CHRISTMAS TELLY STOCKING FILLERS 2009

Well, here we are again my lovely readers. Hurtling towards the end of 2009 and to the end of the Noughties. Another decade over and Christmas television isn't improving, alas. As I sit here, kicking the odd passing urchin, adjusting my wallet and wiping the digital snow off my screen (those new encoders on BBCHD playing up again), it's obvious from my browsing of the Radio Times that BBC 2 and Channel 4 appear to have closed down for Christmas or have simply forgotten what time of year it is.

It's clear that some broadcasters are doing a passable impression of Scrooge this season. Like those dinners on Christmas Day, we're being subjected to repeat after repeat. Even BBC 4 couldn't find sixpence to provide us with a seasonal new ghost story. Unless you count Orson Welles.

So, let me pour myself a Babycham and begin our heart to heart about this year's festive telly.

Christmas Eve
After a long absence Victoria Wood seems to have pulled her finger out and written Victoria Wood's Midlife Christmas to appease her masters at BBC 1. If this repeats the misfire of ...With All The Trimmings then Wood's muse has clearly abandoned her and shacked up with someone else or the real genius behind her craft was in fact the Great Soprendo after all. However, Julie Walters reprising the Bo Beaumont character and the Lark Pies to Cranchesterford skit that suggests she's aiming a few missiles at BBC 1's coma inducing bonnet saga indicates she might be back on course.

After that I suggest an early night to dull the effects of yet another Channel 4 schedule crammed with back to back editions of Come Dine With Me

Christmas Day
Cremate one bird, serve with root vegetables and lumpy gravy. As the sprouts begin to add to the general atmosphere of the front room, one drama casts a huge shadow over the BBC 1 schedule today. No, not Emmerdale. It is of course the much hyped farewell of the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who. Listen, it features John Simm trussed up like Hannibal Lecter and bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase 'Master and slave' and for me that's good enough to hole the good ship Woolpack below the waterline good and proper. Time for a very quick sherry and switch to BBC 3 for Doctor Who Confidential and an hour of RTD ordering us to rend our garments or something. Reminder to self - will have to set the Sky box to record Strictly on the other side.

BBC 2 have simply stacked up a load of old repeats so don't bother with them. Have a doze whilst Eastenders is on so that you're fresh as a daisy for the The Royle Family Christmas Special and the last ever but one of Gavin And Stacey on BBC 1. As Ness would say, 'tidy'. And for heaven's sake record Grey Gardens on Channel 4. It's their best offering over the entire festive period. And it's got two bloody marvellous performances from Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. Silly they've ended up cancelling out each other's chances at the Golden Globes with their joint nominations in the Best Actress category. It's what happens when a drama just gets too camp for its own good.

Finally, you'd do yourself a massive favour too if you could catch the Arena on BBC 4. It's an archive airing for the much vaunted two part Orson Welles interview. It is a slice of pure documentary genius. Probably the best interview in the world. He said in a gravelly Welles type voice.

After that, collapse in a heap on the sofa and try and find one of those green triangular ones in the almost empty tin of Quality Street.

Boxing Day
Wake up with a massive hangover that requires an intravenous injection of coffee and Nurofen. Cries of 'to be or not to be' echo round the house and you'll realise it's not the other half contemplating what to do with the remains of the turkey but just a reminder that David Tennant's propping up the BBC 2 schedule with a filmed version of his RSC turn as Hamlet. It's their only decent programme this year. No expense spared, eh?

Then you might as well do a bit of hoovering until BBC 4 unleash Charlie Brooker with the Screenwipe Review Of 2009 or else you're left with a 1973 Morecambe And Wise Christmas Show on BBC 2 which is probably worth seeing just for the 'he'll not sell much ice cream going at that speed' line from Eric and for Vanilla Redgrave letting her hair down and having a bit of a laff with the lads. It's followed by The Story Of Slapstick which at first I thought was a programme about the Controller of BBC 2 but turns out to be something about "the universal language of comedy". Probably right in the first instance after all.

Retire to bed with a dirty book.

Sunday 27th December
So, so, so, so scandalous that the Cranford special on BBC 1 hasn't been set at Christmas. However, the second part of the this year's story is worth a look just to see how much gurning from under their bonnets Dames Imelda, Judi and Julia can manage. Classier than Larkpies anyhoo.

Over to BBC 4 for the second half of the Arena on Orson Welles. They had to make it in two parts cos the bugger was so bloody big. BBC 2 is doing a tribute night to Steve Coogan. Yes, well, don't call us Steve.

Monday 28th December
Christ, more schedule clashing! The combined heat from our Jodrell Bank lash-ups as they record this evening's programmes in the front room will likely melt the buttons on my flame proof nightie.
On BBC 1 it's the start of a two part adaptation of Day Of The Triffids. The Beeb have kept the titular plants under wraps and I'm left wondering if this is going to be a disappointment or end up as embarrassing as Paradox. Remember ITV 1...? Yes, they've actually got something decent on. Having sat on An Englishman In New York for a year (ooh, painful) the schedulers have donned their cravats and felt fedoras and taken Quentin's advice: 'Don't keep up with the Joneses. Just drag them down to your level. It's cheaper.' I am looking forward to this sequel to The Naked Civil Servant immensely.

Meanwhile BBC 2 offer a documentary on Not The Nine O'Clock News but still can't be arsed to sort out a complete re-run of the original series. On BBC 4, we're flying to the moon with the superb documentary For All Mankind.

Pour a large brandy and flick through a copy of Freshmen.

Tuesday 29th December
A bit quieter. If the CGI Triffids have turned out to be more fearsome than the, by now, sagging Christmas Tree then tune in for second part of Day Of The Triffids on BBC 1. BBC 2 pay tribute to entertainment icon and all round lovely woman Dame Whitfield in The Many Faces of June Whitfield plus an episode of Terry And June and an archive This Is Your Life. She's in Doctor Who you know. National treasure etc. If only she'd go against all expectations and reveal she's had several torrid lesbian affairs. Using sex toys. That'd upset all those middle Englanders. Sigh.

Wednesday 30th December
BBC 1 is having another go at adapting Henry James' superb ghost story Turn Of The Screw. Plus points for actually producing a bit of a scare fest for the season but it will have to work hard to match the superb The Innocents. There's also a 'making of' Victoria Wood thing called Victoria Wood: What Larks! that will no doubt pop up as an extra on the inevitable January 2010 DVD release. You're on twice over the season, Vic, so you shouldn't be complaining to the Telegraph about the shoddy treatment you received at the hands of the BBC. If indeed she did complain and it was in fact all complete anti-BBC Telegraph bollocks. Oh, yes.

New Year's Eve
A packed schedule of 'Noughties' themed programmes. How lovely. Two shows on Channel 4 will likely have you reaching for the creme de menthe are The Greatest Songs Of The Noughties (really, where there any?) and The Greatest TV Shows Of The Noughties which is very likely to end up as a wankfest over The Wire for an hour and forty odd minutes. I suggest a triple snowball to knock you into a coma as Big Ben's hands welcome you into 2010. You might hear several chimes from a clock tower in London whilst he's at it. Lovely fella, Ben.

New Year's Day
Cheer yourself up with lashings of camp innuendo. Phone the mother-in-law. No, take a gander at BBC 2's Are You Being Served tribute and wonder as modern technology puts the colour back in Molly's pussy gags. Bluer than ever, then. The pilot episode has been fiddled with and is now in colour courtesy of BBC boffin James Insell. There's an hour long documentary too which quite rightly enshrines the series as a truly guilty pleasure.

I guess we'll all be dabbing our eyes at 6.40 as BBC 1 unveils the final episode of Doctor Who to feature David Tennant. We don't know his fate but it's likely to be a ratings buster and will scar generations of kids for decades to come. Hah! Pop over to BBC 3 for the final RTD era Doctor Who Confidential and perhaps the very last time we'll see him and Julie say 'how marvellous' several hundred times whilst sitting in the same room grinning insanely. Hopefully you'll have recovered enough and rung out your hanky in time for the very last Gavin and Stacey later that evening. Don a black veil and go on a bread and water diet for ten minutes. Then stuff yer face with a big chocolate cake, drink several gin and tonics and then pray that the new season for 2010 has some decent programmes.  


I'll be back to review some of these fripperies under the influence of alcholic substances. You have been warned. Adieu.


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