I’ve not been particularly enamoured by the Christmas television schedule this year.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s been terrible.
Yes, of course there’s Doctor Who (and while I’ll end up reviewing the story in greater detail when I get to it in my run, I’ll be brief and say that I enjoyed it, but felt that the story of the Snowmen themselves were pretty irrelevant to the plot, which was basically a way of setting up the new season), but in terms of Christmas Day that was the only new piece of television I watched.
I don’t watch the soaps so have no interest in them, Dancing on Ice means nothing to me and by the time it got to the likes of the Royle Family, spending time with my family seemed a better prospect.
BBC2 meanwhile was just showing Christmas Specials of old comedies, which is poor, even if those comedies are funny.
Beyond that, the TV schedules seemed to be filled up with films. Channel 5 for example had Gone With The Wind and Ben Hur running from 9am – 5pm.
How poor is that? Maybe in the 70s, 80s and even 90s, the idea of putting films on prime time TV at Christmas might have seemed special, but in the age of cheap DVDs, Movies On-Demand and Online Streaming Rental sites, those days have
long since gone. I can’t imagine anyone who wanted to see Shrek hadn’t seen it many times before.
We ended up watching the 1974 Christmas Special of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads with our Christmas Dinner this year. For what it’s worth, it was funnier than anything else on TV that day, even if it did end the series on a rather sour note of adultery (watch it to find out what I mean).
And that just sums up how limited the TV was that day.
Not Just Christmas Day
But it’s not just Christmas Day that was bad; either side of the day itself had poor fayre as well.
Take Peepshow for example. Now there’s a show that has run out of steam. There’s an argument that it’s the best British Sitcom of the 21st century, but like many comedy gems before it, it seems to have reached that point where the jokes have worn thin and the writers have simply run out of ways to make things funny.
Channel 4 put on two episodes in two nights, and neither were amusing or related to the time of year. What a disappointment.
It’s a shame, but maybe it should be put to rest, instead focusing on the odd holiday special.
One show that definitely needs to be put to bed for good is Outnumbered.
The first two seasons were a revelation. The idea of having two young kids performing without a script and acting as natural as real life children (as opposed to the sickly TV Children you usually get) was brilliant. While the scripts themselves weren’t particularly funny or interesting (it was basically just a show about the average family where the kids are a handful) the comedy was in the improvised performances by those young kids and reactions of the adults to them.
But those children have grown up now, and so the one thing that Outnumbered had going for it is gone.
The middle child – who was never all that funny to begin with – appears to have morphed from a 5 or 6-year-old boy into a horrible giant hoss of a man with a deep voice. Rather than being the sort of ‘Dennis the Menace’ character, he now seems to be more the sort of genuine menace you would cross the street to avoid. And yet he apparently is still 12 years old. Honestly, it made me jump a little when he first appeared
Meanwhile the little girl – who at four years old was one of the most entertaining comedy characters on TV – is now an aloof 10-year-old girl who has clearly been sent to a very posh school in real life based on her voice and demeanour.
The problem is that the show is now about the sort of family nobody likes. Does anyone really like other people’s’ bratty children? Is there any comedy in an oldest child who goes out on the piss with his tear-away friends, a middle child who looks like a gorg from Fraggle Rock and an openly rude 10-year-old girl with a chip on her shoulder? Of course not.
Meanwhile, there’s no improvisation anymore, of at least if there is, it’s no longer funny because those kids will be aware of it.
The show had 45 minutes and didn’t manage to make me laugh once. Instead it simply reminded me about how terrible some of my own obnoxious extended family are.
And where’s the comedy in that?
Did I like Anything?
This seems to be one long moan, which is a shame because Christmas TV has a reputation for being special. Maybe that’s just a myth that we all believe in, only to be disappointment come the end of the year.
I’ve still to watch The Girl – a dramatisation based around Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren – and that should be good, but I’m not holding out much hope for anything else. There haven’t even been any good list shows this year.
Looking forward, it seems as though the jewel in the BBC’s crown is Mrs Brown’s Boys, which just stuns me. How that got commissioned is anyone’s guess…apparently the moron element is larger that I thought.
But I don’t want to moan forever, so let me praise some shows I’ve watched this Christmas period, and surprise surprise, they come from the USA.
Going back to last week, the finales of Dexter and Homeland were both very good. Well…Dexter was amazing (and spoiler alert, my prediction for how the season would end was spot on) and Homeland was pretty good. The only thing wrong with Homeland was that it should have ended for good; I can’t imagine the next season being anything more than a chore.
And the best Christmas Special of the year? Believe it or not it goes to Happy Endings, which put out a genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, Christmas themed episode.
And that’s more than can be said for any of the comedies on this side of the pond.