CHRISTMAS 2008 TELLY STOCKING FILLERS Part Two

Well, it seems BBC2 think we're obsessed with Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher and to that end they've decided to show double bills of episodes in the week after Christmas. I do hope everyone involved is on a good rate for residuals. Never mind. The general state of television post Christmas does resemble the final scene of a Miss Marple mystery. All the suspects are rounded up into a room, or in this case put into a television schedule, and you've got to guess which one of them hasn't already been shown in the last six months. Honestly, the bare faced cheek of the channels takes your breath away. Don't get me wrong, I love Joanna Lumley, but do I want to see her having a BBC jolly at the bloody North Pole for the third time in as many months? No, I do not.

27th December
BBC4 - 10.30pm - The RKO Story


Welcome archive repeat of a rather fabulous six part BBC documentary from 1987. A wonderful, in-depth series that charts the birth to death of a major Hollywood studio. Suits a late night glass of port and some fine cheese.

28th December
BBC4 - 8pm - The 39 Steps (also on BBC HD)

A new version of the classic John Buchan thriller, this time with blonde bombshell Rupert Penry-Jones as square jawed English hero Richard Hannay. Directed by the unflappable James Hawes, who has Doctor Who and Merlin under his belt, this promises to blow away the cobwebs resulting from an over-indulgent Christmas. However, if you are a fan of the previous film adaptations you'd better brace yourself into writing an 'angry of Tunbridge Wells' letter to the BBC. This version dispenses with Mr Memory, the music hall performer cruelly shot as he reveals the secret at the core of the story; the gripping scene on the Forth Bridge; the villain's tell-tale missing finger joint; and the hero's death-defying struggle on the clockface of Big Ben.

The writer Lizzie Mickery insists she has done the right thing: 'People ask me, "Where are you going to have your memory man scene?" and they think they know the story, but they are not talking about the book, they are talking about the films.' Definitely taking the 'Mickery', the silly bitch. By playing the purist card you've denied yourself the big, visual moments that everyone remembers as being part of the story. I suspect money was at the heart of that decision.

ITV - 9pm - Affinity

Probably the best thing ITV have wheeled out for the holiday. It has a great pedigree - the book by Sarah Waters (Fingersmith and Tipping The Velvet were both made into rather good BBC adaptations), screenplay by Andrew Davies (fresh from the triumph of Little Dorrit) and directed by Tim Fywell (Cracker, Murder Rooms, Cambridge Spies) so my expectations are rather high. Affinity is an eerie costume drama set in Victorian England with a lesbian romance at the heart of a tale that explores the underside of "proper" society. With a gloomy prison setting and a host of supernatural undertones, it carries a dark tone and creepy setting consistent with the mood of the novel it is based on.

The film centers on Margaret (Anna Madeley), a wealthy young woman suffering from depression after the death of her father and the rejection of her best friend and former lover who's gone and married her brother. Searching for a new way to get through her days, she signs up to become a "lady visitor" at a bleak women's prison, Millbank. A mysterious girl named Selina (Zoe Tapper) soon catches her eye. Selina claims to be a spirit medium, a person who channels spirits and the souls of the dead.

BBC4 - 9.30pm - John Buchan: Master Of Suspense
Neat little documentary as a compliment to the drama on BBC1. It might help you calm down over the liberties taken with their version of The 39 Steps.

29th December
Probably the most badly scheduled, underwhelming day of the holiday when it comes to watching stuff on the box. Prime time is just littered with repeats: BBC2 is the main offender here with Joanna Lumley having an orgasm over the Northern Lights again, a repeat of Judi Dench comedy As Time Goes By, a repeat of Allan (this man shouldn't work in telly ever again) Cubitt's dire Sherlock Holmes TV movie The Case Of The Silk Stocking. BBC4 fares no better with repeats of Stephen Fry's Guttenberg Press documentary, the Hughie Green drama, Most Sincerely and Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe. No matter how good all these programmes are it still shows that money is very tight when it comes to making new programmes at the BBC.

Best to watch those DVDs you got for Christmas or curl up with a good book.

30th December

Just as bad. I will probably have taken to the gin by the evening.

BBC2 - 9pm - Shooting Stars: The Inside Story
If you're really desperate I suppose.

31st December
A cultural desert. Go and visit the neigbours and drink their cellar dry. Just don't expect the telly to provide you with the necessary ammunition to get through the closing hours of 2008.

1st January 2009
Oh, the schedulers seem to have woken up again. No doubt you'll be finding it hard to see and hear properly having consumed far too much Babycham the night before.

BBC1 - 1.50pm - Doctor Who At The Proms (also on BBC HD and the Red Button service)
Sober up. This is not to be missed. An hour of highlights from last summer's Prom 13 in which Murray Gold's superb music is given the full treatment before an adoring crowd. Throw in introductions by Freema Agyeman and Catherine Tate plus a special Proms mini-episode and a load of monsters and you'll see why the concert was one of the hottest tickets of last year. Catch a 90 minute version over on the Red Button service.

BBC1 - 9pm - Jonathan Creek

The curly haired one returns and at least his name isn't in the papers in connection with Doctor Who. Alan Davies gets a new sidekick in the shape of Sheridan Smith ( ironically having played Lucie Miller in the Doctor Who audio adventures for Big Finish Productions, broadcast on Radio 7). Stuart Mulligan returns as Jonathan’s magician employer, Adam Klaus. Might be worth a look.

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