- The Guardian,
- Thursday December 27 2007
What a miserable Christmas I'm having. More than nine hours of television, and so very little joy.
Several ghosts of Christmases past appear in The Comedy Christmas (BBC2, Christmas Eve). It's one of those nostalgiafests, clips of old telly, then merry pundits saying things like: "The Vicar of Dibley is one of my favourite shows of all time." Very insightful.
Some of the old stuff - Father Ted, Alan Partridge, One Foot in the Grave - still looks fabulous. So why is there nothing like that this year? Or a Christmas Special of The Office?
Instead we get Christmas At the Riviera (ITV1, Christmas Eve), this year's biggest turkey, with a stuffing made from every comedy cliche in the book. We're at a chaotic hotel in Eastbourne, everything that could go wrong does go wrong, starting with the Christmas tree falling over. It was standing up, now it's fallen over - get it? Two hours later (two hours!), all the guests fall through the frozen pond. Boom boom. No one dies, unfortunately.
The good news in The Catherine Tate Christmas Show (BBC1, Christmas Day) is that Lauren Cooper dies. The bad news is the nature of her death: a canoeing accident. I think we all know what will happen in about five years from now. In the meantime, not-bovveredness will mysteriously creep into the national psyche of the citizens of Panama (historically, quite a bovvered people, I believe).
A fuddled-looking George Michael makes a guest appearance, in his pyjamas. Poor man, he probably just fell asleep at the wheel of his Range Rover and woke up on The Catherine Tate Show. But he's reasonably good-humoured about it all.
Kylie's the celeb guest on Doctor Who (BBC1, Christmas Day). She's anyone's at the moment - Leon on The X Factor the other day, here today to partner the Doctor for one trip, aboard an intergalactic cruise ship called Titanic (no Celine, thankfully). Out to get them are what appear to be life-sized Oscars - walking gold statues with haloes that turn into death frisbees. The Doctor survives; Kylie's not so lucky (lucky lucky) and plunges to her death into a fiery hell. Which is for the best, to be honest - she may be Kylie, but she's no Freema or Billie.
I'm trying with Ballet Shoes (BBC1, Boxing Day). I really am. It looks lovely - beautiful, shiny hair wherever you look, and usually a familiar face beneath. But it was never really going to be one for me. This is Girls' Television. For me, it's like being locked in a room for 90 minutes with only an Edwardian doll's house to play with. By the end of it, I'm gagging for Top Gear.
My Family (BBC1, Boxing Day) is essentially the same as Christmas At the Riviera. We're spending Christmas at a country hotel; some people are there who shouldn't be there; the wrong people get hit over the head; there's a linen cupboard (actually, that was in the other one). Thankfully, it's half the length, though an hour is still twice as long as a traditional sitcom should be. That's if you think the traditional sitcom has a place in the modern world at all.
Actually, it's not as bad as Christmas At the Riviera. The writing is more polished and the jokes are better, even if they wear bells to tell you they're coming. Jacob Marley's appearance is a highlight. And the chemistry between Robert Lindsay and Zoë Wanamaker just about keeps it from going through the ice.
Wanamaker pops up again, as the strange Mrs Jarley in The Old Curiosity Shop (ITV1, Boxing Day). What's going on? The world's gone Dickens mad! But this is a lonely ember in a bleak three nights. Toby Jones, as the revolting Daniel Quilp, steals just about anything he can get his hands on, including the show. His death is also splendid, sexed-up from the original. Ice is added, a thin layer of it, over the Thames. It creaks a bit, then through he goes. But unlike at the Riviera, where they splosh about comically before clambering out to be wrapped in blankets, Quilp comes up under the ice. It's like that scene in the second Omen film: his face is distorted by the frozen water, but you can see the terror in his eyes. And there's not a canoe in sight. That's it for Quilp, then.
And that's it for me. Bah humbug.
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