry to reinstate TOTP. Therefore, no matter how pissed you are, you must watch all editions of TOTP and TOTP2. There are several Christmas editions of TOTP2 on BBC2 and a one-off TOTP special on BBC1
BBC1 – 9.00pm – Survivors (also on BBC HD)
The finale to the series. Not a cheerful prospect for the festive season to witness Abby and her crew scraping a living by shoplifting from Netto. Apparently, Samantha loses it and Dexter turns up and gets 'no brain' Sarah to turn traitor. And mine’s a pint of methylated spirits please, Greg.
BBC2 – 9.00pm – Rab C Nesbitt
What worries me is that if they got the tapes for Rab C and Survivors mixed up I don’t think anyone would notice the difference. They both feature violent people from the North cheating on and stealing from each other. Not as many jokes in Rab C, though.
BBC4 – 10.30pm - Crooked House (also on BBC HD)
The second story (or should that be storey…storey...house..geddit...what do you want? Wit?), Something Old, guest stars the wonderful Jean Marsh who is probably relieved that she doesn’t have to tell the hoary old story about how she and Eileen Atkins created Upstairs Downstairs. Again. Ever.
After my mad dash to Aldi to spend as little on Christmas food as possible, I will probably take gin intravenously for the afternoon, visions of Angela Lansbury and Joan Hickson spiralling above me. Channels 4 and 5 still think it is highly amusing to schedule two versions of A Christmas Carol back to back in the late afternoon. ‘You will have a traditional Christmas you fuckers’ seems to be their compliment of the season. Bah, and indeed, humbug.
BBC1 – 10pm – Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special (also on BBC HD)
Possibly the last we will see of Gavin, Stacey, Nessa and Bryn. G&S is a bit of a Marmite comedy. You either get it or you don’t. It can be thoroughly heartwarming one minute and utterly obnoxious the next. But Nessa and Bryn are great comedy character creations and are worth tuning in for and the writing can be pin-sharp with its observations. As long as Ruth Jones gives us Nessa's catchphrase, 'Oh, what's occuring, then?' I shall be content. Will probably have eaten most of the Ferrero Roche by the time this comes on.
BBC4 - 10pm - Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe: Review of the Year
Watch a genius at work and weep. There is serious danger of wetting yourself whilst watching this so you might want to hook yourself up to some Heath Robinson contraption into which you can wee without leaving your Parker Knoll.
BBC2 – 10.15pm – Arena: Paul Schofield
Glittering tribute to one of the greatest British thesps. Expect lots of unctuous arse licking from fellow actors and cries of ‘he was a genius, darling’ emerging from many a botoxed old face. Seriously, he was a fucking marvellous actor. The film features extracts from some of his most famous roles, including Sir Thomas More in the Oscar-winning A Man For All Seasons, Salieri in Amadeus and an unforgettable King Lear.
BBC4 – 10.30pm - Crooked House (also on BBC HD)
The final tale, The Knocker, will treat us to Derren Brown’s drama debut. Let’s hope he can cast a spell over the audience. Or is it just an illusion. OK, I’ll stop now.
Christmas Day. Chained to the oven, peeling potatoes and carrots, subjecting a dry old bird to intense heat but let’s not mention your mother and her tanning sessions, then cooking a turkey, nursing a hangover that feels like someone ripped your head off and shat in your neck. Once I’ve dished up what purports to be a dinner and all the belching and farting has been completed, wine has been spilt over the carpet and the Christmas tree has fallen over and electrocuted the cat…it is time for:
BBC1 – 2pm – Top Of The Pops Christmas Special
It’s tradition. OK. You may not know your Girls Aloud from your Sugarbabes but who cares. It’s part of the viral campaign to get the show back on air. Leave the telly on and just have a quiet snooze. It’ll skew the viewing figures.
BBC1 - 6pm – Doctor Who: The Next Doctor (not on BBC HD although the printed version of Radio Times seems to imply it is. Bastards)
Quite probably the only reason to sober up momentarily on Christmas Day. Thrill to Davids Morrissey and Tennant and watch RTD leaping through hoops to con you into thinking one of them is definitely the next Doctor. Christmas Eve, 1851, and Cybermen stalk the snow of Victorian London. Stalk the snow sounds like a euphemism for doing a line of cocaine and I have visions of Paul Kasey off his head on coke, screaming ‘Delete’ at the top of his voice outside RTD’s house. But when the Doctor meets another Doctor, the two must combine forces to stop the rise of the CyberKing. I wonder if the CyberKing is any relation to the BurgerKing. Does the CyberKing sell you cheap electrical goods instead of cheap fast food?
BBC3 – 7pm – Doctor Who Confidential Christmas 2008
Talking of food, I tend to serve the Christmas pud about now. All the hot air generated by the cast and crew yakking on Confidential warms it up a treat. Please. Whatever you do. Avoid the cockney misery fest that is EastEnders. I suggest a nap. You might dream about a version of Eastenders where the sun shines, the birds twitter and everyone has a smile on their face. Only a dream, mind.
BBC1 – 8.30pm - Wallace And Gromit – A Matter Of Loaf And Death (also on BBC HD)
Another reason to be cheerful. Any programme that has a villain called the Cereal Killer in it gets my vote. I shall watch this with a big, daft smile on my face as my Christmas hat hangs limp on my head. Consume with a large glass of Baileys with ice.
BBC1 – 9.30pm – The Royle Family
Hmm. They should have left well alone when Liz Smith’s character snuffed it. Again, a Marmite comedy and it could be mildly entertaining even if it does feature that old ham Tom Courtenay. It will probably drift by as you lie in a drunken stupor whilst quietly letting off and blaming the dog or your 80 year old mother who is unconscious and clutching an empty bottle of Malibu.
BBC1 – 10.30pm – Blackadder Rides Again
Many will be conned into thinking this is a new one off special of the comedy. It isn’t. It’s one of those slap on the back 25th anniversary type things. But it does get the whole cast back together again with Curtis and Elton. Now, if only Curtis and Elton could actually get their fingers out of their clenched bums and bring the series back instead of quaffing big glasses of champers and feeling totally pleased with themselves.
ITV1 – 10.30pm – Stanley Baxter, Then And Now
The first ITV programme to scrape into my selection. Again, it’s now a tried and tested formula. Get ageing comedy star who might cark it soon to drag out various clips from the archive in last farewell to the industry that deserted him in the mid-1980s. I hope at least Baxter gets in some stinging remarks about LWT’s luddite treatment of his work.
C4 – 10.35pm – Alan Carr, Tooth Fairy
And Channel 4 finally offers up a morsel. And it's a repeat. But I've warmed to Mr. Carr. He has a very astute line in observational, homosexual comedy deprecation and the teeth and glasses he found in a Christmas cracker at the age of six are still making people point and laugh whenever he wears them. He was last seen doing an astonishing stand up on Live from the Apollo on BBC1 which brought the house down. The insurance claim made Anne Darwin look like a nun.
The front room will resemble Accident & Emergency on a Saturday night. Bodies will be piled up, the place will stink like a brewery, various items of food will have been ground into the carpet and the tree will have burnt itself out and left a huge smear of black soot all over the wall. Her Majesty certainly knows how to party. She'll be wandering around with her nightie stuck in her knickers and looking for her glasses.
ITV - 7pm - Harry Hill's TV Burp Review of the Year
The second treat worth bothering with on ITV. A special edition of Burp packed with moments from the year you may have thought Harry had missed, like the twitchy patient on Holby who revives a famous dance craze. Corrie's Blanche reveals her connection with Elton John, Michael Barrymore and Rock Hudson, while Trinny and Suzannah give away just who has the best bottom this year. How spectacular was the Springwatch Spectacular? Where does Harry keep his BAFTAs? And is that Joss Stone singing out the show accompanied by a cat on piano? Hmm, not bad. I don't think I could have put it better myself.
BBC2 - 8.30pm Bill Cotton Night: The Man Who Made Eric And Ernie
Bill Cotton was one of the greatest BBC execs and is surely up there with Hugh Carlton-Greene as a figure that simply had the midas touch. Apt really that he presided over what is often referred to as the 'golden age' of television. During the 1970s, BBC shows like Morecambe and Wise, the Two Ronnies, The Generation Game, Dad's Army and Parkinson transformed the world of television entertainment and delighted audiences in their millions. Stars including Ronnie Corbett, Sir Michael Parkinson and Bruce Forsyth celebrate the golden age of entertainment and remember the man who made it happen. Plus marvel at the following repeats on BBC2 straight after: The Morecambe And Wise Christmas Show 1975 (9.30pm), The Generation Game Christmas Show 1973 (10.40pm) The Two Ronnies Old Fashioned Christmas Mystery - 1973 (11.40pm). I think BBC2 have Boxing Night telly sewn up.
Join me soon for Part Two of my Telly Stocking Fillers where I'll cast my net over the week leading to New Year. Until then, chin-chin.