Monday, 22 December 2008

Spare us the Christmas specials

Well, the Christmas specials are certainly starting to come in thick and fast this week.
And all we can say is... make it stop. Please.
For One Night Only (ITV1, Sat) with Tom Jones, The Charlotte Church Nutcracking Christmas Special (C4, Sun), All Star Mr and Mrs Christmas Special (ITV1, Sat) and the awful Clash of the Santas (ITV1, Sun)... fun isn’t the word.
In fact, the word is something we probably can’t write in this blog.
Perhaps most gruesome of all was After You’ve Gone (BBC1, Sun).
This is the embarrassingly bad comedy created by the people who bought you My Family, with Nicholas Lyndhurst playing a (deservedly) abandoned dad and Celia Imrie as his utterly dull mother in law.
We’ve only previously caught the last five minutes or so on a Friday night (usually when switching over for Have I Got News for You), but even from this fleeting glimpse you could see it was very, very bad.
Nothing could prepare us for the full half hour experience though.
The Christmas plot, if you can use such a word to describe this kind of material, involved a burglary, a house swap and a hilarious case of mistaken identity.
A teenage son, who obviously had some kind of specials needs which was never quite explained, was also involved in a sub plot about selling toy dolls.
And Tracy Beaker was around for some of the time too as a teenage daughter. She didn’t get too many lines though. Lucky her.
It was only towards the end of this dire show that it suddenly struck us.
Nicholas Lyndhurst was once a part of the must-see show of the Christmas TV schedule (Fools and Horses). Now look at him.
If you think you’ve had a bad year, what with the credit crunch and all that, at least console yourself with one thought.
You’re not Nicholas Lyndhurst.
Best thing on the telly all weekend was actually a kids' drama, Dustbin Baby (BBC1, Sun) - about troubled teen April (Dakota Blue Richards) and her foster mum (Juliet Stevenson).
Penned by Jacqueline Wilson, it had a good story (a baby abandoned at birth and shoved in a dustbin at a pizza parlour), fine acting, warmth and a real Christmassy feel - despite having nothing at all to do with the festive season.
With the afternoon darkness outside, the twinkling lights on the tree, a large tin of Quality Street on the go and a reasonably happy ending, this was indeed a perfect yuletide family drama.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Sick of Christmas food programmes yet?

Well, we don't know about you but we're sick of the sight of food and Christmas hasn't even begun properly yet.
TV schedulers have gone a bit barmy with their festive food programmes this week.
First Nutty Nigella (Nigella's Christmas Kitchen, BBC2 Mon-Thurs) and her glamorous tagine feasts and deep freezers that "do all the hard work" when you're cooking. (Unfortunately, they don't trudge to Tesco in the rain and lug all the ingredients back home though, do they Nige?)
Then Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall showed us what Christmas at River Cottage (C4, Weds) was all about.
Mostly shooting perfectly harmless deer by the looks of it. Very unnecessary.
And finding out how to make Brussels sprouts palatable to someone who doesn't like Brussels sprouts. By covering them with black pudding and deep frying, allegedly.
Common to both these programmes was a major scene where the host's friends would turn up for a mind blowing Christmas meal involving delicious food and wine and merry-making.
Husbands, wives and children did not appear to have been invited.
We imagined them cold and friendless, sitting in a room next door watching EastEnders while all the fun was going on so close to them.
Wives and children were, however, present in Willie's Perfect Chocolate Christmas (C4, Weds).
The Willie in question here being ever so eccentric Willie Harcourt-Cooze, a man who cannot stop thinking about chocolate ever.
Yeah? So what's so eccentric about that?
This was one of those slightly tongue-in-cheek Channel Four jobbies where we got to see the everyday family life of our hero - including scenes with his "long suffering" wife and "adorable" kids in their rambling country home.
It was obviously supposed to come across as an endearing look at the chaotic life of this maverick cook and the people who love him.
But in reality, it just came across as one big festival of utter smugness.
And there wasn't nearly enough chocolate...